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Arts budget proposals: Slightly up for L.A. County, way down for L.A. City

April 23, 2010 |  5:13 pm
FujiokaSchabenHere's the quick lowdown on the outlook for government arts funding in Los Angeles: It depends.

If you're talking about L.A. County, the prospects are pretty good, given the circumstances. The 2010-11 budget proposed this week by William T Fujioka, left, the county chief executive, aims to cut overall spending 3.7%. But spending for the arts would go in the opposite direction, up 1.7% to about $71 million, thanks to funding guarantees for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Music Center and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

On the other hand, Fujiioka is calling for a second consecutive year of 10% cuts for the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, which hands out grants. The final say belongs to the Board of Supervisors, who will be hearing from Laura Zucker, the arts commission's executive director.

As for the city of Los Angeles, it's cursed with interesting fiscal times, which most certainly are reflected in Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's budget plans for the Department of Cultural Affairs.

The mayor, below, wants to slash arts spending nearly 25%, down to $10.9 million. Part of that reduction could be recouped, in terms of actual arts offerings for city residents, if the planned privatization of seven neighborhood arts centers and theaters goes well.

Even apart from the bottom line, there are some potentially contentious devils in the city arts budget's

details: The mayor's spending plan includes nothing for conserving the Watts Towers, says Cultural Affairs Executive Director Olga Garay -- an inconvenient development given that she's been trying to negotiate a new partnership that would bring LACMA, and possibly the Getty Conservation Institute and the California African American Museum, on board as a consultants on conservation, marketing and fundraising  -- but with the understanding that the city would continue paying for the labor and materials that go into the towers' upkeep. Stay tuned.

Mayor And if we Culture Monsters were betting beasties, we would wager heartily on a brouhaha breaking out over another item in the mayor's arts-spending plan: siphoning $415,000 out of the arts grants that already have been tentatively awarded based on the usual competitive, peer-reviewed process, and handing the money to four recipients he's picked himself.

The special beneficiaries would be three recipients that never have applied for cultural grants, according to the Cultural Affairs Department, let alone won high marks from the peer panels that score and rank grant proposals. A fourth mayoral favorite, the Pan African Film and Arts Festival, had qualified for a grant but was in line for less than half as much as Villaraigosa proposes. A spokeswoman for the mayor said that, given limited resources, he's trying to fund activities that figure to reach a broader public -- the others being the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival; a community celebration of El Grito, commemorating the 1810 outbreak of Mexico's war of independence from Spain; and -- the biggie at $250,000 -- a grant to the city-owned public access cable TV station, Channel 36. Garay says she will try to get the mayor to reconsider.

From the National Endowment for the Arts down to the grassroots, arts folk do love their peer-reviewed competitive grants programs. Given all it faces fiscally as it tries to meet needs that Villaraigosa's budget pegs at nearly $7 billion, does City Hall want a potentially heated debate-on-principle over $415,000? We'll see.

Click here for the story

-- Mike Boehm


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Los Angeles spares city arts funding

Photos: William T Fujioka, top; Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Credits: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times (Fujioka); Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times