The council acts as the EMP’s fiscal sponsor

ATASCADERO — As the Equality Mural Project (EMP) continues to put up murals all over downtown Atascadero, we’re taking a look at the relationship between the artistic nonprofit and the SLO County Arts Council.

The SLO County Arts Council has supported the EMP since its newest reiteration, which started in early 2020 as their fiscal sponsor, as well as putting together and sponsoring events dedicated to the project. 

“As a sponsor, we accept tax-deductible donations on behalf of a sponsored project. We also ensure donations and grant funding are applied towards the outlined purposes, along with any additional donor restrictions. Besides that, we assist EMP with aspects of networking, promotion, event planning, and outreach,” said SLO County Arts Council Programs Manager Jordan Chesnut.


Sponsorships through the Arts Council started with a conversation between them and the interested party about shared goals and values, and after that, EMP and the Arts Council teamed up.

“EMP is inclusive to participants across groups and generations, inspires vital conversations, and contributes to the arts and cultural ecology of our county,” stated Chesnut.

In 2021 the SLO County Arts Council teamed up with EMP to co-sponsor a performance by Wordsauce, a local hip hop/funk band and screened “Alice Street,” an independent documentary with awards under its belt. The event took place in downtown Atascadero in support of the EMP.

Their latest co-project, part of SLO County Arts Open Studio Tours, took place on Oct. 15, 2022, at the ARTery in Atascadero. It featured information on all the completed murals, showed off preliminary mockups of upcoming murals, and featured artist Cynthia Lujan, who is slated to potentially paint the tunnel between El Camino Real and the high school in the future. EMP is currently working with Caltrans in regard to the tunnel project.

“I’m looking forward to being an artist featured here in Atascadero,” said Lujan at the event.

The SLO County Arts Council is a state-local partner of the California Arts Council, and as such, it promotes visual, literary, and performing arts. The council provides programs promoting public access to the arts, bringing arts to educational settings, planning artistic collaborations locally, and facilitating opportunities between artists and arts organizations.

“We fiscally sponsor groups and organizations that are in alignment with our mission. We are inspired by the public art happening throughout downtown Atascadero and believe that it is sparking vital conversations around social justice and community engagement — that is something we advocate for,” added Chesnut.

Currently, the EMP is working with the community to follow up on leads and start the permit process for more EMP murals to be completed in 2023. As of now, there are four out of 10 murals that still need to be painted.

“As our county grows and changes, public art is a way to define our identity and foster a sense of belonging for residents new and old,” stated Chesnut.