The California Arts Council marched about-face here Friday.

The council awarded the state’s largest arts groups annual grants that most of them had anticipated. But a handful of dissident groups--three prominent Los Angeles organizations among them--strongly protested the size of their grants, forcing the council to reevaluate some funding requests on the spot.

Though heated testimony on behalf of Los Angeles’ Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum and the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego failed to effect any changes (they’ll receive $180,000 and $95,000, respectively), remarks by officials from the Pocket Opera of San Francisco and Los Angeles’ Bilingual Foundation of the Arts,and Social and Public Arts Resource Center caused the council to raise the groups’ awards from nil to a total of at least $13,000.

The unusual reevaluation at the regular council meeting was the fallout from a new council policy making public all its grant “peer review panels.” These independent panels, which usually convene about a month before regular council meetings, recommend the recipients and size of arts council grants to the 11-member body for final approval.


“The open panel process has changed the dynamics of the whole grant process,” said council director Robert Reid after the meeting at the California Energy Commission Building.

While Reid said the council traditionally approves more than 95% of its peer-review panels’ grant suggestions, arts groups, now privy to panel recommendations, can ask the council to alter panel recommendations before they become final.

“Today we’ve seen the beginning of more active participation of the council in questioning the panel decisions,” Reid said.

In all, 475 grants and about $6.1 million were awarded for fiscal 1986-87 to arts groups throughout the state under the council’s organizational grants program. Twenty-five of those groups with budgets of at least $1 million received about $2.8 million in a Support to Prominent Organizations category, and 450 smaller groups shared about $3.3 million under the Artistic and Administrative Development category. Last year, grants worth $6 million were awarded to 460 groups.


Friday, the top grant went to the San Francisco Opera, given $332,771. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, awarded $321,000, came in second. Runners-up include: the San Francisco Symphony, $285,232; the San Francisco Ballet, 200,000; the Exploratorium in San Francisco; $163,380; and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, $112,765.

However, Mary Salinas Duron, trustee board vice chairman of the Bilingual Foundation of the Arts, protested a peer panel recommendation that the group get no state funds. “Frankly I’m shocked to hear the theater panel recommends we be defunded this year,” Duron said. “If implemented, (the action) would defund the sole Hispanic/American theater in Los Angeles.” She said that the council has funded the foundation for 10 years, and that the foundation, founded by Carmen Zapata, requested $34,000.

After her appeal, the council voted to give the foundation a $6,800 grant.

Social and Public Arts Resource Center director Judith Baca argued against another panel’s evaluation of her center’s $24,000 request. Students and artists at the Venice gallery and mural training center painted the half-mile long Great Wall of Los Angeles mural under Baca’s direction. The center, which has received council grants for the last six years, applied for $24,000 this year. The peer-review panel recommended no grant.


The council said it will reconsider the center’s request for a grant. However it tabled final action until its next meeting in November.

The council also reversed a panel recommendation by granting $6,625 to the Pocket Opera of San Francisco after a representative protested the panel’s decision.

Friday was also the last day of duty for council member Bella Lewitzky, artistic director and choreographer of the Los Angeles modern dance company that bears her name. Although on Sept. 14, Reid publicly announced his intention to ask Gov. George Deukmejian to reappoint Lewitzky to another four-year council term, she said Friday she was too busy with her dance company to accept the job.