California Arts Council names Craig Watson as new director


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The California Arts Council -- the embattled state agency that has seen its budget hit hard in recent years -- has appointed a new leader who will be coming directly from the Los Angeles area.

Craig Watson has been named the director of the Sacramento organization and will assume his job on Aug. 15. He is currently the executive director of the Arts Council for Long Beach, another group that has dealt with its share of cutbacks and reductions.


Watson will take over from interim director Marilyn Nielsen. (The council is led by chairwoman Malissa Feruzzi Shriver.) The council said that Watson’s appointment represents the first time in the history of the state agency that the director has been hired directly by the council rather than by appointment from the governor.

The council has been struggling to survive ever since the state slashed its budget to a little more than $3 million in 2003. To make ends meet, the council relies heavily on the sale of specialized ‘arts’ license plates, featuring a design by artist Wayne Thiebaud.

Among the council’s objectives is to promote arts awareness and to directly assist various arts groups. California currently ranks near the bottom of the nation in terms of state arts spending per capita.

Watson comes from the Arts Council for Long Beach, a city agency that has seen its budget dramatically reduced in recent years due to tightening municipal finances. As director, Watson saw his budget slashed by as much as 33% in one year.

Before Long Beach, Watson held positions with the Sonoma County Arts Council and Rural Arts Services in Northern California, and the Santa Barbara Arts Services.


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-- David Ng