Category: Business

Disney Co. gift of $250,000 funds endowment for free art classes

June 23, 2010 |  9:00 am


MickeyMouseDrawing The Walt Disney Co. is donating $250,000 to Ryman Arts, a 20-year-old nonprofit  that provides free intensive weekend drawing and painting courses to area high school students who compete for 165 openings each semester.

Ryman Arts, which uses studio space donated by USC, announced Tuesday that it had independently raised $130,000, exceeding the $100,000 minimum in outside funding Disney required as a match to activate its own pledge.

The combined $380,000 creates an endowment whose earnings are expected to cover the cost of one of the 10 classes Ryman Arts sponsors each semester, said Diane Brigham, the organization's executive director. Overall, she said, Ryman Arts needs to raise about $750,000 annually to fund its programs, which it is hoping to expand. Brigham said applications have risen as economically pinched school districts have reduced their own art offerings.

Ryman Arts honors Herbert D. Ryman, a painter who became a key figure in Disney history. An admiring Walt Disney first tapped him in 1938 after seeing his work in a Los Angeles gallery; as a film illustrator for Disney, Ryman was art director for "Fantasia" and "Dumbo."

In 1953, Disney asked Ryman to create the preliminary drawings of Disneyland that he needed to secure $17 million in private investments needed to launch the theme park. Ryman became leader of what's now known as Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative arm of Disney's theme parks. After Ryman died in 1989, his sister, former MGM casting director Lucille Ryman Carroll (who had taken the young Marilyn Monroe under her wing), and Marty Sklar, longtime head of Walt Disney Imagineering, established Ryman Arts to honor him. Sklar is president of the Ryman Arts board.

Work by current Ryman Arts students is on display at the California African American Museum in Exposition Park through July 6.

-- Mike Boehm

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Photo: Mickey Mouse drawing created for 2000 Rose Parade. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times.

Hwang and Nottage get commissions while five other playwrights get 'living wage' grants

June 18, 2010 |  5:30 pm

YouNeroGallardo How do you keep playwrights down on the farm, harvesting their imaginations for theatrical works, after they've seen how much more they can earn from film and television?

The answer proposed Friday by Arena Stage, the leading theater company in Washington, D.C., is to pay five of them "a living wage," with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation footing most of the bill with a $1.1-million grant.

It establishes the American Voices New Play Institute as a three-year experiment aimed at making playwriting a real job, rather than something writers who love the stage try to squeeze in between the teaching or writing for film and television that nearly all playwrights need to make an actual living.

Landing those real jobs are three playwrights whose work has been produced on major Southern California stages; a fourth who just won Britain's top new play honor, the Olivier Award; and a fifth who has been produced at her hometown Arena Stage and Chicago's Goodman Theatre. For three years, they can "write whatever they want" for the stage, Arena Artistic Director Molly Smith told The Times, while earning a salary that appears to be about $40,000 to $50,000 a year, plus health benefits and a $15,000 a year allowance to spend as they choose in support of their work -- hiring actors and directors for workshop performances, travel expenses for field work, research assistants and the like.

LisaKronMelMelcon Amy Freed (a favorite at South Coast Repertory, including "The Beard of Avon" and "You, Nero," with a scene pictured above); Lisa Kron (pictured at right), whose "The Wake" was staged recently at the Kirk Douglas Theatre); Charles Randolph-Wright ("Blue" and "The Night Is a Child" at the Pasadena Playhouse); Katori Hall (the Olivier winner with "The Mountaintop"); and Washington, D.C.'s Karen Zacarias are the "resident playwrights" who'll draw salaries and benefits. Arena Stage also guarantees each a production of a play during the three years, although it might be one that's already been produced elsewhere rather than what they write during their residencies.

Despite the "resident playwright" title, the four who live elsewhere won't actually have to live in Washington, an Arena spokeswoman said. They'll be given free apartments when in town for play development work or other activities.

The new program is going to benefit two star playwrights as well. David Henry Hwang (the Tony-winning "M. Butterfly") and Lynn Nottage (the Pulitzer-winning "Ruined") have been commissioned to write new plays, which isn't unusual. But Arena Stage is promising to produce the resulting scripts, which is.

