Category: NEA

NEA awards Watts arts grant amid Towers skate park controversy

July 12, 2011 |  3:04 pm

WattsTowersSinco As controversy mounts over whether creating a new recreational opportunity for Watts youth would undermine the neighborhood’s leading cultural attraction, the Watts Towers, the federal government announced Tuesday that it will pump $350,000 into Watts and neighboring Willowbrook in hopes of sparking an arts-driven revitalization of the historically poor neighborhoods.

On Monday, the top state parks official in Los Angeles complained that councilwoman Janice Hahn’s plan to build a major skate park next to the Watts Towers is being railroaded through city government, and called for a full-scale environmental review of the project rather than the relatively cursory one contemplated by the city’s Recreation and Parks Department. 

Sean Woods, superintendent for the state parks department’s Los Angeles sector, says far more information and public input is needed regarding the skate facility and how it might affect the fragile, state-owned towers, a national historic monument that’s considered one of America’s greatest folk-art masterpieces. For the full story, click here.

Meanwhile, the National Endowment for the Arts rolled out the first wave of funding under its new Our Town initiative, launched by NEA chairman Rocco Landesman, a former Broadway producer who named it in honor of Thornton Wilder’s signature drama. The program provides money to partnerships between local governments and private arts groups, aiming to use the arts as a tool to revitalize cities. The NEA announced 51 grants totaling $6.6 million.

Continue reading », NEA fellows plan to cover L.A. theater scene like a house afire

June 14, 2011 |  3:05 pm

Engine28-frontThis post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

The intrepid crew will be operating out of an old fire company station in downtown Los Angeles. At  practically all hours of the day and night, they’ll be rushing out to answer the call of duty.

Who knows -– some of them may even slide down the fire pole at the rear of the red-brick 1912 building.

But this team of roughly 40 arts journalists, working with USC’s Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism and ensconced in a second-floor office suite at Engine Co. No. 28, a converted firehouse-turned-restaurant on South Figueroa, won’t be battling blazes. They’ll be reporting on one of the largest concentrations of live theater ever to occur in Southern California.

Over the next two weeks, the nation’s premier organization of nonprofit theaters, Theatre Communications Group, as well as four separate theater festivals all will be taking place in an area stretching from downtown Los Angeles to Hollywood. For journalists trying to cover even a fraction of the dozens of performances, seminars and talks by high-profile artists such as Julie Taymor, this might seem like the equivalent of trying to subdue a three-alarmer in a 70-story skyscraper.

Continue reading »

Museums offer free admission for active-duty military families this summer

May 24, 2011 | 10:49 am

Flag Museums around the country are offering free admission to active-duty military families this summer in an initiative led by the National Endowment for the Arts and Blue Star Families, an organization to support families of military personnel. 

The free period begins Monday, which is Memorial Day, and ends Labor Day, Sept. 5. This is the second year for the Blue Star Museum program, which features more than 1,300 museums around the country, including more than 500 museums new to the program this year.

NEA Chairman Rocco Landesman helped to inaugurate this year's Blue Star Museums program at an event in San Diego on Monday.

Active-duty personnel need to show valid military ID, which will give free access to up to five additional immediate family members. Active duty National Guard and Reserve members also are eligible.

Among the participating institutions are the National Air and Space Museum and other Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. You can find a list of museums in your state using the NEA's interactive map. Here's a list of participating museums in the L.A. and San Diego areas.

Continue reading »

Federal arts grants include $2.5 million for Southern California groups

May 17, 2011 |  5:22 pm


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.

