Category: Government

NEH grants $1.4 million in California; funds small-venue exhibits

December 2, 2011 |  9:45 am

Thomas Cole View from Mount Holyoke
The National Endowment for the Humanities announced $21 million in grants Thursday for scholarship, collections conservation and public humanities programming, with a tenth of the money geared toward a traveling exhibitions program that sends shows on art, history and culture to small museums and galleries around the country for a fee of $2,000.

The $2.1-million exhibitions grant –- by far the largest announced -– goes to the Mid-America Arts Alliance of Kansas City, Mo., which administers the "NEH on the Road" program for the federal grantmaking agency.  Abby Sims Beckloff, a spokeswoman for the arts alliance, said the program began in 2005, and the new grant will fund a 3 1/2-year extension through 2015.

"NEH on the Road" currently has 10 exhibitions on tour, including “Wrapped in Pride: Ghanaian Kente and African American Identity,” a show about the colorful tradition of African woven art  that originated at UCLA’s Fowler Museum in 1999. Beckloff said the traveling program picks original museum exhibitions such as the Fowler’s, then scales them down and repackages them so they can travel affordably to smaller venues. Under the auspices of "NEH on the Road,"  “Wrapped in Pride” –- which the Fowler organized with New Jersey’s Newark Museum -- returned to Southern California in September, when it was seen at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson.

The most recent addition to the touring roster is “Wild Land: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Landscape Painting,” which began a five-year tour in September in Bryan, Texas and is now on display at the Stedman Art Gallery at Rutgers University in Camden, N.J. The show does not include original paintings or sketches, but centers on related artifacts documenting Cole (whose 1836 painting, "View From Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Mass., After a Thunderstorm -- the Oxbow," is pictured) and the Hudson River School art movement. It’s booked next fall at the Sonoma County Museum in Santa Rosa.

The return of “Wrapped in Pride” marked the first time "NEH on the Road" reached Southern California; according to the program’s website, the next currently scheduled arrival is “Our Lives, Our Stories: America’s Greatest Generation,” which documents the life and times of Americans born from 1910 to 1929, and will open at the William D. Cannon Art Gallery in Carlsbad early in 2014.

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Music Center garage gets automated, now takes credit cards

December 1, 2011 |  9:00 am

Music Center
The above sign has been greeting patrons who park in the Music Center’s garage, but don’t be alarmed: the new automated parking system debuting Thursday at the downtown venue will apply only to weekday daytime users. Parking for performances, like the shows themselves, will still involve the human factor. Contrary to what the sign says, attendants will be on duty.

The main change for performing arts patrons who use the eight-level, county-owned garage beneath the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Ahmanson Theatre and Mark Taper Forum is that they'll now have the option of paying the $9 fee with a credit or debit card.

For concert-goers using the garage beneath Walt Disney Concert Hall, parking remains cash only.

Nick Chico, Los Angeles County’s manager of parking services, said Wednesday that the 1,400-car garage under 135 N. Grand Ave. is the first in a series of county-owned parking facilities that will be automated; the Disney Hall garage probably won’t be re-equipped for some years to come.

The biggest advantage, he said, is an expected end to revenue “leakage” –- a euphemism for when the human factor introduces a degree of larceny. Based on industry-wide experience, Chico said, the county’s initial $1 million investment in equipment, software and changes to garage structures and electronics promises to yield a 6% to 15% increase in parking receipts. The county keeps 81.78% of parking proceeds, with the rest going to Classic Parking, the company contracted to run the garage.

Until 4:30 p.m. on weekdays, garage users -– primarily people with business in the nearby courthouses and County Hall of Administration -– will no longer pay as they enter. They’ll zip right in and park. But when it’s time to leave, before getting back into their cars they’ll use one of four newly installed machines to pay what they owe. The machine will spit out a receipt to present at the exit gate, enabling a bar to rise and sending each vehicle on its way.

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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.


 Federal cultural-grants agencies to lose 11.2% of their funding under budget deal

NEA awards Watts arts grant amid skate park controversy

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.

Hollywood Bowl hopes feds will quiet intrusive copters

November 10, 2011 |  5:24 pm

Helicopter with attached camera

Helicopters and classical music go together brilliantly -- if you're watching the scene from "Apocalypse Now" in which a helicopter attack squadron commanded by Robert Duvall flies into battle with Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" blaring from its loudspeakers.

In all other circumstances, the twain should never meet. But to the consternation of audiences and musicians at the Hollywood Bowl, they meet repeatedly, night in and night out during the summer concert season.

Here's a story about the mounting frustration felt by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which operates the Bowl and is its leading tenant -- and about the hopes the Philharmonic is placing in legislation now before Congress that aims to re-route helicopter traffic away from residential areas throughout Los Angeles County.

The bill by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Van Nuys) is called the Los Angeles Residential Helicopter Noise Relief Act of 2011. It's patterned after a U.S. Senate amendment earlier this year that authorized the FAA to draft new rules to alleviate helicopter noise over Long Island, New York. An FAA spokesman said Thursday that the Long Island rules have been written but not yet implemented.

