Lifelong cultural leader, arts advocate, social activist, and appointed official dies at 76
It is with profound sadness that the California Arts Council acknowledges the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Larry T. Baza, who died Saturday, February 20, 2021 due to COVID-19.
Larry Baza was a professional arts administrator who spent his career advocating for the arts at the local, state and national level. Baza was appointed to the California Arts Council by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins in February of 2016 and reappointed by Atkins as Senate Pro Tem in January of 2020. From January 25, 2018 to December 31, 2019, Baza served as Vice Chair of the Council. He was elected Council Chair on December 2, 2020.
On January 26, 2021, Baza presided over the Arts Council’s public meeting for the first time as Chair, a role and honor that he was immensely proud of as the culmination of his career of service in the arts. The California Arts Council joins countless community members from across the San Diego region, the state, and the nation in celebrating Larry Baza’s life, and in honoring the lasting legacy of his caring, passion, dedication, kindness, and generosity that he shared with all who knew him.
“The news of Larry’s passing brings a deep and tremendous sense of loss for those of us at the California Arts Council, both professionally and personally,” said Anne Bown-Crawford, Arts Council Executive Director. “Larry was a leader to our Council, a fierce arts and social justice advocate, an inspirational mentor, and a dear, dear friend. With a wealth of experience tied directly to arts administration, Larry held a special place on the Council for our CAC family and those in the field we serve. Through his own journey, Larry had the unique ability to understand the work, the dedication, and the passion of our state’s arts community from a point of view that made us all feel seen. With his deep commitment to public service, Larry left an indelible mark on the Council, on the agency, and in our hearts, and a legacy that will not be forgotten.”
“We are devastated by the untimely loss of Larry Baza, our friend, Council colleague, and newly elected Chair,” said Lilia Gonzáles-Chávez, Vice Chair of the California Arts Council. “With five years of service to the Council, including two years as Vice Chair, and decades more as a community leader, Larry’s leadership and advocacy will have a lasting impact. The enthusiasm with which he assumed the role of Council Chair was a joy to witness. Larry’s vision of universal inclusion and access to arts and culture engagement was the driving force behind his remarkable career in the arts. His values are reflected in the trajectory of our Council’s work, made better by his care and commitment. We will continue to honor his life and his legacy through our work, today and for many years to come.”
As a leader on the California Arts Council, Baza worked tirelessly to champion the development of new programs as a member of the Council’s policy committee, informed by his own personal and professional experiences in the arts. He was a devoted mentor to many, and through his service on the Council, he was committed to supporting the next generation of California arts leaders.
In his most recent public statement as Chair, on January 14, 2021, for the announcement of the California Arts Council Administrators of Color Fellowship Program, Baza said “California is the most diverse state in the country, and it is essential for the leadership at our arts and culture organizations to reflect our communities. The urgency for arts organizations to invest more in our artists and arts leaders of color is greater than ever. … As a native Californian and arts administrator of color whose career spans more than 40 years in our state, it gives me, my colleagues on the Council, and the CAC staff great pride in providing this career pathway for the next generation of California’s arts administrators of color.”
Baza is survived by his partner of 37 years, Tom Noel; brothers Ronald and Mark Baza; nieces Kimberlee Baza Petersen of Lakeside, Carolyn Baza of Lakeside and Ibette Baza of San Diego; nephew Marc Baza of Fallbrook; and many grandnieces and grandnephews.