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Academy for Arts Out of Money, Will Close Again

January 15, 1987|PATRICIA WARD BIEDERMAN | Times Staff Writer

The Academy of Performing and Visual Arts, which has offered weekend courses to high school students since 1984, will close Saturday because of a lack of funds.

Co-founder Linda Gibboney said the academy, which provided instruction in music, dance, acting and painting at Glendale High School and four other sites throughout Los Angeles County, was unable to find a reliable source of support.

"We had an outstanding program," Gibboney said of the academy, which attempted to fill the gap in high school curricula created by the elimination of many school programs after the passage of Proposition 13. She said the academy has served about 500 students each school year.

Operated Out of UCLA

The program, which was started with a $500,000 grant from the state Department of Education, operated out of the UCLA Extension office.

Gibboney said the founders of the academy had believed that they could rely on state funds for at least three years. They also had hoped for legislation to provide additional money for the program.

Public schools in California receive most of their money from the state according to a formula based on average daily attendance. The academy, which has operated only on weekends and after regular school hours, was not eligible for such funding. The academy's courses were free to students.

Gibboney said the academy was unable to get grant money for the current school year and had to rely on contributions from 19 participating school districts and private gifts. The academy had less than $100,000 on which to operate this year, she said. UCLA absorbed some of the cost, she said.

"Had the funding been assured over three years, I think we would have had more success," Gibboney said. Because of its financial problems, the academy was unable to hire a professional fund-raiser and take other steps that might have guaranteed an adequate income, she said.

Vic Pallos, spokesman for the Glendale Unified School District, said local administrators were frustrated by the program's cancellation, particularly since Glendale High School was used as an Academy site in 1984 but dropped the next year when state funds were cut.

"I think there is a feeling of frustration that Glendale and other areas have tried to keep up their part of the arrangement. But the end result is that, for the second time, students, and some very talented ones at that, won't have their classes," he said.

School Board Wary

Earlier this school year, some school board members said they were wary of letting the Academy use Glendale High School because of what happened in 1985. But Deputy Supt. Donald W. Empey convinced them that the program was worthwhile, even though he could not guarantee that it would not be dropped again.

And what if the Academy asks to use Glendale facilities in the future? "It sure doesn't help when you are cut off twice," Pallos said.

Despite the academy's problems, the semester that ends Saturday was "the best program ever in terms of curriculum and emphasis," Gibboney said.

Besides Glendale, the academy has been holding classes at Foshay Junior High School in central Los Angeles, Redondo Union High School in Redondo Beach, Beverly Hills High School and the former Excelsior High School building in Norwalk.

Gibboney said she did not think that the academy had suffered as a result of competition from the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts, which opened in the fall of 1985.

"We complemented each other," she said. The academy, which sometimes served as a feeder program for the arts high school, had hoped to undertake cooperative projects with that school, she said.

The academy hired professional artists as instructors. Supporters included actress Jean Stapleton and producer Tony Bill. Dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov and comedian Sid Caesar were among its guest lecturers.

Gibboney and others said they hope that the academy or something like it will be resurrected in the future. Co-founder Marie Plakos, an administrator in the Norwalk-La Mirada Unified School District, said participants in the Norwalk classes hope to continue, perhaps in cooperation with Cerritos Community College.

Closing Termed 'Terrible'

Actor Wayne Cook, who has been teaching the academy's acting course at Beverly Hills High School, was saddened by the closing.

"I think it's terrible," Cook said. "There are so many potentially talented kids with no other place to be with other kids interested in the arts and to hone their art. And now that's going to be cut for them--again."

Cook said he believes that students who want to explore the arts but don't know whether they want to devote their lives to them will be especially hard hit by the closing. And it will also mean a lost opportunity for poor students, he said. "There are a lot of kids out there whose parents can't afford private lessons for them," he said.

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