Continue reading »

Monster Mash: NEA recognizes video games as art; James Levine withdraws from summer concerts

May 9, 2011 |  7:40 am


Busy thumbs: The National Endowment for the Arts is offering grants for video-game creators, as well as for makers of art for mobile and interactive platforms. (IFC)

Ailing: Conductor James Levine has withdrawn from his summer engagements as he continues to struggle with back pain. (New York Times)

Busted: The leader of the union that represents architects and engineers for the city of Los Angeles was arrested earlier this week, along with his wife, on suspicion of grand theft. (Los Angeles Times)

Adios to Domingo: Ending his term as general director of the Washington National Opera, Placido Domingo got a huge send-off at Saturday’s Opera Ball at the Chinese Embassy. (Washington Post)

For sale: The Leopold Museum in Austria says it is selling an Egon Schiele painting to cover the cost of a loan. (Associated Press)

Creative stimulation: A scientific study shows that looking at certain masterpieces of art increases blood flow in a certain part of the brain by as much as 10%. (Telegraph)

Beating the odds: An autistic ballet dancer is competing in the reality series "Britain's Got Talent." (Daily Record)

Heading home: A museum in France is returning the mummified, tattooed head of an ancient Maori warrior to New Zealand. (BBC News)

New hires: The Cleveland Orchestra is appointing four new musicians. (Cleveland Plain Dealer)

Free for a day: "The Book of Mormon," which was recently nominated for 14 Tony Awards, will present a free fan performance July 1 at the Eugene O'Neill Theatre in New York, using a lottery system for tickets. (Playbill)

Arrested: Police have apprehended a man on suspicion of stealing a violin at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. (San Francisco Examiner)

Also in the L.A. Times: Music critic Mark Swed reviews Lucinda Childs' "Dance" at Royce Hall; architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne on changes to Lafayette Park.

-- David Ng

Photo credit: Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters

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

April 14, 2011 |  6:45 am

WashingtonDCSkyline The three federal agencies devoted to making arts and cultural grants will take an 11.2% collective hit under the budget deal that institutes the largest spending cut in U.S. history.

The National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services will be faced with reining in their grantmaking between now and Sept. 30, when the 2010-11 budget year ends. As for their spending in the coming fiscal year, that will depend on a budgeting process that is expected to turn into a titanic battle between Republicans who are calling for massive cuts and no tax increases,  and the Obama administration and its Democratic allies in congress, who want a combination of cuts and higher tax payments for high-income earners.

The NEA and NEH each will take a $12.5-million cut this year, from $167.5 million to $155 million -– a 7.5% reduction. Spending at the IMLS will decrease from $282.2 million to $237.9 million, a drop of 15.7%.

IMLS spokeswoman Mamie Bittner said Wednesday that the agency has been “very cautious on spending” since October, when the current fiscal year began, knowing that its allocation was not written in stone because Congress had failed to pass a 2010-11 budget. Instead, the federal government had operated under a “continuing resolution” that retained the previous year’s spending levels but was subject to change. The resolution was about to expire when the the deal calling for $38 billion in spending cuts was reached, averting a possible government shutdown.

One of the questions to be decided now, Bittner said, is how to balance quantity and heft -– should the IMLS help as many recipients as it did before, allocating smaller average grants to each? Or should it keep grants as large as before, but issue fewer to implement the $44.3 million in budget cuts?

NEA spokeswoman Victoria Hutter said her agency wouldn’t comment until the president signs the budget bill into effect.

The National Gallery of Art saw its $111-million allocation reduced by $8 million, a 7.2% cut, and the State Department’s spending for “educational and cultural exchange programs” aimed at improving the nation’s foreign relations was reduced from $635 million to $600 million, a 5.5% cut.

The advocacy group Americans for the Arts issued a statement Tuesday saying it was “heartened” that cuts to the NEA and NEH were “more sensible and proportional” than the 26% reduction that House Republicans passed earlier this year, but which the Democratic-controlled Senate did not OK. Also, Americans for the Arts noted, an “Art in Education” program that had been in danger of elimination has survived, albeit with its budget reduced from $40 million to $25.5 million. While acknowledging current constraints, the group said, “the nation would be better with a more robust investment in nonprofit arts” than what’s left following the cuts.

Funding was not affected at the Smithsonian Institution, whose $761-million allocation is by far the largest federal investment in the arts and culture, or at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where this year's federal support for operations and renovations totals $36.8 million.


ObamaApr2011JimYoungReuters Obama unveils plan to cut deficit by $4 trillion

Obama budget proposal would slash 13.3% from cultural grantmakers while buoying D.C. arts institutions

$40 million for arts education threatened in federal budget fight

-- Mike Boehm

 Photo: Fourth of July fireworks near the U.S. Capitol and monuments. Credit: Capital Concerts and WETA, Washington.

