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Cultural politics: Parks vs. Ridley-Thomas

October 24, 2008 | 11:15 am

Bernard C. Parks, left, and Mark Ridley-Thomas are opponents for the 2nd District seat on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors; they're seen debating last May With the 2nd District seat on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors contested by two veteran officials -- City Councilman and former LAPD chief Bernard Parks and state Senator Mark Ridley-Thomas -- the Arts for LA advocacy group posed six questions for them and asked for written responses. Judging from their answers, both can talk the arts talk.  Walking the walk as a supervisor means having a say in the county's $70 million-a-year cultural funding, which supports the Music Center, LACMA, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and the county Arts Commission.

Both candidates favor increasing public art requirements for new development projects -- Ridley-Thomas answering more generally, while Parks said county government should adopt the city of L.A.'s policy, which requires private developers to ante up 1% of a nonresidential project's cost to pay for public art works to accompany buildings that cost $500,000 or more.

As for how to increase direct funding for the arts, Ridley-Thomas said he'd try to find private sources to help with government arts initiatives, while pushing for adoption of a new state policy that would funnel a share of sales taxes from arts-related purchases such as paintings, art supplies, musical instruments and CDs to the California Arts Council. The proposal for the first time would give the budgetarily eviscerated state agency a reliable stream of money to share with counties, municipalities and nonprofit arts groups, but for the past two legislative sessions it has failed to get enough committee votes to have a chance at passing.

Parks said the most immediate "imperative" for county arts funding is defending what's already available during a time he foresees as the worst climate for county government spending since the 1930s. "It will require nerves of steel" to keep the arts budget intact in the face of other budget pressures, he warned.

-- Mike Boehm

Photo: Bernard C. Parks, left, and Mark Ridley-Thomas are opponents for the 2nd District seat on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors; they're seen debating last May. Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times

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