California Arts Council

State of California

Press Release Detail

February 03, 2017Caitlin Fitzwater

California Arts Council Announces Planned Departure of Director Craig Watson

Watson led California’s state arts agency through five year renaissance, accomplishments include 5x increase in funding

Sacramento -

The California Arts Council announced today that Director Craig Watson will step down from his role with the agency effective April 2017. As Director of the California Arts Council since August 2011, Watson has been responsible for the leadership and oversight leading to the substantial growth and renewal of California's state arts agency.

In making the announcement, Donn K. Harris, Chair of the California Arts Council said, "It has been a privilege to work alongside Craig Watson. Craig is a dedicated, passionate, and visionary arts leader who has guided the California Arts Council through a time of tremendous growth. His commitment to the people of California and our arts communities has been unwavering, and I know the impact of his many accomplishments will remain for years to come. I am grateful to Craig for his leadership and his friendship."

In his role as Director of the California Arts Council, Watson has been instrumental in shepherding the resurgence of California's state arts agency.

Watson shared the following: "I have been honored to lead the California Arts Council during such a transformative period. I am confident that the Council has a firm foundation on which to build its continuing, positive trajectory. I expect to stay active in the arts, while at the same time helping to grow family business interests back in Southern California where my wife Carolyn and I reside."

Under Watson's tireless dedication and leadership, the budget of the California Arts Council increased from just $5 million in 2011 to nearly $25 million this year. He shepherded the creation of the Council's current strategic plan, guiding the agency into new and critically important programming and services.

Watson's leadership led to the dramatic and significant return of California's Arts in Corrections program through an inter-agency agreement with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. He also led the creation of new grant offerings that serve California veterans, youth in the juvenile justice system, public media projects, research in the arts, creative placemaking, artist residencies, emerging organizations of color, and more. Watson led the redesign and improvement to programs that serve arts education, economically challenged communities, regional and statewide arts organization partners, and County-based arts providers.

At the Capitol, Watson championed state legislation authorizing the development of California's state-designated cultural districts program and spearheaded the successful revitalization of California's tax return Voluntary Contribution Fund for arts education, the Keep Arts in Schools Fund. He fostered increased engagement with the legislative Joint Committee on the Arts. This included the establishment of annual hearings assessing the economic and cultural impact of the arts and creativity in California.

Watson nurtured the growth and development of a highly competent, diverse, and energized staff team and led the revitalization of the agency's communications strategy. He leaves the California Arts Council greatly strengthened and ready for the next chapter of leadership. Watson is currently a member of the board of directors of the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies.

The California Arts Council will undergo a national search for a new Director. Details on the search are forthcoming.

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The mission of the California Arts Council, a state agency, is to advance California through the arts and creativity. The Council is committed to building public will and resources for the arts; fostering accessible arts initiatives that reflect contributions from all of California's diverse populations; serving as a thought leader and champion for the arts; and providing effective and relevant programs and services.

Members of the California Arts Council include: Chair Donn K. Harris, Vice Chair Nashormeh Lindo, Larry Baza, Phoebe Beasley, Christopher Coppola, Juan Devis, Kathleen Gallegos, Jaime Galli, Louise McGuinness, Steven Oliver, and Rosalind Wyman. Learn more at

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