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Director Closes the Curtain on Her Arts Agency Tenure

August 06, 1989|DAVID HALDANE | Times Staff Writer

LONG BEACH — Lindsay Shields has already begun removing the mementos from her office walls.

First she took down her signed photo of Luciano Pavarotti, the world-renowned tenor. Then she retired the picture of herself with Placido Domingo, another famous opera singer. Finally, she removed her Minnie Mouse clock.

Leaving Post

"That kept me humorous," she said of the brightly colored timepiece. "When things got tough, all I had to do was look at Minnie's hands going 'round and 'round."

Indeed, she said, there have been many times when the clock came in handy during the five years that Shields, 41, has been executive director of the Public Corp. for the Arts, a nonprofit agency charged by the city with promoting the arts in Long Beach. Next week she leaves to become assistant to the president of the California Institute for the Arts in Valencia, a career advancement.

But she wants to reassure those who have expressed concern regarding the corporation's future. "It isn't going into remission," Shields said during a recent interview in her office. "I'm leaving it in the best of hands."

Those familiar with her role in the organization, though, aren't surprised that the question has been raised.

When Shields took over in 1984, the group operated on an annual budget of about $143,000, employed one full-time staffer and two part-time workers, and offered a handful of programs to support the arts.

In general, the city's arts organizations were struggling. The Long Beach Symphony even canceled part of that year's season because of financial difficulties.

Today the energetic executive director presides over an agency whose 1989 budget will total about $940,000, including major grants from the city and the National Endowment for the Arts. Its staff has been doubled and programs increased by nearly 400%. And after surviving a few lean years, the city's arts organizations in general are financially sound.

"She has taken the organization from practically nothing to being a very potent force in the community," said Bernard Landes, president of the PCA's Board of Directors. "What she has done is given (the city) the concept of art as an important factor in the quality of life."

$637,000 Contributed

As tangible evidence of that change, Shields points to the fact that the city's contribution to the PCA's budget has risen from $150,000 in 1984 to a projected $637,000 this fiscal year. Additional revenue, she said, comes from state and federal grants, as well as corporate sponsorships. And next week the city's Redevelopment Agency will consider a PCA proposal to require developers in downtown Long Beach to set aside 1% of their building costs on public artworks--an unprecedented idea in the city that could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars for art over the next 10 years.

Shields' PCA has used its growing resources to support the arts in a variety of ways.

Last year the organization awarded $256,000 in grants to the Long Beach Symphony, Long Beach Ballet, Civic Light Opera and Long Beach Opera. In addition, she said, 24 smaller community arts groups received grants totaling $64,000.

And in recent years Shields and her staff have launched a variety of new programs designed to draw attention to local art and artists. Among the most visible is the Long Beach Art Expedition, an annual citywide tour of artists' studios, galleries and museums; International City Festival, a three-day event highlighting ethnic arts, crafts and entertainment, and Arts Month, an annual showcasing of local art exhibits and other events.

But much remains to be done, according to Shields.

For one thing, she said, the corporation must make greater efforts to reach "under-served" segments of the community, such as blacks, Asians and Latinos. One way to do that, she said, is to identify and work with proven leaders in those communities. Now that the organization has proven what it can do, she said, it should find a way to raise staff salaries to a level commensurate with the staff's professionalism and worth.

Earn $15,000 More

The issue of money, in fact, was a factor in her own decision to leave. As the PCA's full-time executive director, Shields said, she earns about $38,000 a year for a job that pays as much as $60,000 in some cities smaller than Long Beach. At Cal Arts, she said, she will earn about $15,000 more, including benefits.

Some of Shields' subordinates, she believes, are even more underpaid. Mary Sullivan, the agency's visual arts manager who works four days a week, earns $17,500 annually. Kathy Fleming, Shields' full-time assistant director, makes about $23,900.

"The state pays more to sustain a prisoner than we pay members of our own staff," Shields said. "We don't think that's fair."

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