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Orange County Focus

COSTA MESA : Budget Woes Cancel Fall Arts Festival

August 11, 1992|ZAN DUBIN

Money troubles have prompted organizers to cancel September's Arts on the Green, this city's annual outdoor festival that has brought music, dance, theater and visual arts to 20,000 visitors annually in recent years.

The City Council, which typically provides about one-third of the festival's $60,000 budget, put on hold in July a decision to award $87,500 in arts grants to 17 groups until it learns what impact the state's new budget will have on its own spending plans.

That left festival organizers with too little time to raise additional funds.

"We realized we were past a point where we could secure support from businesses," said Lee Heinz, executive director of Costa Mesa's Chamber of Commerce, which stages the event. "We're very disappointed we're not doing it this year."

The 8-year-old festival, held on the grounds beside the South Coast Repertory theater complex, was slated to receive an $18,000 city grant for fiscal year 1992-93.

The rest of its costs were to be covered, as usual, by concession sales and corporate or other private donations.

Heinz said he was optimistic about reviving the two-day festival next year, with or without city money.

Irene Hajak, chairwoman of the Cultural Arts Advisory Committee, said she is pessimistic about saving this year's grants budget, largely because of Councilwoman Sandra L. Genis, an outspoken opponent of municipal arts funding.

"Genis would do anything in the world to keep us from getting" the grant money, said Hajak, whose committee recommends grant recipients to the council. This year's proposed allotment is half the amount the city gave to the arts last year, she said.

Because city arts funding is mostly earmarked for outreach and education, such programs will "definitely be hurt" if the grants budget is eliminated, Hajak said.

Free ticket programs for senior citizens and scholarships for needy students to study theater could be cut at South Coast Repertory, said producing artistic-director David Emmes.

He added that new or alternative funding sources are "extremely difficult" to find in the current recession, which has plagued arts groups nationwide and recently contributed to the demise of Costa Mesa's South Coast Symphony.

Genis, one of three incumbents up for reelection in November, said she wouldn't support arts grants "at all" if they didn't largely support outreach. "I believe art should be funded privately," she said Monday.

A decision on the arts budget will be made once the state budget quagmire is resolved, Genis said. State budget constraints could mean a loss to the city of up to $4 million, she said.

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