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NEA grants total $22.5 million, with $1.37 million for SoCal

November 17, 2011 |  3:43 pm

Mariachi Los Comperos de Nati Cano performing in 2006

This post has been corrected. Please see below for details.

The National Endowment for the Arts announced $22.5 million in grants Thursday; California organizations received $4.3 million, or a fifth of the total.

Nationally there was just one six-figure grant — $100,000 to New York City’s New Dramatists for its Playwrights Lab program to foster new plays. In the four previous grant rounds since fall 2009, the top grants had reached $140,000 or $150,000. Since then, the NEA has seen its annual budget cut 7.5%, returning to its 2008-09 level of $155 million. The average grant for arts organizations announced Thursday was $26,177, down from $27,848 in the four previous rounds.

Southern California’s share came to $1.37 million, awarded to 48 nonprofit organizations and one individual — Claremont fiction writer Sean Bernard, a University of Laverne associate professor whose $25,000 literary fellowship was one of 40 awarded nationwide, from a pool of 1,179 applicants. The NEA says 12 panelists read 35,000 pages to siphon literary wheat from chaff. The batting average was better for nonprofit organizations, with nearly half the 1,686 applicants getting at least the minimum grant of $5,000.

In Southern California, grants of $70,000 went to the Los Angeles Philharmonic for its Mahler Project, to South Coast Repertory to help underwrite its annual Pacific Playwrights Festival and to CalArts for its three-week summer arts program for high school students.

L.A.’s East West Players will receive $60,000 for the world premiere of “Coach Soichi Sakamoto and the Three-Year Swim Club,” Lee A. Tonouchi’s play based on a true story from 1930s Hawaii, in which Sakamoto's team won a national championship despite having trained in sugar plantation irrigation ditches rather than proper swimming pools.

Grants of $50,000 went to Los Angeles Opera for its production of “Albert Herring” by Benjamin Britten and to the city of San Fernando for its Mariachi Master Apprentice Program, in which members of Mariachi Los Comperos de Nati Cano (pictured) will train aspiring musicians in their art.

Grants of $40,000 to $45,000 went to the Pacific Chorale to record and premiere a choral/orchestral work by Frank Ticheli; the Pacific Symphony for a festival centered on Persian music and its influence on American composers; San Diego Opera for a co-commission of “Moby Dick” by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer; the Los Angeles Master Chorale for “Andes to the Sea,” a program that will include a new piece by Gabriela Lena Frank performed with the folk-jazz group Huayucaltia;  L.A.’s Grand Performances for performances, film screenings and lectures about the San Pedro and Wilmington communities; and to the foundation that supports the John Anson Ford Theatres, for programs aimed at Latino and Asian American audiences.

Nationally, the only $90,000 grant went to the San Francisco Symphony’s youth orchestra training program.  Of the seven $80,000 grants, five went to East Coast-based organizations that create, present or foster dance.  The others went to Actors Theatre of Louisville, for its annual Humana Festival of New American Plays, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, for two world premieres: “All the Way,” Pulitzer-winner Robert Schenkkan’s play about Lyndon B. Johnson, and “Party People,” in which the Universes ensemble explores the Black Panthers and a 1970s Puerto Rican nationalist group, the Young Lords.

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Federal arts grants include $2.5 million for Southern California

For the record: 10:40 a.m. Nov. 18: An earlier version of this post misspelled composer Frank Ticheli's name.

— Mike Boehm

Photo: Mariachi Los Comperos de Nati Cano perform in 2006. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times.

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