Although the Los Angeles County Museum of Art attracts visitors from around the world, many of its "regular customers" are local residents who use the museum as their neighborhood cultural and entertainment center.
The museum has 70,000 members, officials said, and many patrons come back again and again to see new exhibitions and to take part in tours, lectures, concerts, films and classes for children and adults.
Because its art collection is encyclopedic, including works from all continents and ranging from prehistoric to contemporary times, the museum offers the public a broad look at art history, according to Earl A. Powell III, director.
"You can sweep through art history, not necessarily all in one afternoon, but in several afternoons," he said.
In conjunction with its wide-ranging exhibitions, the museum offers a wide variety of educational and cultural activities, he said. "We offer a multiplicity of activities that some more specialized institutions do not."
Last year, the museum attracted 1.3 million visitors, Powell said.
Established in 1965, the museum recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with an open house that attracted about 2,000 members.
The event, with picnic-style refreshments and entertainment in the outdoor courtyard, had the atmosphere of a neighborhood block party.
One of those attending was Victoria Di Gangi, a Larchmont resident who has been participating in activities at the museum since she was a child. "I was here for the opening," she reminisced. "My mom brought us."
As a youngster, she took art classes at the museum and she credits the experience with stimulating her interest in an art career. "We were encouraged to be creative," she said, "and this is really important to anyone in the arts."
Di Gangi said she attends concerts and films at the museum as well as the art shows. "I try to get here for every new exhibition, because I am an artist myself," she said, adding that the activities are "quality programs that you would have to pay much more for elsewhere in the Westside."
Members of the museum are admitted free to continuing and special exhibitions, while admission for non-members is $1.50 for adults and 75 cents for students, senior citizens and young people 5 to 17. Children under 5 are admitted free and admission is free to all on the second Tuesday of each month.
A one-year membership costs $35 and includes preview showings of major exhibitions; discount tickets for films, concerts and classes; a 10% discount at the museum's gift shop, and the opportunity to rent or buy contemporary art works at the museum's Art Rental Gallery.
In addition, members are eligible to participate in the 10 prestigious councils that provide support and service for the museum.
The Docent Council, for example, provides intensive art education for its members who, in turn, give public tours of the museum and programs for school children. Docents lead programs including Discovery Tours for new members and Spotlight Talks focusing on a single work of art.
A sampling of current and coming activities at the museum, at 5905 Wilshire Blvd.:
- Exhibitions, such as "Japanese Ink Painting" (through Sunday) and "Toulouse-Lautrec and His Contemporaries" (through June 16). "The Treasury of San Marco," a major show of medieval art from Venice, Italy, will open July 3.
- A daylong Graphic Arts Council symposium May 18 on the Toulouse-Lautrec show.
- Monday Evening Concerts, featuring the work of California composers at 8 p.m. on May 13 and 20 in the Leo S. Bing Theater. Tickets are $7 for the public and $4 for members, students with identification and senior citizens.
- A Fred Astaire film retrospective on selected Fridays and Saturdays in May and June. Tickets are $4 for the public and $3 for members of the museum or the American Film Institute, students and senior citizens.
- Senior citizen matinees at 1 p.m. Wednesdays, including "Damn Yankees" on May 15 in the Bing Theater. Tickets are 50 cents for senior citizens and $1 for the public.
- Art classes for children in June and July. Art history classes for adults include a course on "Toulouse-Lautrec and Post-Impressionism" starting June 1 and a series in conjunction with "The Treasury of San Marco" starting July 13.