The California Arts Council is in jeopardy of losing its recently won ability to solicit donations via state income tax forms.
Beginning last year, filers could donate to the state’s chronically underfunded arts grant-making agency by checking off a box on their tax return, then adding the amount they wanted to contribute to their payment or subtracting it from their refund.
The arts council received $164,298 that way during 2011 -– not a negligible amount for an agency with a budget of only $5.2 million. Donations came from 16,580 taxpayers, for an average contribution of $9.91.
But the 2010 legislation that gave the arts council its checkoff box says it will disappear from future tax forms unless it generates at least $250,000 this year, then rises each subsequent year by at least the rate of inflation.
The early returns for 2012 are not encouraging. According to data on the Franchise Tax Board’s website, checkoff contributions totaled $25,820 in January and February, down from $26,112 a year ago. To keep its box, the arts council needs at least a 52% increase, not a marginal decline.
The Getty Research Institute landed a huge (literally) prize last year when it bought the Harald Szeemann Archive and Library -- one of the world’s leading private collections of books, pictures and documents concerning modern and contemporary art.
But with the trove compiled by Szeemann, a Swiss museum director and independent curator who died in 2005, came the enormous headache of organizing and cataloging more than 1,000 boxes of stuff. Laid end to end, the Getty said, the photographs, papers, correspondence and books would span more than eight football fields (end zones not included).
Even the world’s richest visual art institution would need help with a job like that –- and Uncle Sam is pitching in with a $230,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The grant, announced Wednesday as part of a $17-million funding round from the NEH, will allow the Getty to hire two full-time staffers to work on the archive for two years, said Andra Darlington, head of special collections cataloging. They're expected to catalog and write descriptions for about three football fields’ worth of the “most significant” elements, she said, including files Szeemann created on all his projects and on artists he worked with or thought were important. The equivalent of a table of contents will be posted online, so scholars can see what’s available -– but digitizing the archive isn’t on the immediate agenda.
Darlington notes that the 1,000 containers in which Szeemann kept his archive were all wine boxes. “When we were packing, we asked [Szeemann’s] widow and daughter if he consumed all the wine. They assured us he did not, although he liked wine.”
Separate from the NEH grant is work on an estimated 36,000 photographs from the collection and Szeemann’s 30,000 volume library; Darlington said the pictures should be sorted out and available to researchers by fall, and the books are gradually being catalogued and making their way onto shelves.
Overall, the NEH announced 208 grants totaling $17 million -– an average of about $82,000 each. California’s share was 16 grants totaling $1.4 million (placing it third nationally behind Massachusetts’ $2.9 million and New York’s $2.6 million).
A major exhibition on the American painter Thomas Hart Benton is in the pipeline at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art -- one that would dovetail very nicely with the new movie museum that could be part of LACMA’s campus by fall 2015, when the Benton show is tentatively scheduled to open.
The news of the Benton exhibition came Wednesday when the National Endowment for the Humanities announced its latest round of grants, including $40,000 to LACMA for the show's planning. The grant was modest -– less than half the average of $82,000 in a round that totaled $17 million and included much bigger ones for the Getty Research Institute, UCLA, USC and UC Santa Barbara.
But the show whose planning it will support is a biggie: “Benton, Hollywood and History,” co-organized by LACMA and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., will feature about 100 works, including 75 paintings and murals and 25 preparatory studies and drawings, plus a selection of Benton’s historical prints, illustrated books and never-exhibited ephemera and photographs.
A written description LACMA released after The Times inquired about the grant says the show “will be the first exhibition to examine the visual strategies that Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) pursued to become the preeminent history painter of 20th century America, and the ways those strategies intersected… with the strategies of Hollywood, America’s paramount myth-making machine.”
Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced Friday that after a $4.5-million donation, the almost 80-year-old nonprofit will grant a group of donors the right to rename the New Theatre.
But the theater won't be named after the Goatie Foundation, Roberta and David Elliott or Helen and Peter Bing, who made the donation. They decided that it would be named after Peter Thomas, the late development director of the festival.
Put on your running shoes: Saturday brings the eighth edition of "Incognito," the Santa Monica Museum of Art’s popular annual fundraiser, when hundreds of patrons line up hours early, so that when the museum opens for the event, they can race toward artwork that catches their eye.
One lays claim to an artwork by taking a numbered tag to the cashier. At $350 a pop, you could be buying a John Baldesarri, Jo Ann Callis, Tony DeLap, John Outterbridge, Betye Saar or Jennifer Steinkamp – or, among out-of-towners, Judy Chicago, Milton Glaser or Yoko Ono. You won’t know till after you’ve purchased the work – the identity of the artist is on the back.
“People have to trust their instincts to buy what they like,” says Elsa Longhauser, the museum’s executive director.
This year there will be a record number of 700 works available from 500 artists, in a range of media from drawings, prints, photography and painting to sculpture and video. All are in an 8 by 10 inch format, except for sculptures, which vary in size.
