NEA's literary stimulus (barely) reaches L.A.
On Tuesday, the NEA announced its stimulus grants (aka its American Recovery and Reinvestment Act direct grants) to support arts organizations around the country. More than 25 L.A.-area nonprofits, universities and municipalities received grants ranging from $25,000 to $250,000, for a total of more than $1.6 million.
And of that, there was a single grant to an L.A.-based literary organization: PEN Center USA West, which got $50,000.
Although funds from other arts grants may trickle out to support the Los Angeles literary scene, it's hard not to feel a bit, well, underfunded. Especially when you look at how much other cities garnered to support their bookish culture.
In Minnesota, four literary nonprofits in Minneapolis-St. Paul received grants totaling $125,000, more than double what L.A. will receive. The region has a population of 3.1 million, less than a third that of L.A. County's 10.3 million. If you do the math, that's about a half a cent per person in L.A. for literature, versus 4 cents per person in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Not that the math really makes sense -- those funds are likely to support infrastructure as well as programs.
Not surprisingly, New York maintains its place as a center of literary life, with seven organizations in New York City slated to receive $275,000, far more than any other region of the country.
Literary institutions can support and maintain the cultural dialogue of a city through readings, celebrations and more. Clearly, the NEA has made it a priority to support nonprofits struggling to make it through these challenging economic times. But will book-loving Angelenos have anyplace to go? Other than N.Y. or Minneapolis, that is?
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times