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California Arts Council Revises Its Grant Panels

November 27, 1987|ZAN DUBIN

In an effort to avoid potential conflicts of interest, the California Arts Council has set new guidelines about how it will decide who gets state money for the arts.

The council, which spent about $11 million on the arts for fiscal 1987-88, voted last week to alter the makeup of its 20 peer review panels. These volunteer panels are composed of arts professionals. Their recommendations are subject to approval by the full council.

By fiscal 1989-90, for all but one grant category, not more than two-thirds of any panel, which average about seven members, may be composed of arts professionals who are associated with an organization that has applied for a grant from the panel on which those professionals serve, the council ruled.

Panels rating the state's "prominent" arts groups, with budgets of at least $1 million, will have a stricter cap: only one-third of those review boards may employ individuals associated with potential grant recipients.

"What we are striving for (when appointing panelists) are those individuals that are most knowledgeable, who bring the most credibility and diversity to the process," said council vice chairwoman Joanne Kozberg in an interview. "And it's always a difficult balance because those people are often most likely to be involved with arts organizations" whether as artistic directors, board members or general managers, for example.

Arthur Warren, deputy general counsel for the National Endowment for the Arts, said that the endowment has no similar limitations. "I'm not sure that kind of a rule would be necessary or useful in a national funding situation, but I would see how it would make sense on a statewide basis," Warren said.

Kozberg, who has been formally examining council panels and potential conflict of interest problems since January, said the new rules were passed only as a part of the council's "normal and continual process of self-examination," and not because of any complaints.

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