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New Tactic For State Arts Panel?

May 16, 1986|JUDITH MICHAELSON | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — The California Confederation of the Arts has embarked on a new strategy and its watchwords are compromise and non-confrontation.

"For the first time we are being reactive and responsive," stated Susan Hoffman, the new director of the confederation, in opening the group's annual Arts Day gathering and lobbying effort here Wednesday. "We have to say we have compromised . . . . Part of our long-term strategy is that we are going to be non-confrontational."

While the strategy of the confederation--the umbrella advocacy organization for the state's artists and arts organizations--is aimed at the Deukmejian Administration, a potential for conflict also exists within the arts community itself as emerging and established organizations scrap over shares of a modest budget pie.

California currently ranks 30th among the 56 states and territories in per-capita funding of its arts council, according to updated figures, and 40th in the percentage of the state budget going to the arts agency.

A key element in the new strategy, explained Hoffman, former director of the Peoples Theater Coalition in San Francisco, is that this year the confederation (and the Democratic-controlled Senate) is asking for an increase of $983,000 in the governor's proposed $12.8-million budget for fiscal 1986-87 beginning July 1, compared to the nearly $4 million augmentation sought the year before. (On the Assembly side, the subcommittee chaired by Assemblywoman Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) had come in earlier with a $100,000 lower figure; the larger amount is expected to emerge from a joint legislative conference.)

For the past several years, the legislative proposal has followed the confederation's recommendations.

The sought-for augmentation includes $500,000 for the multicultural arts organizations currently funded at $164,000; $383,000 for the state's touring program, and $100,000 for interagency coordination between the Arts Council and the Office of Tourism. The council has been told by the National Endowment for the Arts to improve its ethnic programming.

Meanwhile, the governor's proposed budget for the arts represents no additional money in state grants from the current $12.7 million. With the exception of $12,000 in federal funds, the overall increase of $164,000 is for salaries and operating expenses--and most of that is mandated by cost-of-living regulations. Altogether, about $900,000 of the arts council's budget comes from the endowment.

Hoffman indicated two reasons for the confederation's changed strategy. Speaking to about 200 of the confederation's members--last year's meet attracted 350--she cited the state's fiscal situation--"things are at this point very, very tight"--and the latest gubernatorial polls--"things are looking very, very good for them.

"Our strategy has to assume he (Deukmejian) will be in office" in the next four years, she said.

Privately, Hoffman suggested that the governor does not respond well to confrontation, and she considers the extra billion dollars the state anticipates by the close of the fiscal year to be a "reserve" rather than a "surplus."

Moreover, arts representatives were told by legislators that the 1979 Gann initiative is also expected to put a spending limit on the overall state budget.

With the appointment in January of Robert Reid as director of the Arts Council, replacing Marilyn Ryan, who was considered a divisive figure by the arts community, a calmer atmosphere has already emerged. William Moskin, the confederation's president, says he has been "pleasantly surprised" by Reid's "positive" performance, a feeling echoed by others.

Indeed, Moskin and Reid did an imitation Alphonse-and-Gaston routine as they kidded each other during the confederation's opening ceremonies in the auditorium of the Sacramento Theatre Company.

Ryan had not involved herself in Arts Day until the cocktail hour, when she accompanied Deukmejian to a confederation reception.

Actor Mike Connors of the former television series "Mannix" was this year's Arts Day celebrity guest. At noon he spoke on the Capitol steps on the need for more money to the arts and he spent much of the afternoon lobbying legislators.

Connors argued that the arts can help "turn on" problem kids who "'turn off" to society with drugs and crime. He also told his audiences to imagine a world where everyone in the arts "went on strike. Think of what a drab and dreary place this world would be!"

Connors' appearance was part of the new confederaton strategy, too. Hoffman said that one of the reasons he was invited is that the Fresno-born actor is a friend of Deukmejian's. Last Friday the governor appointed Connors as a member of the state's Motion Picture Council.

Unwittingly, however, Connors managed to point up one of the difficulties facing the confederation. "We have to all get together as one entity and speak as one voice," he said. "We have to share the money . . . . "

And sharing is precisely the issue.

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