Member Spotlight: Rep. Tony Cárdenas (CA-29)
Arts Caucus Member: Rep. Tony Cárdenas
State/District: California's 29th Congressional District
Committees: Budget; Oversight and Government Reform; Natural Resources
What is your personal connection with the arts and how has it impacted your career?
I am constantly around the arts. All of my children are artistic in one way or another – they make music, they bake, one of them is a muralist… I have always encouraged them to be creative. There is no standard definition of what it means to be an artist, and I think we need to do everything we can to give kids opportunities to be creative.
What are the special artistic highlights of your district?
The arts are an incredibly important part of the San Fernando Valley. California’s 29th District is home to 1,964 arts-related businesses that employ 8,287 people. We have the City of San Fernando Mariachi Master Apprentice Program, which has won federal NEA grants in the past; Youth Speak Collective, a “for youth, by youth” organization that empowers low-income youth through creative, high-quality programs; Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore, a cultural center that serves 18,000 people a year hosting open mic nights, music and dance workshops, and classes in writing, theater, puppetry, photography; Mariachi Los Tigres de San Fernando High School, that performed at the White House for Michelle Obama; the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is in the 29th District… The list goes on and on.
Share an example of why you feel federal support for the arts is vitally important:
Many organizations in my district have received federal grants that have helped them grow and make our community better. If we start by engaging the federal government about how valuable art is at a federal level, it will be easier to involve other levels of government to create spaces for the arts. In Los Angeles, creativity and the arts drive our economy. In addition to the creative sector, a lot of tech industries have recognized how valuable the arts are for their success. I am trained as an engineer, and I am glad that the STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) movement – recognizing that arts education drives success – is gaining traction not only in Los Angeles but also nationally.
If you had to pick one reason to support the arts, what would it be?
One of my priorities in Congress is working to keep our kids safe and out of gangs. The arts help kids do better in school and out of school, advancing their social skills, interpersonal communication, teamwork, self-esteem and creative expression. For many at-risk children and teenagers, these opportunities would be lost without federal support for the arts.
Share a personal experience with the arts:
One time in 2nd grade I won 3rd place in an art contest- that was the first time I was recognized for something artistic. I think it was a drawing of a horse. Now I mostly live through my kids. But art is really an incredible tool. Without the arts the United States wouldn’t have the number one economy in the world. Art encourages creativity, and we are the creation capital of the world. If we want to stay there, we need to continue to support the arts.