WASHINGTON — Four major Los Angeles ethnic arts organizations--the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center, the California Afro-American Museum, the Craft and Folk Art Museum and the Plaza de la Raza--are ready to launch an Arts Consortium next month. The announcement was made Thursday at a meeting of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.
While the organizations will retain their individual identities, the consortium is designed, as a position paper explained, to "introduce the ethnic arts . . . to broader audiences in Los Angeles" and to "provide cost-effective programs through joint efforts in the areas of marketing, membership acquisition and services, and fund raising."
"It's very important for us to retain our individual integrity," Gerald Yoshitomi, executive director of the Japanese American center, told committee members at the Nancy Hanks Center. "We have to do it. We don't have the resources to allow the luxury of going it alone."
Aurelia Brooks, president of the Afro-American Museum in Exposition Park, said she hoped the consortium, which grew out of a meeting of the presidential committee at Plaza de la Raza in February, 1984, will "set an example for the country." Details will be announced Nov. 12 at the Bank of America building in Los Angeles, or as Yoshitomi quipped privately, "on neutral ground."
"The melting pot has now become a pot of stew," Brooks told committee members and their representatives, "and each individual piece and each flavor is readily identifiable."
Established by executive order in 1982, the President's committee was the outgrowth of a yearlong presidential task force to assist in efforts to increase private-sector support for the arts and humanities.
About the only discordant note Thursday came during a discussion of a committee-sponsored program introducing minority writers to minority high school students in Philadelphia. Committee member Daniel Boorstin, the Librarian of Congress, said he thought the emphasis should be on the classics--such as Milton, Dickens and Hemingway, the "important, culture-shaping" works--instead of on "marginal" works.
Several in the room appeared surprised by Boorstin's remarks, including consortium members.
As its first project, meanwhile, the Los Angeles consortium will publish a bimonthly calendar listing, Yoshitomi said, the 10 best area ethnic cultural events during the two-week period. The first issue is due out next month.
Over the next two years the consortium expects to spend more than $500,000 to implement its program. It will be receiving $100,000 from Los Angeles' W. M. Keck Foundation, which has already given nearly $50,000 in planning funds. The member institutions will contribute $283,000 and hope to raise an additional $183,000.
Although the Plaza de la Raza meeting and this week's President's committee meeting focused on "Emerging Institutions of Cultural Diversity," the organization leaders privately maintain that they have already emerged.
At the meeting they pointed to "significant cultural resources"--combined capital assets totaling more than $25 million, combined annual operating budgets of $5 million and audience participation of more than 500,000 people a year. The Japanese American center, oldest of the four, was established in 1969. Although it didn't get a building until two years ago, the concept for the Afro-American museum was initiated in 1977.
Andrew Heiskell, retired board chairman and CEO of Time Inc., is the President's committee chairman, while First Lady Nancy Reagan is honorary chairwoman.
Members include the secretaries of Treasury, Education and Interior, who usually send representatives; the chairs of the arts and humanities endowments, who generally attend; arts officials such as Roger L. Stevens, board chairman of the Kennedy Center, and J. Carter Brown, director of the National Gallery; corporate executives--and entertainer Frank Sinatra. Two of the 32 members are congressional appointments.
With several projects in the arts and humanities, the committee raises money or, as it prefers to express it, "helps identify" money in the private sector, but it has no authority to make public grants. A staff spokeswoman was unable to say how much the committee has raised. The committee has an annual operating budget of $226,000, shared equally by the arts and humanities endowments.
Stevens reported that the committee's Fund for New American Plays, providing support of as much as $100,000 to nonprofit theaters for new plays, will be announced Nov. 5 in New York. The fund currently has $500,000.