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Lack of Funds : Curtain Falls on Academy of Arts

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 five 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. 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 believed 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 instead 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.

'Best Program Ever'

"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.

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

The academy has been holding classes at Glendale High School, 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.

Professionals Hired

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.

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 (no other place) to hone their art. And now that's going to be cut for them--again."

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