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LA Mayor nominates arts education advocate to head cultural affairs department

Danielle Brazell has been nominated to head Los Angeles' Cultural Affairs Department.
Danielle Brazell has been nominated to head Los Angeles' Cultural Affairs Department.
Courtesy of Mayor Eric Garcetti's office

Los Angeles county's leading arts advocacy group, Arts for LA, may be losing its executive director to the mayor's office. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Thursday afternoon he tapped Danielle Brazell as the new general manager of the city's cultural affairs department. 

"Arts shouldn't be an afterthought. They should be a core part of our city government and Danielle is uniquely qualified to make sure arts and culture touches every Angeleno's life," Garcetti said in a written statement. 

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If the City Council confirms the appointment, Brazell will oversee arts projects across the city – including public art programs and cultural centers – starting in August. In addition, she'll hold the city's checkbook for public arts funding. The department funds more than 350 organizations. 

She'd be replacing Olga Garay-English, whose departure Garcetti announced in November. She decided to step down after Garcetti said he'd ask department heads to reapply for their jobs. At the time, a Garcetti spokesperson said the mayor would like to see the department play a larger role in promoting cultural tourism in Los Angeles.

Brazell, who competed against 140 applicants for the position, said she was excited to take on the new opportunity.

"It's the right timing for our city," she said. "I think I'm the right fit for this administration."

Brazell is well-known for aggressively championing arts education. She's led Arts for LA since 2006. Over the last year, she repeatedly pressured the Los Angeles Unified School District to implement its arts education expansion plans, speaking out at school board meetings and lobbying school board staffers behind the scenes. 

In February, frustrated by district administrators' refusal to present a budget for arts education efforts, Brazell launched a community letter writing campaign. She gathered 225 notes of support in 48 hours. Two weeks later, school officials produced a budget outline. 

Brazell said the job switch won't stop her from pushing for arts education reform in Los Angeles Unified.

"I think before we can have an expansion we've got to make transparent what really exists," she said. 

As for filling the job she hopes to be leaving soon, Brazell said the Arts for LA board will be decide whether to appoint an interim director or launch a search campaign.