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Mayor Villaraigosa launches LA Arts Month

January 6, 2009 |  1:30 pm

Mayor_villaraigosa_at_la_arts_month Little did you know when you raised your glass of champagne or organic pomegranate juice or whatever at 12 a.m. on Jan. 1 that you were not only ringing in the New Year, but also the first annual LA Arts Month.

You've already missed a few precious days to commit yourself to art -- but Mayor Antonio Villairagosa, Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs manager Olga Garay, art collector Cheech Marin and a host of other arts leaders chose Tuesday morning to announce that January is LA Arts Month, a regional campaign to encourage Angelenos to take advantage of the myriad arts and cultural programs the city has to offer.

Calling L.A. "the Venice of the 21st century," the mayor called Los Angeles the "creative capital of America" with some 900,000 employed in creative jobs. He said the creative arts generate "$100 billion in revenue for the area each year."

On Tuesday it seemed that every arts leader or arts-friendly politico in town was either on the platform or milling about in the lobby of the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo to either announce or listen to details of the campaign. Led by the city's Cultural Affairs Department and the Cultural Affairs Commission, LA Arts Month is described as "a collaboration between artists, arts leaders, private partners and local arts organizations."

Among the other organizers of the event are LA Inc., The Los Angeles Convention and Visitors Bureau, the LA Art Show, LA Stage Alliance, Arts for LA, the J. Paul Getty Trust and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Participants include Aquarium of the Pacific, East West Players, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

Sponsors of the arts month are offering not just nifty new logos and promotional materials, but also some financial incentive for the public to explore the city's arts options:    

Clear Channel plans to promote LA Arts Month on its eight regional radio stations and will give away 1,400 free tickets to various performances and museums. Wells Fargo will offer discounts to its customers for the same. Univision will also conduct ticket giveaways for viewers. 

In his remarks, City Councilman Tom LaBonge offered perhaps the most baffling reason why January should be LA Arts Month: "There are two As in January, and 'Arts' begins with an 'A,' "  he said. Later he confessed to having received not an A, but a "D" in art during school -- but said that the grade "inspired him to do better" and encouraged other L.A. residents to take advantage of the opportunity to learn something new about the arts.

Of course, LaBonge's arts grade was not the oddest revelation of the morning: That award went hands-down to Akemi Kikumura Yano, president and chief executive of the Japanese American National Museum, who, in introducing the other speakers, confessed that she had played the role of intrepid TV reporter Toyota Kawasaki in Cheech and Chong's 1978 film "Up In Smoke."   

For more information, visit the LA Arts Month website.


--Diane Haithman

Top photo: Mayor Villaraigosa kicks off the first annual LA Arts Month. Bottom photo: Akemi Kikumura Yano, president and chief executive of the Japanese American National Museum, with Cheech Marin. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times