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L.A. culture survives this temblor

July 29, 2008 |  8:09 pm

At the Getty, they barely felt it. Despite a few nervous moments, two L.A. landmarks hit hard by previous quakes -- the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Hollyhock House and Watts Towers -- did fine. Museums and other cultural institutions, which house many of the region’s rarest and most valuable breakables, reported no earthquake damage -– although visitors and staff were evacuated briefly from a number of sites. Here's a round up from The Times' art staff: (click below for the entire dispatch)

At the Bowers Museum of Cultural Art in Santa Ana, 300 people were filing through an exhibition of 2,200-year-old Terra Cotta Warriors  — among the signature artifacts of ancient China  -- when the quake hit. “People were concerned, but not overly concerned,” as the galleries shook and they were led outside for about 15 minutes, said executive director Peter Keller. The 20 large clay figures from China were unharmed, safe in their special mountings designed with earthquakes in mind. Keller noted that the quake hit just as the Bowers’ new chairman, Frank O’Bryan, was convening his first board meeting upstairs from the exhibitions. “He apologized at the end for a shaky start.”

Up the street at the Discovery Science Center, spokeswoman Julie Smith reported that the seismograph exhibit became an epicenter of attention for kids wanting to see what they’d just felt.

In downtown L.A., Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, acclaimed for its fantastical curved architecture since opening in 2003, had its most serious trial-by-quake and held its ground nicely, said Music Center spokeswoman Catherine Babcock. “We’re A-OK,” she said. An opening ceremony for the newly renovated Mark Taper Forum had ended by the time the earthquake hit, Babcock said.

The L.A. city government has spent millions of dollars in recent years for seismic repairs and upgrades at Frank Lloyd Wright’s landmark Hollyhock House in Hollywood, which was damaged in the 1994 Northridge earthquake. It appeared to have come through Tuesday’s shakes with no further harm, curator Jeffrey Herr said. Herr said he’d received a report that another delicate city-operated cultural site, the Watts Towers, also escaped damage.

The quake felt uncomfortably close for office workers at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, said spokeswoman Kim Bui, but it did no harm, “besides shaking up a lot of nerves.” And at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, “it felt good and close, but we just sort of rolled with it,” including children attending the museum’s summer camp, spokeswoman Lisa Blackburn said.

On the West Side, high on its hilltop in Brentwood overlooking the shaken L.A. Basin, the J. Paul Getty Museum was unmoved. “We hardly felt it,” spokeswoman Julie Jaskol said.