"We’re very careful about inviting artists, it’s curated," Longhauser says. "People feel proud to be in 'Incognito' and are careful to give us wonderful work.”
The basic admission is $100 (or $150 at the door), which also provides food and drink. Those who prefer to avoid the rush can come the next day (Sunday, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.) for the Second Opportunity Art Sale; admission is $10 or free for museum members.
For more information go to www.smmoa.org.
Photo: The scene at the 2010 edition of the Santa Monica Museum of Art's Incognito. Credit: Steve Cohn Photography
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What does California have less of than nearly every other state in the union? Per capita spending money for state-funded arts grants.
And what does it have more of? Cars and stars.
Now the California Arts Council, the grant-making agency whose funding (currently 13 cents per capita) had landed it in last place nationally for eight consecutive years before Kansas saved it from the cellar this year by stopping all arts spending, aims to harness the Golden State's bounty of celebrities and motorists in hopes of relieving its dearth of arts grants.
The New York City nonprofit theater world has come together for a star-studded benefit for Japanese theater companies on this Sunday’s anniversary of the massive northern Japan earthquake and tsunami.
The effort, Shinsai: Theaters for Japan ( “shinsai” means “great earthquake” in Japanese) is billed as a nationwide initiative, but it has gained little traction in Los Angeles, where leading companies say they weren’t approached until too late, if at all.
In Manhattan, Patti LuPone, Richard Thomas and Mary Beth Hurt will be among the performers in two shows at the Cooper Union Great Hall – the venerable venue where Abraham Lincoln delivered his 1859 Cooper Union Address.
In Los Angeles, the Loyola Marymount University department of theater arts and dance will stage a benefit Sunday at 8 p.m. in the campus’ 175-seat Strub Theatre, and the Cal State Los Angeles theater department will offer staged readings Sunday at 3 p.m. in the lobby of the Japanese American National Museum in downtown L.A. Playwright-actor Jeanne Sakata will recite a Shinsai-related poem as a curtain raiser for the Sunday matinee at the Theatre@Boston Court in Pasadena.
The New York performances, directed by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, will feature all 17 short works and songs written, revised or specifically authorized for the occasion by such eminences as Edward Albee, John Guare, Suzan-Lori Parks, Doug Wright, Richard Greenberg and the composer-librettist team of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, who updated and combined two songs from their musical, “Pacific Overtures,” (pictured) with a new narration focused on the 2011 disaster.
Seven of the plays are by Japanese writers, and two come from California-based Japanese-Americans, Berkeley playwright Philip Kan Gotanda and Naomi Iizuka, who heads the playwriting program at UC San Diego.
A major redesign is in the works for Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, which is gearing up for what its president says will be the largest fundraising campaign in its history to pay for an expansion of its south campus and renovations to its distinctive, elongated main campus set into a hillside about five miles to the north.
Art Center, often ranked among the nation’s top design schools, announced Tuesday that it has spent $7 million to buy a former U.S. Postal Service mail distribution center next to its existing satellite campus in south Pasadena, and has hired the Los Angeles firm Michael Maltzan Architecture to do master planning and design work.
The Intiman Theatre in Seattle will continue to operate, albeit on a drastically scaled-back level, after receiving pledges amounting to $1 million that were needed to stay in business.
Last week, the highly regarded company set itself a fundraising ultimatum to raise $1 million or close its doors on Tuesday. The company said it came down to the wire, with the final pledge coming in on Friday evening that allowed the company to reach the $1-million mark.
The donations will allow the Intiman to proceed with its planned four-play summer festival season. "After so many months of bad news, the chance to fight for something good felt refreshing," said Andrew Russell, the company's artistic director, in a phone interview Monday.
He said a full season of the type of plays that the Intiman used to produce isn't foreseeable in the short term. "The theater's plans are to move forward in this format," said Russell. "There are no plans to move back to the year-round model of before."
Last year, the Intiman shut down in midseason because of a budget shortfall. The 40-year-old company was once among the top regional theaters in the country and has earned accolades for its productions, some of which have transferred to Broadway, including "The Light in the Piazza."
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The most generous members of the 1% devoted more than 2% of their charitable giving last year to arts and culture, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, which issued Monday its annual ranking of America’s 50 most generous donors.
Reporters for the Chronicle found specific donations of at least $1 million to arts and cultural institutions by 12 of the 50, totaling $213.4 million.
The Philanthropy 50, as the Chronicle calls them, gave $10.4 billion in total charitable donations in 2011, more than three times the $3.3 billion they donated in 2010.
Just about all of that increase can be attributed to Margaret A. Cargill of La Jolla, who died in 2006, leaving a bequest to two foundations she had established, resulting in gifts that the Chronicle placed at $6 billion. Cargill, needless to say, was No. 1 in the rankings.