L.A. arts philanthropist Austin Beutner takes first step toward a run for mayor
Austin Beutner, who announced Thursday that he has filed papers to begin raising money for a possible run to succeed Antonio Villaraigosa two years from now as the mayor of Los Angeles, can't match the $18.1 billion net worth of New York City's famously arts-loving mayor, Michael Bloomberg (the estimate comes from Forbes magazine, which ranks Bloomberg as the world's 30th-richest inhabitant, and the 13th-richest American).
But if he were to run and win the March 2013 election, Beutner, 51, a former investment banker who now serves as first deputy mayor and economic policy chief under Villaraigosa, would bring substantial arts connections and arts-philanthropy credentials to the table. He chairs the boards of the Broad Stage in Santa Monica and California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.
At CalArts in 2009, Beutner and his wife, Virginia, established a $1-million scholarship fund that picks five students annually to receive a full ride of up to $50,000 during their graduating year. The idea is to help the recipients begin their professional careers less saddled with college-loan debt.
The program is intended to last for four years. Last month, CalArts announced that the Beutners had found it impossible to winnow the field of finalists for the scholarships' second year to just the five scheduled recipients, so they awarded eight scholarships instead.
The Beutners donated an additional $400,000 to provide scholarships for Los Angeles-area high school students to attend CalArts, and they are the primary sponsors of the annual International Children's Film Festival at the CalArts-affiliated REDCAT.
Also being watched to see if he'll jump into the mayoral race is Zev Yaroslavsky, who has been a consistent advocate for the arts and government arts funding from his seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. In one memorable instance, Yaroslavsky came close to using his clout in the pugilistic rather than the political sense when trying to quiet a heckler who started haranguing Los Angeles Opera's music director, James Conlon, during a Conlon lecture on Richard Wagner at the Museum of Tolerance.
-- Mike Boehm
Photo: Austin Beutner. Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times