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Arts Leaders Decry Proposed Budget Cuts : Budget: City's Cultural Affairs Department would take a 30% overall cut under Bradley plan, with grants slashed 50%.

April 22, 1993|DIANE HAITHMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Mayor Tom Bradley's proposed $3-million cut to the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department--presented Friday as part of his 1993-94 city budget plan--could spell disaster for some small arts organizations, as well as force larger arts institutions to curtail crucial community outreach programs, say members of the city's arts community.

"It is sad, and even dangerous, that some people think the arts are superfluous, particularly today, in L.A.," said Bill Kobin, president and chief executive officer of public broadcasting station KCET-TV. "I think we need them more than ever in this tense society."

Cultural Affairs manager Al Nodal said the department would suffer an overall 30% cut, but its grant programs--Los Angeles Endowment for the Arts, the murals program and the festivals program--would be cut by 50% because administration is already pared to the bone. The 1992-93 department budget is $10.3 million.

The proposed cuts imperil the department's support for various programs, which this year includes: 263 grants to arts organizations totaling $2.1 million; 196 grants to individual artists totaling 603,000; $700,000 for festivals citywide; and $500,000 for murals.

"There is a lot of overhead that we are sort of stuck with, and we don't want to eliminate jobs," Nodal said in an interview. "We are looking at reducing costs in administration as well as everything else, but we've been cut so much in the last three years, we've already lost 25 job slots. We are going to reorganize the people that we've got, and try to save their jobs."

Almost half the arts budget comes from the so-called "bed tax," which provides cultural affairs with 1% of the city's Transient Occupancy Tax. The amount depends on the strength of the economy and hotel occupancy.

Nodal added that the City Council is considering eliminating the bed tax as well as the Arts Development Fund, which collects fees on new commercial development over $500,000, and another tax which provides a portion of 1% of the total cost of all construction improvement or remodeling for public works capital improvement undertaken by the city.

The city is facing a projected $190 million shortfall for its 1993-94 budget, which will total $3.8 billion, according to Bradley's spending plan. The mayor said last week that he was saddened to propose such drastic measures, but that his actions were "unavoidable."

City Councilman Joel Wachs, who was instrumental in creating the city's arts endowment and is the council's biggest arts booster, said he hoped to salvage the budget. "I'm certainly going to try," said Wachs, who lost in his mayoral bid Tuesday, but retained his council seat. "We're talking about a small amount in the total budget, but it's a big amount to the arts. If they took the whole damn thing damn away it wouldn't make a difference in solving this city's problems. It will be a tough battle, but we'll fight."

Steven D. Lavine, president of California Institute of the Arts, which received a grant of $85,000 in 1992-93, called the budget proposal "terrible news."

"Our grant doesn't affect the core educational enterprise at CalArts. What it does affect is a set of very ambitious programs in which our students are working with students at the Los Angeles Center for Photographic Studies downtown, the Armory Center in Pasadena, and the Inner City Cultural Center," he said. "It's coming at exactly the wrong moment, when the schools are in trouble, and the whole city is in trouble. These programs, for a few dollars, hold out tremendous promise for young people that life could be better."

Susan Loewenberg, artistic director of L.A. Theatre Works, recipient of a $20,000 grant last year, called the pending cuts a "death wish for the arts. What can one say? It's sad," she continued. "We've already seen--and I don't think anybody who is being honest would disagree with me--the death of theater in L.A. It's gone."

Representatives of the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Los Angeles Music Center Opera, which along with the Japanese American Cultural Community Center were the largest recipients in 1992-93 with grants of a little more than $100,000 apiece, also said they would have to cut back outreach programs.

Leni Boorstin, public affairs director for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, said that budget cuts in other city departments such as transportation will place further financial strain on arts groups wanting to host parades, street fairs or other outdoor events by forcing them to pick up the tab for extra traffic control or such expenses as banner fees, which have been waived by the city in the past. The Philharmonic, she said, will soon have to pay traffic control fees during its popular Hollywood Bowl summer season.

Barry Glass, artistic director of the Aman Folk Ensemble dance troupe, which received a $27,000 grant in 1992-93, said "the arts are so often seen as being frills instead of essential to our culture; obviously I disagree with that."

The Venice-based Social and Public Art Resource Center (SPARC), anticipating the announcement of cuts, had a letter to its supporters ready to mail last Friday, urging them to write council members and ask the city to continue its support for the center's "Great Walls Unlimited: Neighborhood Pride" mural program. In 1992-93, SPARC received $370,000 for the project under a contract with the cultural affairs department. The total SPARC budget for 1992 was $675,000.

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