Laura Zucker

Laura Zucker, executive director of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, in 2005. (Ricardo DeArantaha / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles County arts grants -- the most recent round was announced this week -- aim to boost the economy as well as sweeten the county's cultural offerings.

Laura Zucker, the Arts Commission's executive director, said more than 25% of the $4.318 million in grant money will help the nonprofit organizations that receive the aid pay their staffs, helping local employment while also fostering the arts.

The grants are for two years each; the average total is $22,258, down slightly from 2011, the last year in which the current crop of recipients was eligible.

ART: Can you guess the high price?

The commission spread the wealth a bit more widely, issuing 194 grants, compared with 184 two years ago.

Next year, an entirely different group of applicants will compete for the available grant money. For now, those organizations, eligible to apply only in even-numbered years, will simply collect the second-year payments on grants they were awarded in mid-2012.

Panels of four or five people with expertise in a particular discipline go over applications in their field and assign each one a score; Zucker said the task takes a day and involves more than 80 panelists, each of whom earns $75.

Besides its score, an organization’s budget-size and the number of qualified applicants influences the amount of its grant. This year, 95% of the 204 applicants qualified for assistance, with grants ranging from $3,500 to $214,400.

More than three-quarters of the grants -- but only 45% of the money -- went to groups with annual budgets of $500,000 or less, which outnumber larger groups. Their average grant was $13,220.

The average grant for groups with budgets between $500,000 and $1.5 million was $36,941, and the 19 grants issued to groups in the over-$1.5-million-budget bracket averaged $80,362.

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