The Newport Harbor Art Museum and Garden Grove Symphony came away winners Tuesday when the California Arts Council overruled its own advisory panel and granted both institutions more money than had been recommended for them.
The panel would have reduced the museum's grant from almost $60,000 last year to less than $10,000 and placed it on a sort of funding probation because it continues to operate without a director and chief curator. But the council rejected the plan, raised the museum's rankings, which are based on artistic, administrative and outreach strength, and voted to award it nearly $19,000 this year, according to council spokeswoman Joanne Anglin.
The council also raised the Garden Grove Symphony's ranking, qualifying it for the minimum state grant of $1,000, Anglin said. It is the orchestra's first CAC grant. Advisory panel members had characterized the group's quality as "very poor" and charged that its programs "bordered on a pops flavor."
Anglin said council member Harvey Stearn of Irvine, who asked the council to raise the rankings of both the museum and the orchestra, argued that panelists had "given undue weight" to the museum's lack of a director and chief curator in making their evaluation. The institution has been without either staff member for months.
Stearn "felt that panelists could not assume that there would be negative consequences to museum programs as a result of this," Anglin said.
While the museum will still receive far less state money than it got last year, board president Thomas H. Nielsen welcomed the reconsideration: "We are grateful to the council members for their careful review of the museum's current operating conditions and past accomplishments, as well as our proposed outreach programs," he said in a prepared statement.
Garden Grove Symphony general manager Yaakov Dvir-Djerassi, who lobbied for the orchestra at the council's meeting Tuesday in Sacramento, helped persuade the council that its service to the city's large Korean community merited state support, Anglin said.
"The council felt like there was a sense of meeting the needs of that particular community and that (the orchestra) shouldn't be cut out altogether," she said.
Dvir-Djerassi said by phone after the meeting that the victory was the orchestra's way of making a statement. "The monetary thing was secondary," he said.
Nineteen other Orange County groups were awarded a total of $262,363 in council grants, ranging from $96,278 for South Coast Repertory to $1,000 each for four groups.
The Newport Harbor Art Museum and Garden Grove Symphony were the only organizations statewide to receive more money after council reconsideration of panel recommendations.