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Disney Co. gift of $250,000 funds endowment for free art classes

June 23, 2010 |  9:00 am

MickeyMouseDrawing The Walt Disney Co. is donating $250,000 to Ryman Arts, a 20-year-old nonprofit  that provides free intensive weekend drawing and painting courses to area high school students who compete for 165 openings each semester.

Ryman Arts, which uses studio space donated by USC, announced Tuesday that it had independently raised $130,000, exceeding the $100,000 minimum in outside funding Disney required as a match to activate its own pledge.

The combined $380,000 creates an endowment whose earnings are expected to cover the cost of one of the 10 classes Ryman Arts sponsors each semester, said Diane Brigham, the organization's executive director. Overall, she said, Ryman Arts needs to raise about $750,000 annually to fund its programs, which it is hoping to expand. Brigham said applications have risen as economically pinched school districts have reduced their own art offerings.

Ryman Arts honors Herbert D. Ryman, a painter who became a key figure in Disney history. An admiring Walt Disney first tapped him in 1938 after seeing his work in a Los Angeles gallery; as a film illustrator for Disney, Ryman was art director for "Fantasia" and "Dumbo."

In 1953, Disney asked Ryman to create the preliminary drawings of Disneyland that he needed to secure $17 million in private investments needed to launch the theme park. Ryman became leader of what's now known as Walt Disney Imagineering, the creative arm of Disney's theme parks. After Ryman died in 1989, his sister, former MGM casting director Lucille Ryman Carroll (who had taken the young Marilyn Monroe under her wing), and Marty Sklar, longtime head of Walt Disney Imagineering, established Ryman Arts to honor him. Sklar is president of the Ryman Arts board.

Work by current Ryman Arts students is on display at the California African American Museum in Exposition Park through July 6.

-- Mike Boehm



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Photo: Mickey Mouse drawing created for 2000 Rose Parade. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times.