Representatives of dozens of smaller local arts groups showed support Monday for a proposed united arts fund that would combine their forces in the struggle for financial solvency.
Support was not unanimous, but even critics of the plan said diminishing government support for the arts is forcing arts organizations to explore new fund-raising ventures.
Management personnel from about 65 theater, dance, music, visual art, and arts service organizations--all with annual budgets under $500,000--met to discuss the proposed fund. The private-sector fund-raising entity would be operated by the newly named Los Angeles Arts Council, sponsor of Monday's meeting.
"There are 53 united arts funds throughout the country," said Jacqueline Kronberg, executive director of the arts council. "But we don't have one in Los Angeles. The time has come."
Former state Sen. Alan Sieroty, who is president of the city's Cultural Affairs Commission and a member of Mayor Bradley's Los Angeles Task Force on the Arts, said in a keynote speech "as government funds become tighter we have to find new techniques" to fund particularly hard hit "middle-range" arts organizations.
With some reservatons, those attending the symposium at Cal State Los Angeles seemed supportive of the proposed fund. Applauding, the attendees shouted a loud "Yes!" when Kronberg asked if they were interested in the fund at the end of the day.
The arts council's proposed fund is one of a number of efforts to foster re private support for the arts. The council plans to raise $1 million through cooperative fund raising that, conceivably, will lower solicitation costs and leave more money available for producing art.
Kronberg has likened its methods to the United Way's work with social organizations. She said the fund would support operating costs as well as special projects and other needs.
However, a similar fund serving much the same constituency already exists in Los Angeles. Administrators of the Brody Arts Fund, which also is building a $1-million endowment for smaller arts groups, say that the new fund is similar to theirs.
Jack Shakely, executive director of the California Community Foundation which sponsors the Brody Arts Fund, said in a telephone interview that the new united arts fund "duplicates our efforts. And I think this is possibly detrimental to our constituency."
Shakely did not attend the Monday meeting.
Kronberg said that the proposed fund would be different from the Brody fund. She said participants in a united arts fund, unlike Brody recipients, would receive "a predetermined percentage of whatever is raised." She said arts fund participants would not need to apply for grants, as do the Brody's.
One member of the arts council's board acknowledged that the plan could create "political infighting" with other fund-raising entities.
William T. Chamberlain, senior vice president for corporate affairs of Atlantic Richfield Co., and a Los Angeles Arts Council board member, said the plan for "a united arts fund deserves a thorough hearing." He added, however, that his corporation is "cautious in approaching the fund."
In separate caucus meetings and an open group discussion, arts representatives raised their concerns as well as suggestions for refining the united arts fund.
Objections included fears that participating arts organizations could not do independent fund raising during the program's fund-raising period; that non-united arts fund participants (there would probably be fewer than 40 participants, out of about 800 nonprofit arts organizations in Los Angeles County) would be excluded from private philanthropic dollars; or that with one central arts funder, various other "fringe" donors would fade away.
"I have a fear," added Terry Wolverton, development director of the Women's Building, "that whether I am a participant or not, when I approach a foundation, corporation or individual, they'll say, 'We've already given to the united arts fund.' "
However, Kronberg asserted, "I disagree totally that income for the arts will diminish." A united arts fund, she said, could include payroll deduction and telemarketing plans and an arts festival. "And I think we can get 1 million people to give $1 each. But none of us can do any of these things alone--we can however do them as a group."
Kronberg said that the next step for the united arts fund is the development of a blue-ribbon panel that will complete plans for the fund. This should be achieved by January, she said.
The current programs of the Los Angeles Arts Council, a nonprofit cultural foundation, include Art Scholarship Awards, a Young Professionals Concert Series, and a Century City sculpture walk. Its major funders include the Alcoa Foundation, the Atlantic Richfield Co., Occidental Petroleum Corp. and Security First/the Holden Group.