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Top Grant To S.f. Opera; L.a. Philharmonic No. 2

October 01, 1985|JUDITH MICHAELSON | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — After lunch, the California Arts Council served up dessert.

This being the season for annual grants distribution, the council spent a long afternoon at the State Capitol Friday, deliberating who gets what and, in the process, provided a peek at the special interests of individual members.

The San Francisco Opera, in recognition of its summer Wagner "Ring" series, came away with the council's largest grant of $324,000, outpacing the Los Angeles Philharmonic Assn. by $3,000. Last year both organizations led the field with $300,000 apiece.

Other top-dollar recipients are: San Francisco Symphony, $267,500; Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum, $214,000; San Francisco Ballet, $181,900; the Exploratorium in San Francisco, $151,000, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, $122,000.

The lowest grant amount of $1,000 goes to a score of organizations, from the Burbank Lancers Youth Band to the Humboldt Folk Life Society.

Among the unfunded was the San Francisco Art Institute, whose president, Stephen Goldstine, is also chairman of the Arts Council. Goldstine took the recommendation of the visual-arts peer-review panel on the chin. He simply called his organization's grant application, which he had decided not to review beforehand, "a terrible proposal," and let the panel's recommendations stand without a quibble. (Later Goldstine said that next year he'll read the institute's proposal: "You can be sure it won't happen again.")

Altogether, 434 organizations with budgets below $1 million--or about two out of three applicant groups--received about $3.3 million in public funds under the state agency's Artistic and Administrative Development program for fiscal 1985-86, while all 26 major arts organizations in California shared about $2.7 million in the Support to Prominent Organizations category.

This is also report-card time, with peer panels ranking organizations and their applications on a scale ranging from 4 for programs and projects of "exceptional merit" down to 1 for programs "not worthy of funding under any circumstances."

Among the prominents, only the San Francisco Opera and the Exploratorium rated a 4. The Los Angeles Philharmonic's grant proposal scored a 4-minus.

The new Los Angeles Theatre Center on Spring Street, which this fiscal year graduated from the ranks of smaller organizations into the "prominents," was awarded $58,000--far less than the $143,000 it asked for and a little more than half of the $100,000 it was counting on (though somewhat more than it received last year).

A source close to the theater panel said the center needed time to prove itself.

Allocation of grants comes on the advice of individual panels and the consent of the council. Where members said they had conflicts of interest, they didn't vote. Overall, there were nine panels for organizations whose disciplines include visual art, music and dance. There was a separate panel for the prominent organizations.

Each recommendation results from a mathematically complex process involving, among other things, an organization's ranking measured against its size, the grant request and the dollars available.

Rank alone does not determine the amount of the grant. Several dozen organizations among the 686 applicants scored 4, including the Eureka Theatre Company, which will receive $25,800, and Great Leap Inc., a Los Angeles community-based multimedia performing group, awarded $4,300.

Even before the afternoon deliberations got under way, however, the council appointed a special subcommittee to review and refine the overall granting process.

Arts Council member Bella Lewitzky, choreographer of the dance company that bears her name (and which received a 4-minus), urged the council not to simply ratify the panel recommendation. "It's late, it's fatiguing and it's endless, and I hope this council will never be a rubber stamp," she said in mid-afternoon.

While Lewitzky raised questions about lower rankings accorded certain organizations this year, including Luis Valdez's El Teatro Campesino--"history has some value," she maintained--she generally voted with the panels.

With several exceptions, the council did too. The exceptions involved the Long Beach Symphony Assn., ranked at 3-minus, whose grant climbed from $5,290 to $8,360; the Laguna Beach Museum of Art, ranked at 2-plus, which went from no grant at all to $5,060, and the Crocker Art Museum here, which also ranked 2-plus and was not recommended for a grant, received $3,151.

Council member Patricia Geary Johnson of Rolling Hills argued that it would be "unfair" to change direction at the end of the process, despite an individual member's feelings about a particular organization. "I feel very close to the Laguna Museum," said Johnson, an artist and volunteer decorator of Gov. George Deukmejian's offices. "My goodness, I've put into the governor's (downtown Los Angeles) office 21 of (the museum's) paintings. . . . "

Other Arts Council members suggested that they not go along with panel recommendations automatically.

Laurel Dickranian, development director of the L.A. Philharmonic, who exempted herself from voting on grants to seven music organizations, asked how the Crocker Museum could go from a 4-minus last year to a 2-plus this year. Joan Agajanian Quinn asked the same question about Laguna Beach and its ranking. Meanwhile, the Long Beach Symphony had the staunchest of allies in its former board member Bryan (Whitey) Littlefield, a Long Beach brewery manager who managed to carry the day for the Long Beach Symphony as well as the Laguna Beach and Crocker museums.

When the matter of ranking came up, Littlefield said he didn't care what rating the Long Beach Symphony got--as long as the money came through.

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