Berkeley City Council to discuss grant program fortifying local art scene

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Berkeley City Council has plans to discuss a recommendation brought forth by Councilmember Rashi Kesarwani, among others, to help further develop a Berkeley Civic Arts Commission, or BCAC, grant program to support and improve “creative spaces” for local artists.

The discussion will take place at the council’s regular meeting Tuesday evening. The item was brought forth by Berkeley City Council members Kesarwani, Lori Droste, Susan Wengraf and Sophie Hahn of Districts 1, 8, 6 and 5 respectively. The council will hear about BCAC’s current work plan and discuss supplying staff time to support BCAC’s grant program, which currently has plans to fund local artists, arts, cultural organizations and programs contributing to Berkeley’s art scene.

“BCAC believes that the arts are a significant part of Berkeley’s identity, history and desirability as a city,” the grant program’s language says. “Grant funds are strategically targeted to continue building a healthy civic arts ecosystem.”

The council report on the recommended BCAC referral references the city of Berkeley’s ongoing priority to provide “state-of-the-art” amenities through its arts and cultural institutions, and points out that rising real estate costs are becoming an inhibitor.

The referral asks BCAC to prioritize the grant program’s further development to help arts organizations and artists stay in Berkeley. Through the program, people and organizations can apply for city funds for “capital improvements, the acquisition of a permanent location, or temporary rental assistance,” according to the item.

The program plans to have three funding categories to cater to different applicants. The first category includes grants of up to $15,000 for organizations with a three-year average budget of $500,000 or more, while the second includes grants of up to $10,000 for organizations with a budget under $500,000. The third grants $5,000 for individual artists.

The grant program’s language states that all applicants must be Berkeley residents and contributors to its art scene. The anticipated application deadline is April 25 of next year.

The grant program will be open to any Berkeley artist who meets the application’s requirements, as well as more than 150 existing city arts and cultural institutions. The 2002 Berkeley cultural needs assessment found 130 arts and cultural nonprofits operating in Berkeley. This number has increased in the last 17 years.

Since that time, BCAC has also entered into the Berkeley Arts Providers School Partnership with UC Berkeley, local arts organizations and the Berkeley Unified School District to ensure student access to quality arts programming.

Although the BCAC grant program to be discussed Tuesday does not specifically cater to arts education, it comes alongside ongoing efforts to also support arts programming in Berkeley schools.

Contact Rachel Barber at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @rachelbarber_.