- Los Angeles is known as the global capital of the entertainment industry but also has developed systems of hyper-local arts production that reflect the diversity of the region.
- Extreme decentralisation means that partnerships and collaborations are central to cultural life in the region.
- Private philanthropy is extremely important, both to capital projects and operating support for arts organisations.
City data: Key facts
- Geographical area: 10,510 sq. km
- Total population: 10,163,507
- GDP (PPP) million: $669,975
Los Angeles is renowned as the entertainment industry capital of the United States and is increasingly known as a creative capital of art and culture. It is also one of the most vast and multi-cultural regions in the Americas, home to the City of LA which covers more than 500 square miles and part of the wider Los Angeles County, which includes 88 incorporated cities and is the most populous county in the US with nearly 10 million people.
Beyond its globally recognised leadership in film, television, and music production, Los Angeles city and region has a dynamic nonprofit cultural sector, rich artistic legacy, and international influence. It boasts major venues like the Los Angeles County-owned Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Walt Disney Concert Hall, Natural History Museum, and Music Center, and cultural institutions such as The Getty, Broad Museum, Autry Museum of the American West, and Museum of Contemporary Art. These larger institution are a part of a wide-ranging arts ecosystem of diverse organisations rooted in Black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous arts and culture – including the Japanese American National Museum, Self-Help Art and Graphics, California African American Museum, and East West Players – and organisations with deep ties to, or led by, artists, and grassroots arts activities.
Los Angeles County’s cultural ecosystem includes more than 3,499 nonprofit arts organisations and more than 150,000 working artists. Los Angeles has more working artists than any other major metropolitan area in the United States. The creative economy is a significant driver of the region’s economy adding more than $164 billion in gross value to the local economy and $95.1billion to labor income. The creative economy generates more than 21% of all jobs in Los Angeles County.
Los Angeles’ remarkable size and diversity are key cultural assets. The city is home to beloved and popular ethnic enclaves and neighbourhoods including Boyle Heights, Chinatown, Echo Park, Historic Filipinotown, Koreatown, Leimert Park, Little Armenia, Little Tokyo, Pacoima, San Pedro, Thai Town, Venice, Watts, and areas like West LA/Westwood with its large Persian community. The Los Angeles county region at large is nearly 10 million people and 4,000 square miles. It is geographically diverse, with densely populated urban centers, deserts, valleys, and coastal communities, and culturally diverse, with over 200 languages spoken, communities practicing arts and cultural forms from all over the world, and a population that is nearly half Latino and is majority people of color—ahead of the coming trend for the rest of the U.S.
The City of Los Angeles government is led by a Mayor in partnership with 15 City Council Members. 2022 marks an important transition point for Los Angeles with an election cycle for a new Mayor underway and half of current City Council Member positions up for election. The County of Los Angeles is led by a five-member Board of Supervisors, each legally the Mayor of their district, and collectively governing the County jurisdiction and its $38 billion budget. For the first time in its history, the County has a landmark all-female Board of Supervisors.
Cultural policy for Los Angeles requires the collaborative leadership of both the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) and Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture (LADAC), which transitioned in 2019 to new leadership with an expanded mission.
Los Angeles faces several civic challenges such as: air pollution, commercial development and displacement, housing issues, high-heat neighborhoods without shade trees, transportation planning, and water resources. Many of the biggest issues centre on affordability and sustainability. Currently, more than 66,000 people in Los Angeles are unhoused, and the growing homelessness crisis has challenged the city to create private-public partnerships to empower wrap-around solutions. This deficit of affordable housing, combined with rising gentrification and displacement, is threatening some cultural erasure and integration throughout the city. DCA is primarily supported by an estimated one percent of the City’s Transient Occupancy Tax, significantly lower than the 4-6%, which would bring it into equity with the same type of underwriting of the cultural-tourism sectors in New York or San Francisco. All these opportunities and challenges are occurring against the backdrop of recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and Los Angeles preparing to host the Olympic Games in 2028.
Los Angeles’ cultural industries are facing their own unique challenges. Following the reckoning around race and equity after the killing of George Floyd, there’s been a growing desire to reconcile the historic patterns of inequity in Los Angeles in general and in the arts sector in particular. The property and affordability crises have also directly impacted the cultural sector leading to a lack of access to exhibition, studio, and performance space. And the current development trend of light industrial and warehouse spaces—which are important pieces of Los Angeles’ cultural infrastructure—being converted into high end residential development rather than modestly functional studios for independent artists and working-class families is further challenging the availability of affordable living and workspace.
Due to the pandemic, cultural organisations have faced multiple years of significant losses of earned revenue, ongoing funding instability, layoffs to reduce expenditures, and impacts of the shift of audiences and participation to online/broadcast/podcast alternatives. Los Angeles’ cultural sector has leveraged government funding support, helping to blunt the worst impacts of the pandemic. This includes federal funds through the LA County CARES Act Arts Relief Fund and additional allocations of federal funds from the American Rescue Plan for arts recovery government programmes, as well as “pooled” funding efforts such as the 2021 LA Arts Recovery Fund, the largest public-private arts funding effort in Los Angeles’ history at nearly $40 million with a significant portion dedicated to organisations reflecting communities of color.
Accordingly, both the DCA and LADAC continue to focus on access, diversity, equity, and inclusion to re-double efforts to reach underserved residents. This includes DCA’s artist-in-residence grants to place teaching-artists within social justice organisations, and recent Arts Workforce Empowerment Grant (AWE) Program, and LADAC’s Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative (CEII) and Countywide Cultural Policy for region-wide goals and programmes.