Tim Robbins to speak for the arts in L.A. rally Wednesday against federal spending cuts

March 23, 2011 |  6:30 am

TimRobbinsCarolynCole2009 Tim Robbins is expected to state the case against cuts in federal cultural spending Wednesday in a downtown "Rally to Protect L.A.'s Recovery" that will protest proposed reductions totaling $60 billion that would impact a wide array of government programs and services.

Olga Garay, executive director of the city's Department of Cultural Affairs, said Tuesday that she is pleased that the arts, which make up a relatively meager slice of the federal budget, are going to be represented, and "having someone of Tim Robbins' stature be a spokesman is really meaningful."

Robbins, a film star and writer-director, is the founder and artistic director of the Actors' Gang theater in Culver City. He'll join elected officials and representatives of nonprofit organizations for the 2:30 p.m. event at Ed Roybal Plaza, 255 E. Temple St.

Organizers say L.A. would stand to lose up to $2 billion if cuts called for in a Republican-backed House of Representatives spending bill were to be enacted. The Senate, with its Democratic majority, rejected that plan and now the two branches of Congress and the Obama administration are trying to work out a mutually acceptable agreement.

Other stars prepping for close-ups as lobbyists are Alec Baldwin and Kerry Washington, who have been enlisted as participants in the April 5 Arts Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill, in which the arts community tries to make a case for federal arts funding.


WashingtonDCSkyline Obama budget proposal would slash 13.3% from cultural grantmakers

$40 million for arts education threatened in federal budget fight

House Republicans unveil plan to end federal arts and humanities agencies and aid to public broadcasting

Tim Robbins and the Actors' Gang seek to 'Break the Whip'

-- Mike Boehm

 Photo: Tim Robbins. Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

Sarah Palin trashes National Endowment for the Arts

March 16, 2011 |  2:58 pm

Palin JUSTIN LANE EPA Television commentator and half-term Alaska governor Sarah Palin trashed the National Endowment for the Arts recently, describing the agency as "frivolous" in a Thursday interview on a Fox News talk show.

"NPR, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, all those kind of frivolous things that government shouldn't be in the business of funding with tax dollars -- those should all be on the chopping block as we talk about the $14-trillion debt that we're going to hand to our kids and our grandkids," Palin told right-wing host Sean Hannity. "Yes, those are the type of things that for more than one reason need to be cut."

Palin did not elaborate on what the other reasons might be for chopping the NEA budget. But the government of every major civilization in world history has also prominently funded the arts.

The comment about the NEA came during a discussion of the ailing U.S. economy. Palin is certainly conversant with frivolous activity, but her grasp of the economy is weak.

Debt reduction would barely be affected by penciling out the small federal arts agency, which currently operates on a $161-million annual budget. Palin's support of a federal subsidy for the notorious "bridge to nowhere" in her state became a campaign issue when she ran for vice president on the 2008 Republican ticket. That local project carried a price tag of $223 million.

"Reality is we have 15 million Americans who are out of work," said Palin. Nationally, the nonprofit arts and culture industry supports 5.7 million jobs and generates $166.2 billion in annual economic activity, according to Americans for the Arts. The NEA is one linchpin in that sizable economy.

In the interview Palin made no statement advocating similar budget cuts to her home state as she recommended for the NEA, which is also in the cross hairs of Washington's Republican leadership. Palin's Alaska gets $1.84 in federal spending for every dollar its citizens pay in federal taxes.



Leavitt painted image 1972 Art review: 'William Leavitt: Theater Objects' at MOCA

Art review: 'Gods of Angkor' at the Getty

Art review: 'Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman' at the San Diego Museum of Art


-- Christopher Knight

Photo: Sarah Palin. Credit: Justin Lane / EPA

$40 million for arts education threatened in federal budget fight

March 3, 2011 |  5:27 pm

Quincy Federal funding totaling $40 million for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ educational programs, arts education grants for the disabled and grants to train arts teachers are just some of the arts-related programs on the chopping block as Congress and the Obama administration wrangle over how much to cut the 2010-11 federal budget.