If it comes down to a case of who was there first, music fans win: The Hollywood Bowl's inaugural season was 1920, and the first helicopters capable of reliable flight didn't take off until the mid- to late-1930s.


L.A. County backs federal restriction of low-flying helicopters

House bill targets helicopter noise in Los Angeles County

Hovering helicopter: Michael Tilson Thomas strikes a new note at Bowl

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: A helicopter at Van Nuys Airport has an attached telephoto camera. Credit: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times

Mitt Romney would cut federal cultural agencies by half

November 10, 2011 |  2:23 pm

Mitt Romney and Rick Perry during an October debate
In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, critics of Mitt Romney have complained that conservative stances he’s taking now contradict his policies as Massachusetts governor from 2003 through 2006. But when it comes to cultural funding, the differences are a matter of degree rather than a sharp reversal.

Earlier this month, candidate Romney (pictured at left, above, while debating opponent Rick Perry) targeted two federal arts and cultural grantmaking agencies, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, for “deep reductions.”

In an op-ed piece in USA Today, Romney said he would “eliminate every government program that is not absolutely essential [because] the federal government should stop doing things we don’t need or can’t afford,” then gave five examples. Four examples clearly cited programs or funding categories to be eliminated;  the fifth was “enact deep reductions in the subsidies for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Legal Services Corporation.”

We asked the Romney campaign for clarification — does he want to eliminate cultural grantmaking or reduce it? The response was that he doesn’t want to eliminate the NEA, NEH or the two other agencies but would cut their aggregate funding by half. The NEA and NEH now receive $155 million per year each — among the smallest agency appropriations in the federal budget. Earlier this year, a majority of Republican House members called for eliminating them.

As Massachusetts governor, Romney tried to restrain but not eliminate arts spending. He did not succeed: The state Legislature voted additional money each year, lifting the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s budget from $7.3 million to $12.1 million during his term. Romney’s own proposals had called for keeping the arts budget at $7.3 million — the funding level when he took office.

The most important arts legislation during Romney’s tenure was the 2006 creation of a Cultural Facilities Fund, which provides for annual grants to help nonprofit arts, historical and scientific organizations pay for construction projects. Romney vetoed the fund, but the Legislature overrode him. Since then, the state has granted $37 million under the program, according to Greg Liakos, spokesman for the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Presidential candidate Rick Perry’s hand on the cultural purse strings as governor of Texas since 2001 is harder to judge, because under the Texas system the governor has little authority over the budget. Texas budgeting takes place not annually but in two-year chunks, and Perry’s tenure has seen the budget for the Texas Commission on the Arts trend consistently downward, from $8.7 million in 2002 to $3.9 million for 2012.

In February, Perry said in his state of the state address that cultural spending was a luxury Texas couldn’t afford, given its projected $27-billion deficit: “Let’s suspend non-mission-critical entities like the Historical Commission or the Commission on the Arts until the economy improves.”

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Barnes Foundation's disputed relocation is upheld by judge

October 6, 2011 |  2:17 pm

Barnes Foundation museum in 2003
The Barnes Foundation collection in Lower Merion, Pa., one of the most illustrious and distinctive art displays in the world, has received what may be a decisive legal green light for its hotly disputed transfer to a new museum under construction five miles away in downtown Philadelphia.

Judge Stanley Ott of Montgomery County Orphans Court  (the equivalent of a probate division judge in California’s Superior Courts) ruled Thursday that there’s no reason to revisit his 2004 decision allowing the Barnes Foundation to abrogate the will of collector Albert Barnes, which specified that his trove of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Modern masterworks should hang perpetually at his estate, each picture positioned just as he left it.
Barnes, a patent medicine magnate, died in a car wreck in 1951, leaving an idiosyncratic display of works by Cezanne, Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, Renoir, Degas, Modigliani and other European masters.

The ruling means plans can go forward to rehang the paintings in the new $150-million museum scheduled to open May 19. State funds reportedly will cover about a quarter of the museum’s $200-million cost, which includes a $50-million endowment.

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Watts House Project lands $370,000 grant

September 20, 2011 |  9:30 am

The Watts House Project, in which artists lend their talents to community improvement, has landed a $370,000 grant that will enable it to finish converting three houses across the street from the Watts Towers into a headquarters it has dubbed “The Platform.”

The money comes from ArtPlace, a new program in which federal agencies led by the National Endowment for the Arts are working with leading charitable foundations to funnel private funds to projects in which artistic creation isn’t strictly an end in itself, but a neighborhood development tool deployed to generate economic opportunities while making communities more vibrant.

The first round of $11.5 million, announced last week, will fund 34 projects nationwide. For the Watts House Project, launched in 2008, it means the money is now in hand to finish renovating three houses on a single lot that it bought two years ago to serve as its operations base.