Smith said the annual salaries for the resident playwrights will be in "a mid-five-figure range," though not quite $49,999 -- the most middling of all five-figure salaries. "It's a real salary, not to parse it too much," she said.

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Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet plays arts fete for Henry Segerstrom; now it's his turn

June 17, 2010 |  4:48 pm

ThibaudetJean-YvesRGauthier Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet will be inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame (along with Donna Summer and the Carpenters) at Friday's Bowl season-opening concert, but as a warm-up on Wednesday, the honoree-in-waiting helped do the honors for another arts figure, philanthropist Henry Segerstrom.

The venue was a little off the beaten musical path: the Louis Vuitton store at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, the high-end shopping center that Segerstrom owns with his family across the street from the Orange County Performing Arts Center and South Coast Repertory, the foci of their arts patronage.

Segerstrom, 87, received Carnegie Hall's annual Medal of Excellence for arts philanthropy on June 7 in New York City, along with a proclamation from Mayor Michael Bloomberg designating the day as "Segerstrom Center for the Arts Day" in Gotham. The dinner thrown by Louis Vuitton in Costa Mesa gave Orange County locals who couldn't make it to the Carnegie gala at the Waldorf Astoria a chance to savor the occasion.

Among those attending were David Emmes, producing artistic director of South Coast Repertory, which benefited from Segerstrom's first big arts gifts of land and cash in the late 1970s, and Dean Corey, president of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, which has taken the lead in forging an unusual bicoastal partnership with Carnegie Hall that debuted with last year's Carnegie-organized "Ancient Paths, Modern Voices" Chinese cultural festival and will continue in October with the JapanNYC and JapanOC festivals.

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Pasadena Playhouse lists $102,000 in cash, $2.3 million in debts

May 11, 2010 |  9:44 pm


PasadenaPhseCamelotPaltera The Pasadena Playhouse's Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing shows that it owes $2.3 million, most of it to subscribers, bankers and vendors, but has just $102,000 in cash and savings.

Playhouse officials weren't commenting Tuesday, after the filing Monday night in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Los Angeles. But executive director Stephen Eich said theater leaders plan to share their "concept" for righting the ship soon. The playhouse has been closed since Feb. 7.

On first glance, it looks as if the Playhouse's problems reflect a truism among nonprofit organizations: that it's much easier to raise money for buildings than for ordinary operating expenses.

The evidence: Of the $7 million in total assets that the Playhouse lists, $5.9 million is pledges to an expansion campaign that was announced in 2007; an additional $840,000 is the value of capital improvements already done or in progress on the theater's current leased facilities.

The expansion campaign envisioned a 300- to 400-seat theater, designed pro bono by Frank Gehry, to go with the 1925-vintage, 684-seat main stage and the 86-seat Carrie Hamilton Theatre. A bundle of promised money was forthcoming for what Gehry might create, but what was lacking, literally, was money to keep the lights on.

How well the company's attempt at a fresh start turns out will probably depend first on donors' enthusiasm for the less glamorous business of making sure that ordinary bills get paid -- and then on audiences' appetite for the shows those hypothetical backers bankroll.

For the full story, click here.

-- Mike Boehm 

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Photo: The audience awaits a performance of "Camelot," the last pre-bankruptcy production at the Pasadena Playhouse. Credit: Stefano Paltera / For The Times.

Henry Segerstrom to receive arts philanthropy medal from Carnegie Hall

April 23, 2010 |  3:02 pm

Henry Segerstrom is about to fulfill an old punch line, but not in a way that will do any harm to his reputation as Orange County's leading arts philanthropist.

Q: How do you get to Carnegie Hall?

 A: Practice.

SegerstromSchwarzeneggerKelsen In Segerstrom's case, it's the practice of giving a bundle to the arts that led to Friday's announcement that Carnegie Hall will award him its annual Medal of Excellence, conferred on people "whose accomplishments in the corporate sector complement Carnegie Hall’s stature as one of the premier performance venues in the world."

