Open Sourcing Cultural Affairs

When I was planning the web redesign project for the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs’ (DCA), I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we shared tools that we develop with the greater public? This is now a reality. DCA just made our first contribution on Github!

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Our first repository is the front-end theme code of our new Wordpress site: We see this theme as a tool to empower arts and cultural organizations to elevate their game in information delivery. Dubbed as cultural-affairs, this theme comes with templates designed to showcase grants opportunities, community facilities, cultural events, and artist projects. It also supports plugins such as Constant Contact and the Events Calendar. Arts and cultural agencies without an IT specialist on staff can use this theme to produce web content without digging into the code.

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listing our grants and calls with crucial info

Open sourcing a software tool is a significant step for the Department of Cultural Affairs. “DCA is a creative, progressive civic arts agency. We model these values by building technology on open source platforms and sharing tools to empower our society,” said General Manager Danielle Brazell. This code release helps further our agency’s public mission, a commitment to creating public-serving infrastructures that support arts and culture. Using an open source license, we encourage our colleagues to repurpose and further develop this tool with the mindset to cultivate sustainability of the greater arts and cultural ecosystem.

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events calendar with heritage month filters

Developing for Wordpress, we have joined designers and developers worldwide who are making and sharing for a collective web, with a community-driven ethos that resonates deeply with DCA’s mission. This open source project is a happy outcome of our collaboration with Kluge Interactive, a boutique digital design firm in Los Angeles. This public repository exemplifies public-benefit potentials of a partnership between DCA as a municipal arts agency and the region’s creative businesses that it supports.

We are in great company, working alongside open government colleagues locally and federally. The Federal Open Source Policy is being iterated openly online as we speak. Within our City, the City Council just approved a motion to open source Re:code, Department of City Planning’s zoning code system. Beyond software and data (i.e. the City’s open data portal), other meaningful forms of informational openness within the public sector have emerged including administrative toolkits like the LA County Arts Commission’s Capacity Building Assessment Toolkit.

This project is a part of a larger progress toward openness at DCA. During my two-year stint as a fellow, I learned models of openness by reading and conversing vigorously with communities around #opengov, #opendata, and #openGLAM. I began prototyping forms of public-sector openness with the goal to increase communications between government and the publics. I put the department’s web redesign RFP on the open web, as a Wordpress microsite; published a pre-assessment methodology of our social media pilot; and released data related to the City’s festival events. With Lab at DCA, a city staff digital literacy incubator initiative, our learnings, reflections, and curriculum are all shared on the web under a Creative Commons License.

A couple of months ago, I stepped into a new position as DCA’s digital strategist. I hope to continue to lead with new norms for openness, extending what we know and sharing the tools we use in the digital commons. Going forward, as we build our digital capacity, we look forward to iterating guidelines related to our digital practices (for instance, our Social Media Plan) in the public.

For now, download and play with our Wordpress theme. If you have any thoughts on how we can improve this theme, get in touch!

Written by

W. F. Umi Hsu (@wfumihsu | they/them), digital strategist/sr. project coordinator at the City of Los Angeles Dept of Cultural Affairs

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