L.A. arts groups get $4.5 million from Michael Bloomberg's foundation

This post has been updated. Please see below for details.

Michael Bloomberg, the publishing mogul and former New York City mayor, will pump $4.5 million into L.A.’s nonprofit arts scene over the coming two years, as part of a national initiative by his Bloomberg Philanthropies to help small and mid-size arts organizations.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission this week announced that on top of its usual $4.5 million in yearly grants to arts nonprofits, it is launching a new program that will funnel an additional $1.5 million in grants over three years to other kinds of nonprofit groups in the county – ones whose mission is not arts-related, but that have specific projects that use the arts for a broader social or therapeutic goal.

The Bloomberg grants to 51 L.A. recipients will range from $5,000 to $175,000 a year for two years. The average annual grant is $44,000, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg Philanthropies said this week, declining to provide totals for individual grants.

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Under its Arts Innovation and Management grants program, Bloomberg is issuing $30 million to 262 arts groups in six cities -- L.A., San Francisco, Dallas, Detroit, Chicago and Boston. The program builds on a pilot project of grants to New York City arts groups several years ago.

Bloomberg didn’t put out an open call for grant applications, but worked with local arts funders in each city to pick recipients that have shown “strong programmatic activities” and “exhibited a potential for growth,” according to Bloomberg Philanthropies' announcement of the grants.

Each group is obliged to raise a matching amount from other donors. In addition to the money, which the groups can spend as they wish, Bloomberg is funding two training seminars for each recipient’s leaders, provided by the University of Maryland’s DeVos Institute of Arts Management. A course on long-term artistic planning was given in June, and one on marketing and communication will take place in October.

The grants in L.A. went to performing and visual art organizations as well as groups devoted to film, literature and arts education.

The biggest organizations landing Bloomberg grants were the Los Angeles Master Chorale, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Inner City Arts, whose recent posted nonprofit tax returns show annual spending in the $3 million to $4.6 million range. Others, such as the Blank Theatre Company, sometimes spend less than $200,000 a year.

Alphabetically the recipients include Debbie Allen Dance Academy and Arts for LA, a service and lobbying organization for the countywide nonprofit arts sector; Women in Film, which promotes opportunities for women in the movie industry; and the Young Storytellers Foundation, which coaches kids through writing and production of a script.

Some of the other performing arts recipients are Cornerstone Theater Company, Diavolo Dance Theater, East West Players, Ebony Repertory Theatre, the Industry experimental opera company, LA Theatre Works, Latino Theater Company, Sacred Fools Theater and Lula Washington Dance Theatre.

Visual art groups getting Bloomberg funding include the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Museum of Jurassic Technology, Self Help Graphics and Art and the murals group Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC).

The county arts commission’s new grant program, dubbed Community Impact Arts, will be more modest -- $5,000 to $20,000 per grant winner – but will fill an important need that executive director Laura Zucker said has been apparent for several years.

“Arts plays a role in helping to solve intractable social challenges. We were overlooking important segments of our population” who get arts exposure through organizations whose primary focus is not the arts, but social services, health or education, Zucker said. Examples of the types of projects the grants would fund include an arts program that helps residents of a shelter for homeless women build career skills, and health programs that use music and art therapeutically.

The arts commission received a $50,000 grant last year from the National Endowment for the Arts to begin planning the program, and in March the Board of Supervisors approved $1.5 million to fund the grants for three years.

Zucker said the new program won’t increase the arts commission’s administrative costs. Like the agency's regular arts grants, applicants, who must file proposals by Oct. 28, will compete for funding, with panels of experts assessing and ranking the projects. Grants ultimately are approved by the Board of Supervisors. The first round of recipients will be announced in the spring.

Zucker said that Community Impact Arts grants have a chance to become a fixture after the three-year pilot run, if the program is well-received and can show good results.

For the record, Sept. 18, 7:50 p.m.: an earlier version of this post neglected to include the Los Angeles Master Chorale as one of the recipients of Bloomberg Foundation grants whose most recent posted tax returns show annual spending over $3 million.

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