For the arts in Los Angeles, the '80s have been great years--a doubling in support in the last several years. Interestingly, the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce has been in the vanguard--major executives upping the ante not only in the name of free enterprise, but for love of art.
Four years ago, Caroline Ahmanson, a woman who turned down the usually coveted chamber presidency, sparked the goal, convincing merchants and business tycoons. The Medicis of Florence had siphoned a portion of their wealth to launch the glorious Italian Renaissance in arts, literature and learning, creating a cultural flowering that accompanied tremendous economic prosperity. Why not a Medici Awards dinner for Los Angeles?
The first two were at the Getty Museum. The black-tie garden party at the Huntington Library the other evening, the fourth annual, illustrated the strength and breadth and ethnicity of corporate giving in Los Angeles:
Vice president William M. Clossey accepted AT&T's Medici Award for its major gift to support the upcoming David Hockney exhibition at the County Museum of Art. Jon B. Lovelace accepted the Capital Group Inc.'s accolades for its collection of Los Angeles contemporary art; Henry Y. Hwang of Far East National Bank was praised for support of the Chinatown library; Peter M. Ochs of the Fieldstone Company was recognized for the company's collection of early California impressionist paintings, seen at numerous exhibitions. Frederick M. Nicholas of the Hapsmith Company was credited with support of the Temporary Contemporary and MOCA and his new task, to oversee the construction of the $50-million Disney Hall at the Music Center. Daniel H. Ridder, publisher of the Long Beach Press Telegram, was praised for fostering the arts in Long Beach, including the Long Beach Museum of Art and the Civic Light Opera. Robert M. McIntyre of Southern California Gas Co. was saluted for the company's matching gifts program aiding Latino and senior citizen communities. And Yukiyasu Togo of Toyota Motor Sales USA, Inc. was honored for his company's burgeoning arts support.
"Oh, what a feeling!" exclaimed Togo, accepting his presentation from Brock Peters, who, with his wife Didi, is intimately involved in the countdown drive to raise $20 million ($7 million to go) for the Bella Lewitzky Dance Gallery by year's end.
Dinner chairman Robert F. Maguire III positioned the party on the lawn in the Shakespeare garden at the Huntington. Increments of a gala had more than 550 cocktailing on the veranda of the Art Gallery, before dining on antipasto del mare, mesquite-grilled veal chops, spinach and goat cheese timbale and a tuille cookie basket filled with fresh summer berries. The William Hill 1983 Silver Label Cabernet added a true California touch.
Chamber chairman Thomas P. Kemp (brother of candidate Jack Kemp, and himself the executive vice president of Beatrice Foods) spoke early in the evening of Los Angeles' dilemma in solving problems of air quality and transportation. Later in the evening he quoted the late Will Durant on the differences between Venice and Florence in the Renaissance that caused the Renaissance to develop in Florence. There was a "keenness of mind," he noted.
The evening brought out Los Angeles' major arts leaders: Gordon Davidson of the Mark Taper and his wife Judi (in a kimono from a recent trip to Japan); Wallace Smith, KUSC's stalwart, soon moving to New York; Stephen Garrett of the Long Beach Museum of Art with Phyllis Nugent; art dealer Lyn Kienholz; Bill Bushnell of the Los Angeles Theatre Center; Robert Middlekauff and his wife Beverly of the Huntington; Jack and Bonnie Armstrong of the Los Angeles Children's Museum; patrons Ardie and Harriet Deutsch, attending with their grandson, Don Granger, who's just moved here to join the Weintraub Entertainment Group.
Business and industry leaders included the Waldo Burnsides, the Fred O'Greens and the William D. Schultes. Chuck Reid, whose wife Lorna was in Rome, attended with beautiful daughter Megan ("I've gotten more dirty looks tonight," he joshed. "Say she's my daughter."); Linda Wachner; Norm McAbee and Deb; Pete de Tagyos and Gina; William and Keith Kieschnick; Bud and Anne Kenney; Stanton and Ernestine Avery; Earle and Marion Jorgensen.
More in the crowd were Chamber chief executive Ray Remy and his wife, Diana Dickenson, Marshall Rutter, Atty. Gen. John Van de Kamp and Andrea; Leslie Dorman.
Chosen for after-dinner remarks, Frank Hodsoll, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, reflected on the diversity of the arts in Southern California: "We honor the arts, not because we want monuments to ourselves, but because we are a free people."