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Federal arts grants include $2.5 million for Southern California groups

May 17, 2011 |  5:22 pm

WashingtonDCSkyline

Southern California arts organizations and arts educators will get $2.5 million from the latest round of federal grantmaking announced Tuesday by the National Endowment for the Arts.

California’s state arts agency, the California Arts Council, will get $1.1 million. But unlike the other grants announced, which are reviewed by panels of experts and decided on a competitive basis, state arts agencies get their money just for showing up –- as long as they can match the NEA grant with an allocation from state revenue.

The NEA’s match may well be the only reason California legislators and governors budget any tax-generated money at all for the arts; since mid-2003, on a per-capita basis, they’ve allowed the California Arts Council to remain securely in last place among state arts-grantmaking agencies, allocating just the minimum needed to gain the NEA match.  For most of its $5.3-million budget, the arts council depends on voluntary support from motorists willing to pay extra for special license plates whose purchase or renewal benefits the agency.

The NEA announced $88.7 million in grants altogether, with $52.4 million going to state and regional arts agencies to redistribute via their own grants, and the rest awarded competitively, including $24.9 million in "artistic excellence" awards supporting arts programming, $7.4 million for arts education and $4 million for arts broadcasting.

The totals reflect the beginnings of belt-tightening at the NEA, in keeping with last month's deficit reduction package from Congress and the Obama administration, which compels the agency to absorb a $12.5-million budget cut by Sept. 30. The artistic excellence awards for 2010-11 are down $2.6 million from last year, and the education grants reflect a $1-million reduction.

DudamelYOLASchaben In Southern California, the education grants announced Tuesday totaled $833,000 for 22 organizations, with top grants of $80,000 to the Los Angeles County Arts Commission for the Arts for All program aimed at improving arts instruction in the region, and $75,000 to the Los Angeles Philharmonic for its Youth Orchestra L.A. initiative (pictured), an effort to build childrens' orchestral programs in L.A. communities.

The region’s biggest grant, $100,000, went to L.A.-based Craft in America to produce two hour-long documentaries in its “Craft in America” public television series.

Southern California Institute of Architecture and the MAK Center for Art and Architecture will receive $70,000 for a cooperative project -- creating an online archive of more than 550 videotaped lectures about architecture and urban design dating back to the mid-1970s.

In theater, one $80,000 grant will go to the Autry National Center of the American West for its Native Voices at the Autry program devoted to plays by Native American writers; another will go to next month's RADAR L.A. international stage festival (Theatre Communications Group and L.A.'s Department of Cultural Affairs were the grant applicants).

Cornerstone Theater Company will get $75,000 for a summer program to train other theater artists in its community-generated method of play creation. East West Players and Deaf West Theatre Company will get $60,000 each -- East West to produce “A Life of Her Own” by Shane Sakhrani and Deaf West for an English and American Sign Language version of “Cyrano de Bergerac,” adapted and directed by Stephen Sachs of the Fountain Theatre.

The NEA also is supporting a revival and retooling of another L.A.-spawned production, “Medea/Macbeth/Cinderella,” this time in Ashland, Ore., where Bill Rauch, now artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and Tracy Young will relaunch the show they first co-directed in 1998 in a joint production by Cornerstone, then led by Rauch, and the Actors Gang, where Young was based at the time.

In Chicago, the Goodman Theatre will get $100,000 toward its world premiere of “Chinglish,” a new play by David Henry Hwang, whose work often makes its way eventually to L.A.;  in New York, the Wooster Group, which often tours its shows to Los Angeles, will get $60,000 for “Sea Freight Returns,” a theatrical mash-up in which Eugene O’Neill’s early-1900s seafaring plays are overlain with material concerning the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling disaster.

The NEA also will boost public broadcasting programs that reach Southern California audiences -- $800,000 in grants to New York City’s WNET will support its “American Masters” and “Great Performances” television series, a combined $250,000 will go to New York’s Lincoln Center and Metropolitan Opera for their “Live from Lincoln Center” and “Great Performances at the Met” series, San Francisco’s Independent Television Service gets $170,000 for its “Independent Lens” series on PBS, Minnesota Public Radio gets $150,000 for classical music programs that include “SymphonyCast” and “Performance Today,” which are heard locally on KUSC (91.5 FM), and Philadelphia’s WHYY gets $65,000  to produce “Fresh Air With Terry Gross,” which airs weekdays at 7 p.m. on KPCC (89.3 FM).

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-- Mike Boehm

Photos: Fourth of July fireworks near the U.S. Capitol and monuments; Gustavo Dudamel conducts young musicians in L.A. Phil's Youth Orchestra Los Angeles program. Credits: Capital Concerts and WETA, Washington (fireworks); Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times (youth orchestra).

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