It was a day for the California Arts Council to begin calming troubled waters.
--With some dispatch at its regular meeting last Friday, the council without formal vote approved the first steps of a plan to satisfy federal requirements toward receiving its basic chunk--$640,000--of National Endowment for the Arts aid.
--The council spent a lot more time--and argumentative heat--about the value of "all deliberate speed," and what that meant anyway, before tentatively, but unanimously, approving an outline for two "ethnic minority arts" pilot programs. Specific guidelines will come up at the next council meeting in April. "Insufficient programming for the state's large and growing ethnic groups . . ." had also been a national endowment concern.
The first of the minority pilot programs over the next 2 1/2 years will be concentrated in Los Angeles County. As Stephen Goldstine, president of the San Francisco Art Institute and the new chair of the art council wryly noted, he did "not have to tell the council the name of the local legislator" who has a deep interest in the minority program.
To the audience in the library of the California Afro-American Museum in Exposition Park, that was an obvious reference to Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles), whose South Central Los Angeles district borders the museum, and who last April, as head of the ways and means subcommittee dealing with the arts budget, threatened to red-pencil CAC director Marilyn Ryan's salary.
Last June Gov. George Deukmejian vetoed 5% (or about $500,000) of the arts budget to be set aside for minority and emerging arts organizations. Last summer the council funded a minority-arts program with $100,000 from the governor's augmented $1.5 million arts budget. For fiscal 1985-86 beginning July 1, the council is recommending $164,000 for the program.
The second part of the pilot recommends sponsoring two three-day "ethnic minority art forums"--one in Southern California and another in Northern California.
Consuelo Santos-Killins, former chairman of the council, also noted that in the current budget item of $2.7 million, 17%, or $473,297, went to minority organizations, and that 45%, or $735,000 of $1,634,000 went to minority "artists-in-residence."
--In the administrative arena, Ryan announced that she had worked out procedures with the state's Department of Finance so that arts organizations, particularly smaller ones, could get up to 25% of its CAC grant monies as soon as the appropriate contracts are signed, instead of waiting at least three weeks and going through complex administrative procedures.
The procedural problems, she indicated, referring to the "controversy over the awarding of grant money by the CAC in the late '70s," began under former Gov. Edmund G. (Jerry) Brown Jr. Others reportedly placed the blame closer to Ryan, suggesting that the CAC programs "operated even less efficiently" under Ryan.
The efficiency issue as well as intimations of a major feud between Ryan and the council--that they are "barely on speaking terms"--came up in a Sacramento Bee column last Monday. But no real discord surfaced at the day-long meeting Friday. In fact, Ryan shared a lunch table with several arts council officials. Later she said that "if there are any concerns they should be aired behind closed doors."
The council meeting began with a civics lesson of sorts. With fold-over charts and crayons in three colors, Gerald Yoshitomi, director of the Japanese-American Cultural and Community Center, talked "process." Yoshitomi is the former head of the NEA's state programs panel governing state aid.
He talked "closed process," which he intimated has gotten the council into trouble, versus "open process," and diagrammed seemingly simple procedures to remedy the federal concerns. He suggested involving artists, arts organizations and the "audience" at large in the planning process and bringing the governor's office and key legislators into the process before the budget-hearing stage.
Then Ryan outlined the steps that would be taken to satisfy the federal requirements, beginning today with the process of hiring of a consultant to "assist the development of a long-range planning process for the arts council." She said that Anthony Turney, NEA's deputy to the chairman for public partnership, suggested that the council hire a consultant, who will be paid by the endowment. Turney has held separate meetings on the basic state grant-application issue with Ryan and her staff as well as with the council leadership.
The council plans a tight timetable: Next week it is prepared to sign with the consultant; the week after, to prepare "the final design" for a March 22 planning session in Pasadena; during the first 18 days of April, "complete first draft of council's planning process and revised basic state grant . . . application," and by May 1 submit the revised application to the national endowment. With approval, Ryan indicated, the deferred funds could come into the state on time.