Category: Philanthropy

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.

Continue reading »

Arts giving grew 5.7% to $13.3 billion in 2010

June 21, 2011 |  1:12 pm


Donations to the arts began to rebound in 2010, with an estimated 5.7% increase after a combined drop of 8.2% in the deep recession years of 2008 and 2009, according to the annual report on American philanthropy issued Monday by the Giving USA Foundation. Factoring in inflation, the gain in arts giving was 4.1%.

Estimated largess to the arts, culture and humanities totaled $13.3 billion, up from $12.6 billion in 2009 and 12.8 billion in 2008. But gifts to the arts sector still had not rebounded all the way, falling short of the $13.7 billion prerecession peak of 2007. Americans’ estimated overall charitable giving was $291 billion for 2010, with the arts and culture receiving about 4.6% of the total. Total inflation-adjusted charitable giving remained 11% short of its prerecession peak of about $327 billion. 

The arts got almost twice as big a bounce as overall philanthropy, which was up an inflation-adjusted 2.1% for 2010, according to the report. Arts, culture and humanities ranked eighth out of nine sectors identified in the report, finishing higher only than the environment and animals, which received $6.7 billion. Inflation, as calculated by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, was 1.6% for the year.

Americans gave about 2% of their disposable income to charity, which is about average given historic norms dating back 56 years, the study found. Religious charities always receive the most, and the $100.6 billion they reaped in 2010 was far more than double the $41.7 billion that went to the second-ranked cause, education. Although inflation-adjusted religious giving decreased 0.8% for the year, it still represented 35% of all U.S. philanthropy.

Individuals and family foundations contributed 87 cents of each charitable dollar (8 cents of that came from dead people, in the form of bequests), according to the report; other foundations gave 8 cents, and corporations a nickel.

The study, researched and written by Indiana University's Center on Philanthropy, based its estimates on information from a variety of sources, including the Internal Revenue Service, the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, and independent studies of charitable giving by several nonprofit research groups.


Huntington's big inheritance was top arts gift in 2010, but donors continued to flag overall

New national arts index measures arts, entertainment

Rich Americans' philanthropy dropped in 2009, but not for the arts, study finds

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Scene from "Adventure Time With Finn & Jake." Credit: Cartoon Network

Shakespeare not a hit with voters in online charity contest

May 26, 2011 |  1:14 pm

OlivierHamletUnitedPressInternational William Shakespeare would be a front-runner if experts were to vote on the greatest creative artist of all time, but he was just an also-ran in the Chase Community Giving competition, an online charity-by-popular-vote contest that ended Wednesday night.

JPMorgan Chase will donate $3.125 million to the top 25 vote-getters; the other 75 -– including the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, which finished 51st  -- get $25,000 each for making the final round of 100. In all, Chase will donate $5 million based on voters’ clicks for the charitable “Big Ideas” posted on its contest’s page on Facebook.

Whatever else the Bard may be, he isn’t Jewish -– and the get-out-the-vote campaign was strongest in some sectors of the Jewish community, which led to five of the top 10 finishers, and seven of the top 15 being Jewish-affiliated organizations, six of them schools. The top prize of $525,000 will go to the New York-based Chabad of Argentina Relief Appeal, whose “Big Idea” is a program to help Argentine youngsters who are at risk of child abuse.

The top Los Angeles-area finisher, the Conejo Jewish School of Thousand Oaks, came in sixth and will get $125,000 for its area-wide initiative against bullying, which includes developing online videos and other teaching materials to be circulated in schools. The foundation that supports the Arcadia Unified School District gets $45,000 for finishing 21st.

Continue reading »

Critic's Notebook: The Getty's stubborn politics

May 14, 2011 | 11:35 am

Getty Villa GABRIEL BOUYS AFP Getty Images
Donor intent is the philanthropic doctrine that says the explicit intentions of a donor should be honored in the expenditure of his bequest. At the Getty Trust, donor intent has been thrown under the bus. The late J. Paul Getty never envisioned what the Getty Trust has become.

The Getty Trust's board of trustees announced Monday that James Cuno has been appointed president and chief executive of what is now routinely called the nation's wealthiest art institution. He starts work Aug. 1.

But another declaration was also made: The two jobs of Getty Trust president and Getty Museum director will not be folded into one. That's a big mistake.

In Saturday's newspaper I have a Critic's Notebook that looks at the problem, and how it ignores the donor's intent. You can read the article here.


Soumaya Getty Trust names James Cuno president and chief executive

Art review: 'Paris: Life & Luxury' at the Getty Museum

Critic's Notebook: Mexico City's new Soumaya Museum disappoints

 -- Christopher Knight

Photos: Getty Villa; Credit: Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images

Wal-Mart family's $800-million art museum gift is stupendous -- but not a record

May 6, 2011 |  8:49 am

Crystal Bridges model It makes for a good story, but the munificent $800-million gift from the family that owns Wal-Mart, meant to endow programs and operations at Alice Walton's under-construction art museum in rural Arkansas, is not the largest such gift ever made to a U.S. art museum.

