« Previous | Culture Monster Home | Next »

Critic's Notebook: L.A. City Council is poised to slash arts funds

February 2, 2010 |  4:19 pm

City Hall reflected Al Seib Los Angeles Times Times are tough. They have been for a long while, and they will continue to be for longer still. And when times are tough, art's importance increases.

Among other explanations, that's one reason Sunday's performance-heavy Grammy telecast saw a huge spike in viewership -- 35% over last year. People hungry for full immersion in the solace of some sort of artistic bath will put up with tacky commercialism and self-congratulatory preening to get it, especially at the low cost of turning on the TV.

Heck, I even tuned in, and I never watch the Grammys.

Now, will someone please tell that to the brain trust over at L.A. City Hall? In the face of very real city budget woes, which amount to an immediate shortfall of $199 million for the current fiscal year (ending in June), draconian measures have been proposed for the arts. The cuts will continue into the future -- and once gone, getting them restored will be a herculean task.

What's proposed? Cut the Cultural Affairs Department almost in half, laying off 48% of staff.  (Of 1,003 planned citywide job cuts, 30 would come from this one tiny agency.) [Correction: The proposal would cut the department's staff of 63 employees by 43%, 16 by layoffs and 11 by early retirement.] The move would do inevitable, serious damage to venues all over the city, such as the Municipal Art Gallery and the Watts Towers Art Center.

What else? Terminate existing contracts for arts grants that have already been awarded but whose projects have not yet begun. Suspend the grant program for 2010-11. That's right: Zero it out.

And more. According to Arts for L.A., a nonprofit arts advocacy organization that is rallying opposition, the 1% Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT), the only dedicated funding source for the Cultural Affairs Department, is on the chopping block. (You can find city budget information here.)

City Administrative Officer Miguel A. Santana has emphasized the need for "shared sacrifice" to deal with the budget crisis. He's right. But here, apparently, that means other city departments get together and share in the effort to throw the arts overboard.

Public testimony on the proposal to disproportionally slash arts funding will be taken at Wednesday's Los Angeles City Council meeting. Judging from the volume of Twitter tweets and Facebook postings I've seen, expect a crowd.

-- Christopher Knight


Budget shortfall puts L.A. arts agency funding on the chopping block

Photo: Los Angeles City Hall reflected in the windows of the new Los Angeles Police Department headquarters building along First Street. Credit: Al Seib / Los Angeles Times

Follow Times art critic Christopher Knight at KnightLAT on Twitter.

Comments () | Archives (7)

Every single special interest is loathed to have their pet's budget cut. You know what? The city should not be in the business of giving out grants for arts in the first place. That is for wealthy patrons, you know, the kind of people the LATimes and other liberals want to tax into extinction. I am all for the city taking money away from the arts and putting it towards education, facilities and infrastructure, police and firemen. These are services the city owes to it's citizens. The rest is just fluff.

The Grammys are not about art, its about entertainment, something you seem to not understand the difference between, CK. Art is about the highest common denominator, entertainment the lowest. They are yin and yang and both needed, but entertainmente has invaded and absorbed art, so it no longer exists.

Cut the grants to bad artists, ones who will not be known in a coupla decades anyway, art is made to stand the test of time, not fashion. And Save the Watts Towers, use private measn as well, I have contacted the Catholic Church about just such a thing, as they are interested in my Chapel anyway. The future we must have interaction on differnt levels of society, not just one who has been bribed by political donations for funding. Art is about Us, not I.

And let the entertainment industry worry about its own, they got trash like American Idol, and Disney churns out most of the rest of the crap. MNusic is dead as art now. Beyonce got her whore dance on to get attention. Saying it was based on Fosse, who grew up in a whorehouse and made his art for ADULTS not marketed to teenagers like her and JayZ do, was as laughable as obscene. And we wonder why teenagers are so messed up now, and filling art schools and both attention deficited, and addicted to instant gratification, to the benefit of the entertainment industry.

Artists are not allowed to develop and mature anymore, so they stay retarded in adolescent states forever, unfortunately something that Alicia Keys seems to have done. The music industry gobbles them up and spits them out, cannon foder for the true creators of fast food music, the producers. And giving grants to kids only keeps them dependenat, and stuck on adilescent values and issues.

