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L.A. County’s arts nonprofits get pandemic relief. How a $38.5-million fund will work

The Getty Center gardens on March 13, 2020.
The Getty Center gardens on March 13, the last day before the museum closed because of the coronavirus. The Getty Trust is helping to fund relief for small and midsize arts groups.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

A $38.5-million L.A. Arts Recovery Fund has been established to help small and midsize arts nonprofits across the county, organizers said, providing “unprecedented” relief for cultural groups hanging on by a thin thread nearly a year into a pandemic that forced exhibition cancellations, staff layoffs and other hardships.

The J. Paul Getty Trust initiated the fund, to be officially announced Tuesday, and the California Community Foundation is administering it. Struggling arts organizations with an annual operating budget of under $10 million prior to the pandemic are eligible to apply for unrestricted funds that can go toward programming or operating expenses such as rent, utilities and staff compensation starting this spring.

“In our experience, this is the largest collaboration of L.A. and national philanthropic organizations to come together for Los Angeles, particularly to support small and midsize local arts organizations,” said Joan Weinstein, director of the Getty Foundation.

The effort also will include workshops and private consultations on managing finances, creating digital platforms and other areas of professional development.

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“Los Angeles is increasingly recognized as one of the most vibrant, innovative and diverse arts communities in the nation,” Weinstein said. “Without these funds and additional funds and all sectors working together, we’re going to lose some of the treasured arts institutions in this region.”

Weinstein said the new initiative took into account recent research, including the 2020 Otis Report on the Creative Economy and Americans for the Arts surveys. The latter reported that 15% of L.A. County arts nonprofits that were surveyed fear they wouldn’t survive the effects of COVID-19.

In April the Getty launched a $10-million COVID-19 relief fund for small and midsize local museums and visual arts organizations, the L.A. Arts Relief and Recovery Fund. It dispersed $2 million of those funds to 80 organizations, including Self-Help Graphics & Art, the Center for the Study of Political Graphics and the Japanese American National Museum. It then paused the initiative, with the intention of bringing in philanthropic partners and growing the pool of resources. The new L.A. Arts Recovery Fund is the result.

The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation and California Community Foundation were the first to join the Getty’s efforts, followed by other local funders and individuals as well as the New York-based Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The Ford Foundation, also in New York, contributed funds from its America’s Cultural Treasures initiative, designed to support Black, Latinx, Asian and Indigenous arts organizations facing pandemic-related challenges.

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The Mellon Foundation grants nearly $1 million to Lula Washington Dance Theatre, part of an effort to correct systemic inequality in arts funding.

In an unrelated effort, last week the Mike Kelley Foundation for the Arts announced $400,000 in organizational support grants to help L.A. County arts groups stay afloat. The unrestricted funds went to 18 organizations with annual operating budgets of less than $5 million.

Last April seven national grant-making organizations formed a different emergency initiative, the Artist Relief Fund, to help financially struggling artists through the pandemic. The initial goal was to give 100 artists $5,000 each every week until Sept. 1. The fund closed in December after granting $20 million.

That philanthropists are galvanizing around the arts community is undoubtedly a positive, said David Callahan, founder and editor of Inside Philanthropy. But it could be “too little too late because the needs of these arts organizations are so huge right now.”

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“This is an existential crisis facing arts organizations — their very survival is at stake,” Callahan said. “And neither endowed foundations or billionaire donors have so far fundamentally changed how they operate to rise to that challenge.”

Weinstein said the Getty hopes to draw in new donors and grow the L.A. Arts Recovery Fund to $50 million.

“We all know how important the cultural economy is to Southern California,” Weinstein said. “So investing in these arts organizations is an investment in our region’s economic recovery. And well beyond that, to our health and well-being and our cultural vitality.”

Grant applications for the L.A. Arts Recovery Fund may be found here. Recipients will be announced in May.

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Additional contributors to the fund include the Ahmanson Foundation, Vladimir & Araxia Buckhantz Foundation, Ford Theatre Foundation/L.A. County Department of Arts and Culture, Jerry and Terri Kohl, Robert Lovelace and Alicia Miñana, Music Man Foundation, Perenchio Foundation, Snap Foundation and Sony Pictures Entertainment & Sony Global Relief Fund.


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