Not even close. In the battle of the billionaires, that gilded record is still easily held by J. Paul Getty, whose bequest to his eponymous Los Angeles art museum was three times larger.

The Walton gift was announced Wednesday. With the possible exception of the Getty, most any art museum in the nation would give its eyeteeth for the philanthropic generosity that has just landed on the new Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

Friday's Wall Street Journal compared the two gifts, asserting that the "gift from the Walton Family Foundation trumps the $660 million in oil stocks that J. Paul Getty bequeathed" to his museum in 1976. Adjusted for inflation, however, Getty's bequest 35 years ago amounts to nearly $2.5 billion today.

The online Journal story (and its Twitter feed) did hedge its bets a bit, describing the Walton pledge as "the largest cash donation ever." Getty's stocks had to be converted to cash.

The Walton pledge puts $350 million into an endowment allocated for operating expenses, which are expected to run about $16 million annually. A second fund of $325 million is earmarked for art acquisitions. The remaining $125-million endowment is slated for upkeep on the 201,000-square-foot complex, scheduled to open in Bentonville, home of the retailer's headquarters, on Nov. 11.

Forbes lists four Waltons and their family members among the 10 wealthiest Americans, with a combined net worth in excess of $84 billion.


Getty Art review: "Paris: Life & Luxury" at the Getty Museum

Critic's Notebook: Mexico City's new Soumaya Museum disappoints

Art review: "David Smith: Cubes & Anarchy" at LACMA

-- Christopher Knight

Photo: A model of the new museum. Credit: Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art



Petersen Automotive Museum gets $100 million in buildings, cash and cars from founder's widow

April 26, 2011 |  1:38 pm

The Petersen Automotive Museum announced Tuesday that one of its founding supporters, Margie Petersen, has given $100 million in buildings, land, cash and cars to the Wilshire Boulevard showcase spearheaded by her late husband, automotive magazine publisher Robert E. Petersen.

“We’re all just absolutely ecstatic,” said Buddy Pepp, executive director of the museum at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, across from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Pepp said the cash component is “many, many, many millions of dollars” but won’t be disclosed at the request of Petersen. The donation includes the museum's site (including the adjoining parking garage) -- owned by the Margie and Robert E. Petersen Foundation and valued at $17.6 million on the county assessor's rolls -- and Robert Petersen's collection of 135 cars, which already were at the museum's disposal for exhibition.

The museum, which opened in 1994, draws about 150,000 visitors a year, Pepp said. With the infusion of resources, the aim is to thoroughly refurbish the interior and augment the exterior to achieve a more eye-grabbing presence on Wilshire in hopes of drawing passersby who Pepp said may not be aware that the building houses a major automotive museum. Some of the money is earmarked for hiring the museum's first fundraising staff, with the goal of launching  an endowment campaign.

Read more details of a gift that Pepp expects will make it possible to "catapult the museum into world-renowned status."


PetersenMuseumExterior1994 From a humble start, he found a road to success

Cars and fashion: An intertwined history

L.A. says Petersen Automotive Museum owes $121,000 in parking taxes

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Robert E. and Margie Petersen in 2002 with a 1938 Delahaye Roadster at the Petersen Automotive Museum. Robert Petersen died in 2007. Credit: Lori Shepler / Los Angeles Times





L.A. arts philanthropist Austin Beutner takes first step toward a run for mayor

April 15, 2011 |  8:45 am

AustinBeutnerIrfanKhan Austin Beutner, who announced Thursday that he has filed papers to begin raising money for a possible run to succeed Antonio Villaraigosa two years from now as the mayor of Los Angeles, can't match the $18.1 billion net worth of New York City's famously arts-loving mayor, Michael Bloomberg (the estimate comes from Forbes magazine, which ranks Bloomberg as the world's 30th-richest inhabitant, and the 13th-richest American).

But if he were to run and win the March 2013 election, Beutner, 51, a former investment banker who now serves as first deputy mayor and economic policy chief under Villaraigosa, would bring substantial arts connections and arts-philanthropy credentials to the table. He chairs the boards of the Broad Stage in Santa Monica and California Institute of the Arts in Valencia.

At CalArts in 2009, Beutner and his wife, Virginia,  established a $1-million scholarship fund that picks five students annually to receive a full ride of up to $50,000 during their graduating year. The idea is to help the recipients begin their professional careers less saddled with college-loan debt.

The program is intended to last for four years. Last month, CalArts announced that the Beutners had found it impossible to winnow the field of finalists for the scholarships' second year to just the five scheduled recipients, so they awarded eight scholarships instead.