Executive Director Edgar Arceneaux, an award-winning artist himself, said Monday that although the renovations will include carving out a space that can be used for exhibitions, presenting art shows is  “low on the totem pole for us. We’re focused primarily on housing and working with families to bring about improvements.”

While modernizing the hundred-year-old buildings during the coming months, Arceneaux said, the Watts House Project aims to provide jobs for some local contractors and laborers, and training for others. While building its own nest, Watts House Project will continue its ongoing efforts to improve private homes in the neighborhood, drawing on the volunteered skills of artists and architects. The ArtPlace grant is the largest donation the Watts House Project has received, topping a $125,000 gift from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts in 2009. 

One of the private homes on East 107th Street that the Watts House Project is working on has been dubbed the “Love House.” The design plans had called for planting a large sculptural landmark on its roof –- the word “love,”  enclosed in a circle. But objections arose in the community,  House Project board member Eliane Henri said,  including concerns that the sign could detract from the Watts Towers. Now the design by artist Alexandra Grant is destined to be earthbound, framing a bench on the home’s front lawn.

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50 Years of NASA Art at National Air and Space Museum

August 20, 2011 |  6:30 am

Norman Rockwell, "Grissom and Young," 1965  When the space shuttle Atlantis lifted off for its final mission in July, it marked the end of an epoch at NASA. Many Americans were left wistful and nostalgic for more adventures of the final frontier. While NASA revamps for the future, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is offering a look back at the program through artists' eyes with "NASA/ART: 50 Years of Exploration."

 Initiated in 2008, the traveling exhibition, a collaboration with NASA and Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, includes Norman Rockwell, Robert Rauschenberg, Alexander Calder and William Wegman. More than 70 pieces are on view recording the triumphs and tragedies of space exploration over the last five decades.

"Space flight began in the imagination of artists long before government got into it," said James Dean, the founding director, now retired, of NASA's Art Program. He cites Buck Rogers and science-fiction author H.G. Wells as examples.

 The NASA Art Program was established in 1962, after the inception of the U.S. space program in 1958. "NASA knew what they were doing was important and would be taking more photos than any other federal agency," said Tom Crouch, senior curator at the National Air and Space Museum.

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Southwest Museum supporters sue city, fearing site's extinction

August 3, 2011 |  3:27 pm

Southwest Museum

Years of wrangling over whether the Autry National Center has a right to shed a costly and inconvenient subsidiary, the Southwest Museum, has spilled, perhaps inevitably, into the courts.

Southwest backers are asking a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to overturn two recent decisions  by Los Angeles city officials allowing the Autry to undertake what it has characterized as a routine gallery renovation at its Griffith Park museum. Opponents say the remodeling would be the first step in an irreversible sequence that would end the Southwest’s nearly hundred-year run in Mount Washington as the home of a prized collection of Native American artifacts.

The Southwest backers say it’s vital to the neighborhood’s economic and cultural life that the museum be resurrected. Under the Autry, which took over the financially beleaguered Southwest Museum in a 2002 merger, public access to the museum narrowed to a trickle before it was closed entirely in January 2010.

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NEH gives $40 million in grants; $3.2 million to California

August 2, 2011 |  6:51 pm

Dorothea Lange portrait

The National Endowment for the Humanities has announced $40 million in grants, including $3.2 million for scholars, museums and documentary filmmakers in California.

Like its sister agency, the National Endowment for the Arts, the NEH saw its current-year budget slashed 7.5% in April, down to $155 million, and its future prospects are iffy given the deficit-cutting mood in Washington. For now, there’s still money to go around.

L.A.’s Grammy Museum will get $550,000 to help produce “Rockin’ the Kremlin,” a film by director Jim Brown about the role American rock music played in weakening the Soviet empire.  A report last year on plans for the film said it includes an account of a 1977 Soviet tour by the Southern California-based Nitty Gritty Dirt Band that was said to play a part in capturing young Slavic imaginations, presumably helping to awaken them to the drawbacks of totalitarian rule. Brown’s past films include documentaries about Woody Guthrie, the Weavers, Peter Paul and Mary and a PBS series, “American Roots Music.”

Another $550,000 goes to the L.A.- and Berkeley-based documentary producer the Katahdin Foundation for “Dorothea Lange: Grab a Hunk of Lightning.” A description on the Katahdin website says the biography of the photographer (pictured above), who is famed for documenting the Great Depression and the forced internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, is being directed by Lange’s granddaughter, Dyanna Taylor. Katahdin won a second grant, $75,000, for “Geographies of Kinship: The Korean Adoption Story.”

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art will receive $300,000 for its 2012 exhibition “Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico,” scheduled to open April 1 at the Resnick Pavilion. The grant will help fund the exhibition catalog, preparations for a subsequent tour, and public programs connected with the show.

UCLA landed three grants totaling $435,000, including $137,000 for a five-week seminar for college teachers on “the life, work and cultural milieu of Oscar Wilde” and $248,000 for a digital project that will investigate how recent mapping technologies such as GIS can be deployed in humanities research and teaching.

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