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L.A. County cuts arts grants 6.8%, even with last-minute budget infusion

July 14, 2010 |  5:32 pm

KennethHahnHallofAdministration Thanks to a last-minute funding infusion from the Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles County's arts grants won't suffer a double-digit decrease in the fiscal year that began July 1.

But if you look at the news as a glass half-empty rather than half-full, the $4.1 million in grants from the Los Angeles County Arts Commission is still down 6.8% from 2009-10.

The Arts Commission had been facing an overall 10.6% reduction in its budget for 2010-11, in keeping with cuts that faced many county operations as officials tried to cope with revenue shortfalls in a poor economy.

But, meeting last week, the supervisors voted 3-2 to increase the proposed arts grant budget by $287,000 and to add $482,000 for the annual county-sponsored holiday concert that's broadcast live each December from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. The allocation, combined with $332,000 budgeted from cable franchise fees, will pay for a three-hour show and telecast instead of the usual six-hour extravaganza. Arts Commission spokeswoman Linda Chiavaroli said Wednesday that her agency will try to find donors for the additional $150,000 it would take to restore the show to six hours and continue offering an hour-long edited version of the telecast, to be rebroadcast nationally on PBS.

Supervisors Don Knabe and Gloria Molina cast the votes against tapping a county economic reserve fund to provide more for arts grants and the holiday concert.

With the bottom line for grants thus established, the arts commission on Wednesday announced the nonprofit organizations that will get them. The Los Angeles Philharmonic tops the list, with a two-year grant of $227,000 for its education and community outreach programs; The Skirball Cultural Center, Autry National Center of the American West, Hammer Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art will receive two-year grants totaling $120,000 to $142,000.

The smallest grants, $3,500 over two years, go to the Topanga Symphony to help with its free concert series, and the Concert Singers choral group, to fund its music library and hire instrumental backing and vocal soloists.

ArtsCommissionLogo 166 organizations of all sizes will get grants that begin this fiscal year, for an average two-year total of $24,800. They include 24 first-time recipients. 

Altogether, the county currently provides grants for 317 arts organizations, decided via peer-panel reviews. Recipients can apply only every other year, so the 151 organizations whose grants were announced last year were not eligible this time around.

The vast majority of county cultural funding -- more than $63 million this year -- will be paid as operating support to three major institutions that were created by the county from 1913 to 1964: the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Music Center and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Since the mid-1990s the three -- which rely on private donations and paid admissions for most of their budgets -- have gotten their county allocations under formulas related to the consumer price index. That move, adopted after the early 1990s recession, was designed to safeguard their government funding from fluctuations in the economy and the county budget.

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: L.A. County's Kenneth Hahn Hall of Administration. Credit: Clarence Williams/Los Angeles Times

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