Op-Ed: Finally Los Angeles Schools See Just How Much ‘Arts Matter’

Thanks to the widest-reaching art project in L.A. history, arts education is getting a boost.
Art installations on buses and billboards across Los Angeles benefit arts education in public schools. (Barbara Kruger, School Bus, 2012. © Barbara Kruger Photo by Joshua White)
Nov 30, 2012

Los Angeles is the arts capital of the world. So it’s no surprise that creativity is the engine that drives the city's economy. 

At the LA Fund for Public Education, we believe maintaining that engine depends on developing creative thinkers here at home—thinkers who interact with the world in new and groundbreaking ways.

Research shows that arts education is essential for giving students the analytical and problem-solving skills today’s workforce demands.

Unfortunately for L.A. public school students, deep budget cuts have forced the reduction and, in some cases, the total elimination of many arts programs over the last five years. Arts education funding has dropped by 76 percent since the 2007-2008 school year.

In a district where 80 percent of students live in poverty, the consequences are profound, leaving those with the greatest need even further behind. 

Here’s the good news: we’re starting to turn the school bus around.

In October, the LAUSD Board unanimously passed a landmark resolution, put forward by Board Member Nury Martinez, which establishes the arts as a “core subject.” The resolution also seeks to restore funding to levels not seen since before massive budget cuts crippled District finances.  

This is a major step—one that establishes creativity as a central pillar of learning, alongside subjects like math, science, history, and language arts. 

However, we can’t rely on the District alone to bring about an arts renaissance. It’s going to take the entire Los Angeles community. That’s why the LA Fund launched “Arts Matter,” an innovative public outreach effort designed to bring our entire city together in support of arts education.

Arts Matter is spreading this critical message with the widest-reaching public art project in L.A. history, featuring original works by the city’s most renowned artists on city buses and outdoor advertising spaces totaling over $4 million in value and approximately 900 million impressions. 

Money raised through the Arts Matter campaign will fund the development of innovative, district-wide arts programs and communicate the essential role of arts education in public schools. We believe through the arts, every L.A. kid will have the opportunity to develop skills they need to prepare them for college and their careers.

Creativity isn’t an inherent gift that students either have or don’t have. Creativity is an invaluable tool we develop through exposure and a set of skills we hone through practice. People aren’t born great musicians or chefs or business leaders—they become them. 

At the LA Fund, our mission is to invest in results-oriented programs that will help every student succeed. There’s no question that creativity fuels L.A.  Now it’s time for L.A. to do our part to fuel creativity in return.

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