Segerstrom, developer of South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, began his big-dollar arts philanthropy in the mid-1970s, when he donated land near the shopping center as a site for South Coast Repertory, whose largest venue is the Segerstrom Stage. Since then, gifts of adjoining parcels owned by the Segerstrom family enlarged the arts district to include the Orange County Performing Arts Center and a site reserved for a new home for the Newport Beach-based Orange County Museum of Art. The district's formal name is the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, and the performing arts center's two large auditoriums are the 3,000-seat Segerstrom Hall and the 2,000-seat Rene and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. The construction fund for the latter included $51 million donated by Segerstrom.

His philanthropic connection to Carnegie Hall became high-profile last year when OCPAC and the Philharmonic Society of Orange County collaborated with the New York City venue to bring a version of the Carnegie-organized Ancient Paths, Modern Voices festival of Chinese culture to Costa Mesa. Next up: JapanNYC and JapanOC, which will repeat the bicoastal arrangement by bringing a series of events, including a recital by violinist Midori, to Orange County from October to April, 2011.

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SoCal billionaires plentiful, but most are not known for giving big sums to the arts*

March 16, 2010 |  4:12 pm

IrwinJoanJacobsTormey What do the arts need to thrive?

Well, apart from talented, creative and inspired artists, impresarios to give them a forum and arts-appreciators to enjoy the results, the arts mainly need rich people. Which brings us to Forbes magazine's annual listing of the world's billionaires, published last week.

By Culture Monster's count, 73 of the 1,011 souls that Forbes pegs as worth $1 billion to $53.5 billion (the estimated worth of Mexican magnate Carlos Slim, top dog on this year's list) have their main residences in California. Thirty-one live in Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties, and 42 in Silicon Valley and points north.

EliEdytheBroad The good news for the L.A. arts scene is that Eli Broad, by Forbes' reckoning, had a decent 2009; his net worth increased $500 million to $5.7 billion, good for No. 132 on the billionaires' hit parade. In philanthropic circles, who you know counts -- and Forbes notes that Broad and Slim already have partnered to fund medical research. So it's not inconceivable that Broad could drop Slim a line and shake loose the odd seven-figure sum on behalf of an  artistic enterprise.

Two other potentially helpful L.A.-associated billionaires are Roman Abromovich and Victor Pinchuk, both Russians. Abromovich is worth $11.2 billion, according to Forbes. His girlfriend, Dasha Zhukova, is an art lover who recently joined LACMA's board; Pinchuk, with wealth pegged at $3.1 billion, is on MOCA's board. [*Updated: an earlier version of this post mistakenly said that Dasha Zhukova had joined MOCA's board.]

Of the 31 Southern California-based billionaires, a decided minority are known to be big supporters of the arts.

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King Tut blockbuster is New York bound -- but not to the Met

March 13, 2010 |  6:00 am

TutankhamunBoster Is New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art suffering from Tut envy?

Since opening at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art on June 16, 2005, "Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs," the second coming of bling from the boy king's tomb, has played to some 5.5 million people in the United States and 1.1 million in London.

The Met was given first dibs on the show of 130 artifacts from Tut and other more powerful rulers from his lineage. But its leaders declined, back in 2004, to waive the museum's policy of not requiring an admission fee (the Met instead has a suggested fee, $15 at the time, and now $20).

Now Tut is about to give his regards to Broadway, with an April 23-Jan. 2, 2011,  run at Discovery Times Square Exposition, a hall that opened last year as a home for blockbuster shows of the sort that museums covet.  

The Met, meanwhile, issued a press release Friday announcing a much smaller and less shiny Tut show of its own. "Tutankhamun's Funeral," which opens Tuesday, consists of 60 objects, including embalming materials and storage jars that were discovered in the Valley of the Kings in 1908.

A good deal of that find wound up at the Met the following year, and an Egyptologist from the museum determined that they had been used to prepare the mummy of the then-obscure King Tut. That information helped lead Howard Carter to the tomb itself, 14 years and 120 yards removed from the original funerary find. The dazzle factor of what was in that minor tomb -- the only known tomb of a pharaoh to have escaped looting -- made the otherwise undistinguished Tut the most famous Egyptian ruler of them all.