The cut was included Wednesday as President Obama signed a temporary budget resolution designed to keep the government operating through March 18 while the White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans continue talks to reach a final budget agreement.

The Kennedy Center’s spokesman, John Dow, said Thursday that cuts would total $16 million for the Kennedy Center and its affiliate, VSA (formerly Very Special Arts), which has a national and international scope in supporting arts learning for the disabled. VSA is part of the Kennedy family’s legacy, having been founded in 1974 by Joan Kennedy Smith, the last surviving sibling of John, Robert and Edward Kennedy.

Americans for the Arts, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, issued an alert Thursday calling for arts supporters to urge members of Congress to preserve the $40-million program, called Arts in Education.

Obama has proposed ending that program in his budget plan for the next fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1; its elimination would be accelerated if Wednesday's stopgap budget measure takes effect for the rest of 2010-11.

According to the Education Department’s website, “similar activities” to the ones funded by Arts in Education would receive federal support under a new, wider-ranging program the president has proposed for 2011-12, called Effective Teaching and Learning for a Well-rounded Education. It would offer $246 million in competitive grants for states and local school districts “to develop and expand innovative practices” in teaching a wide range of subjects, including arts, foreign languages, physical education, health education, environmental education, civics and government, history and geography, and economics and financial literacy.

Other federal cultural agencies face uncertainty in both the current-year and coming-year budget fights. The president has pegged the National Endowment for the Arts for a 13% cut in 2011-12, while a large group of congressional Republicans has targeted the NEA for elimination. 


WashingtonDCSkyline House Republicans unveil plans to end federal arts and humanities agencies and aid to public broadcasting

Obama budget proposal would cut 13.3% from cultural grantmakers

Americans for the Arts compiles National Arts Index, a cultural S&P 500


-- Mike Boehm

Photo: President Obama prepares to award Quincy Jones a National Medal of Arts on Wednesday. Credit: Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

Streep, James Taylor, Quincy Jones, Sonny Rollins, Van Cliburn, Philip Roth among national arts and humanities medalists

March 1, 2011 |  1:45 pm

MarkdiSuveroWallyJ.Skalij Actor Meryl Streep,  musicians Van Cliburn, Quincy Jones, Sonny Rollins and James Taylor and “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee are the household names among this year’s winners of the National Medal of Arts, a career-achievement award that President Obama will confer Wednesday in a ceremony at the White House.

Those known more to aficionados are Abstract Expressionist sculptor Mark di Suvero (pictured); Robert Brustein, the theater critic and producer who founded two leading New England stage companies, the Yale Repertory Theatre  and American Repertory Theatre; and Donald Hall, who was poet laureate in 2006-07. Jacobs Pillow Dance Festival in the rustic Berkshires of Western Massachusetts was honored as an arts institution.

Also announced were the National Humanities Medals, with authors Philip Roth and Joyce Carol Oates as the best-known names. Other honorees are poet/novelist/conservationist Wendell E. Berry;  publisher Daniel Aaron, founder of the Library of America; historians Bernard Bailyn and Gordon Wood; scholars Jacques Barzun of Columbia and Stanley Nider Katz of Princeton; literary critic Robert Gonzalez Echevarria;  and biographer and literary critic Arnold Rampersad.

Roth and Jones become double-dippers, the novelist having won the National Medal of Arts in 1998, while the composer-producer received the National Humanities Medal in 2000.

The National Endowment for the Arts manages the arts medals, while the National Endowment for the Humanities manages the humanities medals.

The White House said that Lee, Streep, Aaron and Barzun are not expected to attend the ceremony, which will be streamed live at 10:45 a.m. Pacific time at


SonnyRollinsEPAPietroCrocchioni Obama confers arts and humanities medals on big names, including Dylan and Eastwood

Jasper Johns is first studio artist in 34 years to receive Presidential Medal of Freedom


-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Mark di Suvero at L.A. Louver Gallery in 2008. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.