As regions like LA continue to grow and diversify, and new social and cultural issues begin to emerge, older approaches to policymaking become outdated. To develop innovative new strategies for complex civic problems, the government is increasingly turning to the creative community for guidance. Initiated in March 2017 and administered by the LA County Arts Commission, the Creative Strategist Artist-in-Residence (CS-AIR) Initiative gives LA County the resources and tools to utilise artists, arts administrators and other creative workers as creative strategists. Working alongside government officials, these artists formulate innovative approaches in programming, engagement and core messaging around such issues as public safety, children’s welfare and voting.
The Registrar-Recorder County Clerk’s Office and the LA County Library are the two departments that have received funding from the Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative to host artists-in-residence. Within the Registrar- Recorder County Clerk Office, the artist-in-residence works collaboratively with the Media, Communication, and Creative Services section to develop innovative ways to teach LA County residents about the new Voting Systems Assessment Project (VSAP). VSAP is aimed at replacing the existing voting system with a focus on a voter-centred approach thereby increasing voter turnout. Within the LA County Library department, the artist-in-residence works as a creative strategist to develop and implement a systemwide artist-in-residence masterplan for the County’s library system. The artist works alongside staff, project partners, community stakeholders and other artists in a collaborative process to develop, strategise, promote and implement this masterplan.
As project lead, the LA County Arts Commission administers the initiative and facilitates the integration of an artist and a County department. Through the Creative Strategist Artist-in-Residence, the Arts Commission effectively bridges the gap between LA’s government and its creative community, and their very different ways of thinking, through a formalised structure for collaborative problem-solving that benefits LA’s communities. Under this exciting new initiative, artists have the potential to disrupt old processes and approaches and offer an inspired perspective on civic issues that can benefit LA communities. It confirms the ongoing commitment of LA to the understanding of culture as the golden thread of the region’s urban policies.
The LA County Arts Commission is researching the growing practice of government artist-in-residence programmes in the US and internationally, in order to understand and share promising practices. One example is the Department of Cultural Affairs’ (DCA) Creative Catalyst programme. This is the second collaboration between DCA and the City’s Department of Transportation. The intention of the programme is to develop ideas, spark culture change, and produce artistic interventions related to Vision Zero, a city initiative designed to reduce and eliminate traffic fatalities by 2025.