Impact Stories

Healthy Places Index Utilized in Creative Corps Pilot Program
To Promote Health Equity Through Art Across California

Impact Story | April 26, 2023
Produced by the Public Health Alliance of Southern California
LOS ANGELES, CA (Public Health Alliance of Southern California) --The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on America’s arts sector has been far-reaching, with an estimated 2.7 million jobs lost. Yet, arts foster social and economic health and prosperity across cultures.  As creative professionals struggle to get back on their feet, the recovery of the arts is lagging behind other industries in the U.S. 
Griselda Suarez, the Executive Director of the Arts Council for Long Beach, explained the pandemic shutdown of arts and culture venues impacted the entire sector.

“We were just all unsafe, and so as the pandemic moved forward, we saw other social issues, particularly the murder of George Floyd.  I think many of our artists who live in neighborhoods where they feel unsafe because of police or other issues, health inequities, and all of these. For those particular artists, it was even heightened,” Suarez said. 

In response to these inequities and to get artists back to work during unprecedented times, the state agency California Arts Council (CAC) launched its Creative Corps Pilot Program. Jonathan Moscone, the Executive Director of CAC, explained Creative Corps was inspired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Art Project, which provided essential economic support for thousands of artists during the Great Depression.

Creative Corps is allocating $60 million dollars in one-time general-state funds to support artists and nonprofits across 58 counties in a three-year collaboration. Together they’ll design artistic projects that raise awareness about pressing issues like public health, environmental justice, and emergency preparedness. 

“The fact that the California Arts Council, the state of California, Governor Newsom are investing millions of dollars into these priorities. It alone demonstrates the commitment to begin exploring how equity can be a topic of conversation through arts,” Suarez said.

Creative Corps is the first initiative of its kind in the U.S., created in response to inequities exacerbated by the pandemic. Moscone said its goal is to promote health equity in communities facing ongoing marginalization. 

“This was a wonderful way to pilot a program that was inspired by the WPA, how to put artists to work at a time when most of them were out of work, and yet had all the assets and the tools to be able to delightfully raise public awareness,” Moscone said. 

Moscone explained that local entities initially piloted Creative Corps during the height of the pandemic when CAC was granted funds through the Office of Economic Workforce Development. In this scaled-down pilot, artists from local organizations, including the Latino Culture Center of Arts and Culture in Sacramento and Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, were hired to communicate COVID-19 safety messaging, targeting their respective communities that experience historic and ongoing distrust in government.

Moscone said promoting an equitable recovery lies at the heart of Creative Corps' mission. To achieve this, CAC turned to the Public Health Alliance of Southern California’s Healthy Places Index (HPI.) HPI catalyzes equitable investments, policy, and program development by embedding cutting-edge tools for data comparison, race-place analysis, targeted policy recommendations, and historic redlining data.  HPI has been used to direct 4.2 billion dollars in equitable investments across California sectors.
“We have so many limitations in government around how we can identify communities that have been marginalized, that have been structurally disinvested in intentionally, so we have very strong limitations; the HPI unlocks those limitations,” Moscone explained.
Moscone highlighted HPI is addressing a statewide need for equitable and comprehensive data analysis and is helping Creative Corps pinpoint communities needing investment by offering data on community conditions linked to health outcomes and the relationship between race and location.  Setting national precedents, HPI remains vital for an equitable public health response amid the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. Moscone added artists and nonprofits chosen must prove their deep connections with communities in HPI quartile one, which indicates less healthy community conditions.
“It is one of the best tools, the only tool I've experienced in the last couple of years to provide that specificity and measurability. Most people need data to make the right decision; often, they're given the wrong data. This is a data tool that you can stand behind; you can get behind this data tool,” Moscone emphasized.
Moscone said Creative Corps is all about putting the power back in the people as the program is investing in artists who live and work in respective HPI quartile one communities.

“You're going to create community investment from within, with creativity as a central factor. So, we're going to see a change in community investment over the years, and this is a pilot for that,” Moscone said. 

The Arts Council for Long Beach is 1 of 14 statewide arts organizations chosen to administer $60 million in Creative Corps funds. Suarez explained the program is an opportunity to get into the perspective of communities disproportionately impacted by health inequities at a ground level.
“What we’re hearing from artists directly is that it is absolutely a light. So many artists are excited about this program, and they are particularly interested in the way that we have reframed how artists help the community…I think data will demonstrate engagement in these neighborhoods will be heightened,” Suarez said. 
Moscone noted that art projects have the power to uplift creativity needed to address complex community issues and inspire systemic change.  Moscone conveyed that throughout history, profound artistic works that address societal injustices have catalyzed far-reaching transformative political and social change. He has no doubt that Creative Corps will carry on this legacy by uplifting the creativity needed to confront the pressing health inequities of our time.

“For humans to receive information that is both data-driven, which may go to the brain, and story-driven and performative that goes to the heart, that applies to our legislators,” Moscone stated. 

Over the next three years, CAC will track Creative Corps’ impact using HPI, expecting gradual community improvements. Moscone is now encouraging other agencies to use HPI for equitable investments, noting Creative Corps as a pilot for using HPI to transform all future CAC grant programs.
“As a state entity, you are limited by how you can name the communities, but the Healthy Places Index gets right at that from a different wire. So, we're very much looking at this. We might actually make the kinds of changes that people are needing and seeing and wanting. Rebuilding trust entirely in government would be one of the great outcomes, a legacy I could see in this program,” Moscone said.
Suarez explained that while the Arts Council for Long Beach Creative Corps application deadlines for non-profit organizations closed, they are reviewing applications and priority issues nonprofits hope to address. Once organizations are selected, the Arts Council for Long Beach will publish chosen nonprofits and their priority topic areas, so artists can thoughtfully tailor applications. The Arts Council for Long Beach Creative Corps application deadline for artists is May 15th. 

Suarez said it’s essential for artists interested in applying to reflect on their own lived experiences and how it connects with local nonprofits' ongoing community efforts. She explained artists' understanding of how the issue affects them personally will strengthen their application and be a central factor in helping nonprofits achieve a shared vision.

“I think it's important to reflect on your own work and see how you identify with the priorities first, and then be able to connect to what the nonprofit is doing currently in the community. It's important to come in knowing and reflecting how it impacts that person's life first and then being able to apply it to practice being able to apply it to the vision in collaboration with a nonprofit,” Suarez said.

Use this link to opt-in for Arts Council for Long Beach Creative Corps announcements and application deadline reminders

‍Creative Corps Application deadlines vary among its 14 administering organizations across California. Nonprofit organizations and individual artists are required to submit applications separately. To read more detailed information on how to apply and the application deadlines in your region, use this link.

Use this link to utilize the power of the California Healthy Places Index (HPI) map.

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