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Supervisors OK $250,000 to save arts management internships

March 23, 2010 |  5:54 pm

RidleyThomasSchaben Los Angeles County's 10-year policy of paying the salaries of college students who serve internships in the management offices of local arts nonprofits will survive into an 11th summer, after a Board of Supervisors vote Tuesday to spend $250,000 to save the program in scaled-down form.

"It's a new crop of potential arts leaders, and there's no smarter way to make such an investment," said board member Mark Ridley-Thomas. Mike Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky also voted to continue the program; Gloria Molina was opposed, and Don Knabe abstained.

Molina said that given today's budget pressures, she wants the program funded by donors or retooled into an unpaid internship for college students; she would rather have arts organizations take advantage of funds the county received under last year's federal economic stimulus package, which calls for hiring unemployed workers rather than collegians.

The paid internships are "a wonderful thing if you have the money," Molina said.

Last year the county spent $500,000 to sponsor 125 interns; this year there will be 75. Interns earn $3,500 for 10 weeks' work. To make up for part of the loss of public funding, arts organizations with budgets over $1.5 million will have to cover $500 or $1,000 of their interns' pay for the first time, said Laura Zucker, executive director of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, which runs the program. 

The county-funded internships place students who live in L.A. County or attend college here with performing arts organizations. A sister program, run by the J. Paul Getty Trust since 1993, covers visual arts internships. The Getty, with budget problems of its own, is funding 107 internships, down from 125 two years ago, a spokeswoman said. The Getty also provides about $30,000 for educational programs for both sets of interns.

Arts groups who want interns have to apply by April 7 on the arts commission website; information for interested students will be posted there April 28. Last year, 3,900 students applied for the 125 spots.

"It's a very in-demand program. Paid summer jobs are very hard to come by," Zucker said.

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times.

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