While the Met's announcement says that "this installation complements" the Tut blockbuster that'll be on display 48 blocks to the south, representatives of  the museum and the touring exhibition said Friday that only the timing connects them. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Brooklyn Museum has a current ancient Egyptian exhibition on display, "To Live Forever: Art and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt," that's drawn from its own collection.

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Pasadena Symphony makes the discount offer of the year, so to speak

February 10, 2010 |  4:58 pm

JorgeMesterRingoH.W.Chiu
When the going gets tough in the economy and in the arts, the tough may get gimmicky.

The latest proposition from the Pasadena Symphony is the today-only offer of $20.10 concert tickets for any or all of its three upcoming concerts at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium: Mozart’s "Requiem" (plus Berlioz) on March 20, Dvorak, Rodrigo, Bartok and Mendelssohn on April 10, and all-Beethoven, May 15.

To Culture Monster’s mind, the $1.49 per ticket service fee somewhat compromises the effect – we hope 2159 will be a fine and non-recessionary year, but who among us will ever know, barring healthcare reform beyond anyone’s wildest dreams?

In any case, it’s a chance to take in the tempos of the greats at a price geared to the temper of the times. The offer, by the way, began at 6:00 a.m. Wednesday (02.10.2010) and is good until 2:10 a.m. Thursday for online orders  — a span of 20 hours and 10 minutes.

-- Mike Boehm

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Photo: Jorge Mester conducts the Pasadena Symphony. Credit:Ringo H.W. Chiu / Los Angeles Times

Laserium show hopes to rock on despite dashed comeback attempt in Hollywood

January 20, 2010 |  4:00 pm

Laserium After nearly 40 years, Ivan Dryer says he hasn’t soured on bouncing brilliant light beams to a big rock beat, even though his most recent Laserium venture didn’t exactly shine on like the crazy diamond in the Pink Floyd song that has formed a backdrop to many a laser-rock display.

Dryer, the founder and chief executive of Laser Images, Inc., the company that put on laser shows at Griffith Observatory from 1973 to 2002, says a combination of bad luck and business miscalculations forced him to turn off the lights just five months into a comeback bid that began last summer at the Vine Theatre in Hollywood.

But he said today that he’s still in the hunt for a new venue, possibly a different theater in Hollywood, or maybe by working out a deal with the Fleet Science Center in San Diego. The science center has the ideal domed-theater configuration that was lost when the Griffith Observatory underwent renovations from 2002 to 2006, then reopened with a science-only mandate for its planetarium.

It was a bad omen  — and bad for business — that Laserium’s Hollywood reincarnation began the same day, June 25, that the world learned of Michael Jackson’s death.

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NEA survey shows that the arts have it bad, but sports and movies have it worse

December 18, 2009 |  3:16 pm

Football If misery loves company, then arts folk dismayed by a recent NEA survey showing audiences dwindling in almost every genre needn’t feel quite so bad.

Delve more deeply into the study of Americans 18 and older, and you find that moviegoing and sports attendance have fared much worse than the arts.

Culled from questioning that the U.S. Census Bureau conducted for the NEA in May 2008 (before the financial meltdown), the results show that the share of the adult public attending at least one museum exhibition, play, jazz performance, classical concert, opera or dance event fell 4.4% from 1982 to 2008.

The comparable figure for the movies was a decline of nearly 10%, and for sporting events a loss of 17%.

“I don’t know if misery loves company, but it’s comforting to know it’s not just you,” says Andrew Taylor, director of the Bolz Center for Arts Administration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Experts say that when it comes to getting people to go out and buy a ticket, a rising tide of unprecedented competition from technologically driven home entertainment alternatives is helping to sink all boats. But the arts don't have the financial backstop film studios and sports leagues get when they reap huge sums from the sale of broadcast rights and home video. And don't even ask what the bleak survey results on arts education portend for the future.

For the full story, click here.

-- Mike Boehm 

Related

NEA report shows declining attendance in arts events nationwide

Photo: The stands at Qualcomm Stadium during a 1997 San Diego Chargers football game. Credit: Los Angeles Times.

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