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Arts Gifts : Be Patient, Urges Getty Fund Officer

October 06, 1987|SUZANNE MUCHNIC | Times Art Writer

News that the J. Paul Getty Trust had established a $3-million fund to support the visual arts in Los Angeles arrived the day before the earthquake, setting off tremors of excitement among artists and organizations who hope to reap some benefit. Some of them may strike it rich--or at least get a leg up from poverty--but, for the moment, administrators of the fund counsel patience.

For one thing, guidelines for application and eligibility are not ready, though they are promised by the end of this year.

For another, the fund will not be fully operative until 1990.

"We will not get all the money at once," said Jack Shakely, president of the California Community Foundation, the Los Angeles-based organization that will manage the fund for the Getty.

Shakely said the $3 million will be deposited in four installments. The first allotment of $500,000 is in hand; another $500,000 will follow early next year. The remainder will be deposited in $1-million increments, one in 1989, the final payment in 1990.

Shakely said he expected about $250,000 in income from the fund to be disbursed in gifts each year when the full $3 million is in place. "But not the first year," he said, estimating that between $50,000 and $75,000 will be awarded in 1988.

Asked about policies that may determine gifts, Shakely said he didn't want to "second-guess the committee" but gave some possible directions:

"I imagine that we will slide into various segments of the visual arts, perhaps beginning with gifts to artists the first year and adding organizations later," he said. The trust will not give grants for construction of buildings because they are too costly. "We will probably be project-oriented and launch some exhibitions," he said.

The trust can legally spend three-fourths of 1% of the endowment's market value on grants and gifts. Numbers and denominations of gifts under the new fund have yet to be established, but Shakely speculated that gifts will go no lower than $1,000 and probably rise to $25,000 or $50,000.

Establishment of the new fund marks the end of a four-year Getty program that has awarded one-time, unrestricted funds to local visual arts organizations and research libraries. Instead of awarding six- and seven-figure gifts to well-established museums and universities, the new program will benefit artists and emerging visual-arts institutions.

With the current market value of its endowment now set at $3 billion, the J. Paul Getty Trust must spend about $128 million annually on all its programs. The local gifts--now totaling $29.5 million--are a relatively small part of that budget. When they were initially established in 1984, they took the art community by surprise. Getty officials had indicated previously that the trust was strictly an operating foundation and could not make grants or gifts.

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