Anonymous benefactor gives $10 million to children’s museum

Times Staff Writer

The Children’s Museum of Los Angeles this week will announce a $10-million gift from an anonymous donor to partially fund exhibits and operational costs for a new museum under construction in Lake View Terrace, museum and city officials said Monday.

“It’s the largest single contribution to the museum in its history,” said Cecilia Aguilera Glassman, chief executive of the museum, which was founded in 1979. “The donor has decided to remain anonymous because the donor wants the attention on the museum, and we could use it at this critical time.”

City officials consider the donation a turning point for the $53-million project, which has faced delays and funding shortfalls since the closing of the original facility in 2000. The donation comes after an audit, released by City Controller Laura Chick in August, concluded that no more taxpayer funding should go to the museum until it could show it had a workable financial plan.


In Chick’s audit, the city found that as of July, taxpayers were in line to cover about $25 million of the cost of the project, in addition to about $10.9 million pledged in private donations.

Seven years ago, city officials authorized $9.5 million from parks bond measure funds and other taxpayer sources to build a new museum to replace the city’s original children’s museum in the downtown Civic Center. The original facility closed because it lacked parking and room for expansion and its lease was expiring. The seed money was supposed to help the museum raise funds to complete the project, officials said.

Officials earlier this year said they were worried that the museum, scheduled to open in March 2009, was too financially dependent on the city.

“I’m pleased to see the museum is heading for a positive turnaround,” Chick said Monday. “But the struggle isn’t over yet. It could jump-start fundraising efforts, but there are a whole lot more millions to go.”

As of Monday, the museum had raised about $45.6 million in public and private funding, including the new $10-million donation, Glassman said.

Glassman said the annual $4.5-million operating cost for the museum is expected to come from an anticipated $2.4 million in ticket sales, rentals and membership dues, and about $2.1 million from annual fundraising that will feed into an endowment.

Councilman Richard Alarcon, whose district includes the museum, called for the audit in June. He had previously helped the museum secure a $1-million loan from the city’s reserve fund.

“This is a new day for the museum in the sense that it can start to publicly rebuild its confidence,” Alarcon said.