The Santa Ana City Council last week approved $85,000 in grants for local artists to undertake a variety of public arts displays and activities, part of a strategic plan goal that puts more focus on the city’s arts scene.

The grants will be doled in out in $5,000 and $10,000 chunks to 12 artists, artist groups and organizations. Among the funded projects are a downtown mural; musical training and performances for children; ceramic and crafts workshops in underprivileged neighborhoods; playwriting and theatre-making workshops; and live painting demonstrations.

In some ways, the grants are a major turnaround for a city that, in the 1990s, enacted a redevelopment initiative that transformed a few downtown blocks into the Artists Village, but then left it neglected.

Downtown artists for years have been frustrated with city leaders. Many local artists have argued that city leaders and building owners exploited their sweat equity in order to gentrify the downtown — which has brought in visitors who spend heavily at restaurants but not so generously on purchasing art – but weren’t willing to help them, either through a direct subsidy or promoting their work in magazines.

Yet with a healthy budget coming out of the economic recovery, and as part of the strategic plan approved last year, the city made a public commitment to supporting the arts. City leaders formed an arts and culture commission, which reviewed and scored applications for the arts grants.

Please contact Adam Elmahrek directly at and follow him on Twitter: @adamelmahrek

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