The Beutners donated an additional $400,000 to provide scholarships for Los Angeles-area high school students to attend CalArts, and they are the primary sponsors of the annual International Children's Film Festival at the CalArts-affiliated REDCAT.

Also being watched to see if he'll jump into the mayoral race is Zev Yaroslavsky, who has been a consistent advocate for the arts and government arts funding from his seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors. In one memorable instance, Yaroslavsky came close to using his clout in the pugilistic rather than the political sense when trying to quiet a heckler who started haranguing Los Angeles Opera's music director, James Conlon, during a Conlon lecture on Richard Wagner at the Museum of Tolerance.


YaroslavskyBoster L.A. First Deputy Mayor Austin Beutner to explore run for the top job

At least seven candidates consider a run for Los Angeles mayor in 2013

Some public artworks in L.A. don't credit artists

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Austin Beutner. Credit: Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times

One 'Glee' star and thousands of dancing kids to highlight Music Center's children's festival

March 31, 2011 |  9:00 am


The Music Center’s Blue Ribbon Children’s Festival, which annually features not just one cast of thousands, but several of them, will be back for a three-day run starting Tuesday.

The festival has been presented each year since 1970, and next week’s edition will give 18,000 fifth-graders from 245 schools in Los Angeles County a chance to see L.A.’s Diavolo dance troupe perform at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

When Diavolo is done, each audience of 3,100 will file outside onto the Music Center’s plaza and kick up its heels en masse, performing some of the choreography from “Atom,” a dance from Diavolo’s repertoire.  The kids have been rehearsing for their Busby Berkeley moment in their own classrooms; before they get their cues, they’ll have had a chance to see how the pros do it, since the 10-member Diavolo company will dance “Atom” as part of its program.

The first group of fifth graders on Tuesday will have a ringer joining it for its plaza performance –- Harry Shum Jr., who plays the über-limber dancer Mike Chang on the TV show “Glee.”

Continue reading »

Kennedy Center's boss says the arts are in trouble, blames lack of excellence and daring on timid administrators and funders

February 19, 2011 |  8:00 am

MichaelKaiserLindaSpillersAP One of the last things one expects to hear from an arts impresario is disparagement of his product.

But that’s what Michael Kaiser, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., did this week, at least in general terms. 

“What Is Wrong With the Arts?” was the headline of his column in the Huffington Post.

“It is no surprise to most of us that the arts are in a parlous state….The arts are in trouble because there is simply not enough excellent art being created,” Kaiser wrote.

The names he dropped as having too few worthy heirs were Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins in dance; Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Rubinstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Richard Rodgers and Igor Stravinsky in music; and Tennessee Williams in theater.

Raw talent still abounds, Kaiser acknowledged, but “far more inventiveness can be found in popular entertainment than can be found in the classic arts.” He pinned the blame on arts administrators: “Boards, managers and producing consortia are overly-involved…overly conservative,” and too glued to the bottom line.

Continue reading »

LACMA gets $500,000 grant to fund its new role as Watts Towers conservator

February 10, 2011 |  2:11 pm

The new partnership between the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to conserve and promote the Watts Towers has paid its first dividend – a big one.

The museum announced Wednesday that it has received a $500,000, one-year grant from the James Irvine Foundation to carry out its work on the towers. The city couldn’t have landed the grant on its own because the San Francisco-based foundation doesn’t fund government agencies.

Facing extreme financial pressure, the city, which manages the towers under a long-term contract with the state of California, which owns them, had budgeted just $150,000 for this year’s work, down from a peak of $300,000 a few years ago. Last spring Virginia Kazor, the historical curator who had  supervised towers conservation, took an early retirement offered as part of the drive to reduce government spending.

Conservation work came to a standstill; Olga Garay, executive director of the Department of Cultural Affairs, said no one else on the staff had the expertise to oversee it.

WattsTowersChrsKnight The solution was the partnership with LACMA, whose director, Michael Govan, has loved Simon Rodia’s folk-art masterpiece, now a national historic landmark, since the 1980s, when he was a graduate student at UC San Diego and made special trips to see it.

James Canales, president of the James Irvine Foundation, said Govan himself broached the idea of a grant supporting LACMA’s work. The foundation’s most recent grant to LACMA, in 2006, was a three-year, $900,000 gift to create a multimedia tour for museum visitors. 

LACMA will funnel $25,000 of the Watts Towers grant to the cultural affairs department to use for programming at the towers-adjacent Watts Towers Arts Center and Charles Mingus Youth Arts Center. For the on-site conservation work, said Melody Kanschat, the museum’s president, LACMA will hire a project manager who will look to the neighborhood for paid, part-time helpers.

Plans also call for using some of the grant money to run summer bus tours from LACMA’s campus in Hancock Park to the towers, and to create ways for Watts residents to stay informed about the conservation work. Kanschat said museum officials already have begun showing the towers to prospective donors.

Continue reading »

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.