California Arts Council directs state aid to three public media outlets

By Sean Meehan

Ke`aka Stitt, a quilter in Santa Cruz who practices the Hawaiian art of kapa making, is one of many California artists profiled by KQED's Spark program. Spark was one of three pubmedia recipients of grants from the California Arts Council.

Ke`aka Stitt, a quilter in Santa Cruz who practices the Hawaiian art of kapa making, is one of many California artists profiled by KQED’s Spark program. Spark was one of three pubmedia recipients of grants from the California Arts Council. (Photo: Norman Bonney for KQED Arts)

In the first and potentially only government-backed grant program supporting arts coverage by California’s public media stations, KQED, PBS SoCaL and Radio Bilingüe each received one-time funding from the California Arts Council.

The Council created its Arts on the Air program as one of several initiatives funded by a special $2 million allocation from the California state legislature. The state aid was split between two arts education initiatives and three grant programs; the council created Arts on the Air specifically to support public, nonprofit media outlets and directed $200,000 to be distributed through a competitive grants process.

“It’s a modest program, but the council really wanted to find organizations that would really impact public feeling about the arts, that would build public will and understanding about the value of the arts in our communities,” said Caitlin Fitzwater, spokesperson for the Arts Council.

In San Francisco, KQED’s $75,000 grant will help fund an expansion of Spark, a weekly television show and educational outreach program that profiles local artists and art organizations.

PBS SoCaL, which is based in Orange County and broadcasts into Los Angeles, will receive $75,000 to produce video stories about local artists and how art can foster economic innovation.

Fresno-based Radio Bilingüe, which operates a network of stations in California and the Southwest, won a $50,000 grant backing productions that focus specifically on Latino artists and art in Latino communities. Radio Bilingüe also serves Latino audiences throughout the country as the producer and national distributor of daily Spanish-language programming.

The council has encouraged all three grantees to share their programming with other public media outlets to maximize the impact of the grants.

The Arts Council has no plans to extend the Arts on the Air program beyond the legislature’s one-time investment. But, its leadership remains interested in supporting arts programming on public media, according to Fitzwater.

“The council has a great interest in finding continued support in this area, but we’re also limited by our own budgetary realities,” she said.

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