Putting the Arts on Your Plate

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By Lynn Selich | Society Editor


A few months ago, Gov. Schwartzenegger appointed my cousin Terry Lenihan, who is associate professor in charge of directing the art education program at Loyola Marymount University, to the California Arts Council.  Ever since then, Terry has been educating me on the finer points of arts education and funding in California.

Or more accurately, the lack thereof.

As many of us are now acutely aware, arts education in the United States is looked at as a luxury under the current education system, not a necessity.  And the news is even worse in California, where budget cuts are at an all time high and only projected to get worse.

Big mistake.  Huge.

Despite California’s significant reliance upon creative minds, artistic organizations and an innovative workforce, we’re not investing nearly enough in the state’s art programs that help drive our vital economy, much of which is unique to the Golden State.

In fact, our per capita funding of the arts comes in dead last in the nation with only 12 cents per person spent on arts education. Compare that to New York, which spends $2.48 per person. This, despite the fact that in California there are more than 4,500 non-profit arts and arts-active organizations; generating over $3.5 billion dollars in revenue; employing over 680,000 full and part-time creative jobs (many in high-growth fields); and there are twice as many film and entertainment-related jobs than any other state in the country.

Enter the California Arts Council, whose responsibility as a state agency is to advance Californians through the arts and creativity. The Council was established in 1976 and, working with the National Endowment for the Arts, has historically supported the arts through grant programs and providing technical support to arts organizations and artists who provide services to children and communities.

So, as a solution to this growing problem, some creative people got together and came up with a state-wide initiative called the “Million Plates Campaign for the Arts.”

Back in June, Gov. Schwarzenegger, along with First Lady Maria Shriver launched the official kick off of the California Arts Council’s Million Plates Campaign for the Arts at Fox Studios in Los Angeles, announcing that the goal of the campaign was to sell 1 million special license plates, resulting in $40 million for the arts, which would bring California from the bottom of the pile in this arena back to nearing the top.

In partnership with the Department of Motor Vehicles, the license plate (officially and appropriately titled “Coastline”) features a sun and palm trees design by internationally renowned California artist, Wayne Thiebaud.

For those of us who spend countless hours, resources and cash on supporting the arts, this is an easy and inexpensive way for us to support an initiative that will blanket benefit many arts education programs throughout the state.

To order the plate for either automobiles and trucks, all you have to do is go on to the California DMV website, or visit your local DMV or Auto Club office.  The California Arts Council will receive just under $35 for each initial order and then $40 each for renewals.

National Arts in Education Week is Sept. 12-18.  What a great way to recognize, even celebrate, creativity in a public way than by putting one of these Arts License Plates on your car or truck!

And if you really want to have fun, get “creative” and come up with a vanity plate!


Residing in Newport Beach, Lynn Selich is a weekly columnist and society editor for the Newport Beach Independent, and Associate Publisher of Newport Beach magazine.  She can be reached at [email protected].  Follow her on Facebook at Lynn Selich-Columnist or http://twitter.com/LynnSelich.



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