Stop wasting monies on nobodies, support only organizations and works that have proven worth, and save the Watts Towers, the greatest work of art in LA, and all of California. Only god has done better, Yosemite Valley and so much of our state. "He" is the creative genius, time to give props and strive to those goals. Not childish self expression, therapy, and academic absurdist games to divert fro what is truly important. That is wasting the tax payers money of vanity projects for the rich and privilged. We got better things to do, as Kristian just pointed out, and the vast majority of Americans agree with.

art collegia delenda est

Come on, people, THINK. If you cut public funding for the arts, the arts become more and more "elitist," as only the rich can afford them. The fact that the arts are super-dependent on private funds in this country is the REASON why our culture has become so dumbed-down.

As Dana Gioia, former head of the NEA says, "The purpose of arts education is not to produce more artists ... The real purpose of arts education is to create complete human beings." And I'll quote a San Francisco sheriff while I'm at it: "I want more art in our schools because I want fewer kids in our jails." Arts at the city level reaches communities most directly and directly changes lives. City arts funding is vitally important. The arts can help inoculate kids against gangs, giving them a different way to express themselves, belong to a group, etc. I could go on and on but I'll spare you.

I agree with Kitty, art is not to be seen as career. It is for balance. Kids who do stuff as teenagers and then go on to art shcools seldom do more than reprise their juvenile ideas. Art IS self expression for kids, not never adults.

Inner City Arts is doing alot, support them. But there is no money, it simply isnt there. And teachers ant to get paid adn ahve lots of perks most ofus dont ahve, like better and free medical and early retirement. Few Americans get those things anymore, and during down times Teeaching sure looks good, just like in good times they want to jump off the wagon.

But things are even hurting teachers now, and classes far too big as is, especially in LA schools. I know kids who go i an techers never show up, in 40+ class sizes. the kids dropping out actually helps those who dont, but those drop outs at 16 are either juvenile delinquents, gangbangers or just petty thieves, with a few success stories who do it on their own and prove the rule.

A third of LA kids were already dropping out, and with no unskilled jobs to ever pay a decent wage again, it is creating a permanent underscalss, one that actually has been around and growing for some time. Something artistes have no clue about. With their so called "counter" culture. Which is just the playpen of the rich and out of touch.

Its simple, raise taxes, there are plenty with more than enough, Americans need to reevaluate their values, we have been greedy and selfish for far too long. What is important? How do we get there realistically, not with left and right wing ideologues who are truly covering up their own desires. It is going to take some time to rectifiy this mess WE made, and artists need to finally fulfill their function and be at the forefront of that REAL conversation, not the absurdist internal ones of conceptualism and games and therapy arts of the academies.

Its time to grow up and put childish things aside, and take responsibility for our kids.Those few artists who have kids and raised them rather than nannies and such, know this. Ask yourself, do you? It is not about You, it is about Us.

art colegia delenda est
The center must hold

To Donald Frazell wow!!! Are you kidding me "Art is not to be seen as a career" There are many jobs out there that involves an art background! I'm not just talking about painters and actors, musicians. There are graphic designers, architectures, teachers, Manager, events planner, Advertising Executive, Program Coordinator ,Counselor, marketing professional, facilitator , corporate Trainer, are all job examples of job titles held by Arts graduates. The list can go on and on!

And these "schools" have created such an excess one can never get paid well, it is supply and demand. There are hundreds of "educated" artistes out there for every available job. Most of these "jobs" are teaching other suckers who will never either get paid well, or contribute in a Meaningful way to society. How much relevant art of any kind, music, visual, film, actually comes out of LA? Its entertainment, that isnt art.

Art in K-12 is to help kids find some kind of meaning in their lives, and keep them in school, finding soemthing worth working for. Not as a career in the arts, but to grow up in expressing and finding who they are. Once they become adults, arts are something completely different. Or are supposed to be. Which is why those who take arts as "career" early never create mature and relevant art, it's all about them.

Time to grow up people, it is NOT about you. It is about Us.

art cvollegia delenda est
Save the Watts Towers, tear down the Ivories
if you have never been there, are are no artist, but one looking for lifestyle and partying, Not of humanity, exploring nature and seeking god. Creative Arts eternal and sole purpose, visualizing the Purpose in life.

You are Artiste, an entertainer posing as artist.


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.