In a protracted and contentious meeting, the Los Angeles County Music and Performing Arts Commission on Monday narrowly defeated proposals that would have redistributed funds for its 1994-95 organizational grant recommendations. The vote was described by a disappointed commission president Carlos C. Barron as "business as usual."
At the group's last meeting in August, Barron and several other commissioners sought to revamp a funding pattern that has traditionally sent more than half of the commission's $366,000 grant allocation to the Music Center's resident companies: the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Music Center Opera and the Center Theatre Group. Their proposals included a suggestion to reduce the Philharmonic allocation from $124,805 for 1993-94 to as little as $26,700 for 1994-95.
On Monday, a similar proposal to redirect the funds to smaller, community-oriented groups did not pass, following a vote of 7 in favor, 7 against, with one abstention.
Meeting in a Dorothy Chandler Pavilion boardroom crowded with nearly 30 representatives from local arts organizations, the 15-member commission considered several compromise proposals before passing its final recommendations on an 8 to 7 vote.
The recommendation, which still must be approved by the Board of Supervisors, which appointed the commission, includes a cut of nearly $15,000 from the Philharmonic's 1993-'94 allocation, bringing its proposed 1994-95 recommendation to $110,000--still nearly one-third of the total funds allocated.
Grants to the Music Center Opera and the Center Theatre Group also will be reduced by $1,300 and $1,258 respectively. (The Music Center also receives a separate appropriation of $7,658,000 from the county for operation and maintenance.) In addition, grants of $5,500 each will go to seven groups that have not previously received commission money, including the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Performing Tree, Armory Center for the Arts, Cornerstone Theatre, Young Musicians' Foundation and Beyond Baroque.
Criticism of the process by which the commission determines funding levels was also raised at Monday's meeting. Unlike other public arts organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts and the California Arts Council, the county commission does not call upon expert testimony or peer review panels for its evaluation of grantee's applications.
Commissioner Adrienne A. Hall, an appointee of Supervisor Gloria Molina, likened the current process to "throwing darts at a dartboard."
"This is not a formula," added commissioner Aurelia Brooks, an appointee of Supervisor Yvonne Braithwaite Burke. "It is not fair. There is no level playing field."
Commissioners are scheduled to meet on a retreat in November, during which they will discuss revised guidelines for the organizational grant program for 1995-96.
"There has to be an equitable process that adds more people to the granting process and that was defeated today," said Barron, a Molina appointee. "It was close. We made headway. But there's a lot of the arts world that is not represented here."