Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Today at 3:36 pm / Art
Upstate California Creative Corps arrives in Del Norte; Pilot project aims to improve health equity through Art
Del Norte County has the lowest California Healthy Places Index score in the northern state, Eliza Tudor and Katrina Schneider told local members of the arts community.
Tudor and Schneider, rRepresentatives from the Nevada County Arts Council were in Crescent City Tuesday to provide information on a new talent development opportunity for artists and community organizations.
They left recognizing that despite Del Norte’s rugged beauty, there was a shortage of skilled workers, and not just doctors. Housing is a challenge that makes recruiting these professionals difficult. Residents are uninsured and many families are underprivileged.
“We have a lot of underprivileged families,” said Sunny Gonzales, Crescent City’s human resources director. “How can we get the art where it’s acceptable for our residents here?”
Those, Tudor says, are the sort of issues the California Arts Council wants to explore as part of the new California Creative Corps. The pilot program was launched with $60 million in workforce development and recovery dollars. The California Arts Council has contracted 13 arts organizations statewide, including the Nevada Arts Council, to manage the project.
Armed with the California Healthy Places Index, Tudor and her colleagues visited Del Norte County as part of an audio tour of the 19 counties in the North State Region.
The California Creative Corps is the first program of its kind in the United States to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, Tudor said. She compared it to the Works Progress Administration that emerged from the Great Depression and President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The $60 million in one-time general funds allocated to the California Arts Council will be distributed across 58 counties and “God knows how many unique regions,” Tudor said.
“We created this audio tour so that we could visit some of the communities in the area for which we have responsibility before compiling the grant guidelines,” she said.
The guidelines will advise applicants on how to formulate their grant requests, helping determine who may and may not be eligible and what types of projects the Upstate California Creative Corps would like to fund, Tudor said Wild River’s outpost.
Once their listening tour concludes, Tudor and her colleagues will meet with representatives from arts councils across the Northern California region — including the Del Norte Association for Cultural Awareness — to develop these guidelines. The Nevada Arts Council has until the beginning of the new year to implement those guidelines, Tudor said.
“There will be grants that are directly available to hire individual artists, and then there will be grants that support collaborations — a number of artists working together,” she said. “Social service organizations and arts organizations will most likely similarly allocate funding to projects that support community priorities related to the Healthy Places Index.”
The Healthy Places Index was created in 2018 by the Public Health Alliance of Southern California. The tool assesses the relationship between the most important factors affecting health and life expectancy at birth, including a neighborhood’s access to education, job opportunities, and clean air and water. It generates a score from 1 to 99 and compares the selected area on the map to other parts of the state.
According to Tudor, other states have adopted the Healthy Places Index tool, the most recent of which is Utah.
According to Tudor and Schneider’s presentation Tuesday, Del Norte County ranked 5.4th percentile overall on the Healthy Places Index, with an average per capita income of $23,700 per year.
“Del Norte has the lowest HPI score of any upstate county,” Schneider said. “That means 5.4 percent of California’s counties have a lower score than here.”
Tudor said their goal is to show artists the tool they use to evaluate and promote art projects that could be part of the California Creative Corps.
Schneider also showed a map of the various watersheds in the northern state and its history with wildfires, noting that “many of us don’t believe that county boundaries dictate how we should approach landscapes.”
Gasquet artist Alicia Wilson voiced the play “This is Crescent City” in 2013. Written by English professor Ruthe Rhodes of the College of the Redwoods, the play explores the city’s often dark history.
Wilson said as she looked at Del Norte County’s ranking in the Healthy Places Index, she thought of Rhodes’ game.
Other community members on Tuesday addressed the shortage of healthcare professionals, with Tudor noting there is a link between Del Norte’s isolation and its health consequences.
But Catherine Balck, a Del Norte County photographer who also works at Sutter Coast Hospital, noted that the community’s shortage isn’t just about medical professionals.
“It’s accountants and lawyers and veterinarians — all at a professional level,” she said, adding that she’s urged the Crescent City-Del Norte County Hospital and Chamber of Commerce to join forces in recruiting staff. “There are people who would like to kayak every day, people who want to go hiking, people who want to live this life, and we have to go out and sell what we offer as a lifestyle.”
There are bright spots in Del Norte County. Amber Wier, program director at NorCal4Health, brought up the community’s twinning with Rikuzentakata, Japan. She shared the story of Kamome, the 20-foot fishing boat that washed ashore two years after the March 2011 tsunami, and the friendship that began with the community’s teens.
Wier also brought up the mural planned for Beachfront Park to honor that relationship.
As the Nevada Arts Council continues to work to develop regional guidelines for the California Creative Corps, it’s important that local artists stay in touch with DNACA executive director Stephanie La Torre, Tudor said.