From the Desk of
Investing in the Arts For a more equitable and resilient San José
Like many American cities right now, San José needs deep, focused attention on building shared community understanding of our nation’s racist and violent past and present. We must find a process to build a shared vision for our future as well as an equitable economic recovery plan, and these issues should be prioritized in the FY2020–2021 City Budget.
Now is not the time to divest from the important community building and reflection work that is done by our nonprofit arts sector. Sadly, that is exactly what our city leaders are proposing. With TOT (aka “hotel tax”) revenue reduced during the COVID-19 crisis, the current FY20–21 budget includes a massive reduction to the cultural grants program of well over 75% from FY19–20.
These cuts are significantly disproportionate to reductions in other parts of the City Budget, and the impacts could be exponentially worse.
According to recent reports, of the more than 133,000 private sector job losses in our region from February through April, more than 38% were in the Leisure and Hospitality sector. This sector is at the core of the employment base and sales tax base of the downtown area, where many of our cultural organizations operate.
San José’s nonprofit arts and cultural sector typically punches well above its weight, generating economic activity of more than $200M annually, creating $100M in household income for local residents, and contributing tax revenues of $14.7M to local governments.
Artists are also natural community-builders, and the organizations that support their creative work are embedded in communities of color and produce programming that brings people together from all walks of life. That’s why our friends at California Arts Advocates refer to artists as “Second Responders” in a crisis.
San José Arts Advocates believe that investing in the arts now should be a key strategy to re-invigorate our local economy and bring our community together.