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City Council Wants to Help Fund Laguna Museum

Arts: Officials unanimously agree to vote in June on a significantly increased allotment for the once-lost institution.

May 23, 1997|ZAN DUBIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAGUNA BEACH — The Laguna Beach City Council has voiced unanimous support for providing significant funding to the Laguna Art Museum for the first time in its 79-year history, officials said this week.

The council won't approve its 1997-98 budget until June 18, and museum funding probably would be $50,000 to $70,000, said City Manager Kenneth C. Frank. That's well below the museum's $122,500 request but far above the city's $2,000 annual allotment of the past two decades.

Funding may be for one year only, officials said.

Councilwoman Kathleen Blackburn, who has recommended a $90,000 allotment, said "the city definitely will be participating in a grant to assist" the museum, whose board recently waged a successful community campaign to keep the museum an independent institution in Laguna Beach and focused on Laguna art and artists.

City money may be earmarked for capital improvement only, Frank said. The museum needs a new roof, updated air conditioning and humidity regulators and other upgrades, but its board also asked for money for exhibitions, outreach, development and other programs.

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The museum would accept restricted city funds, said museum vice president Janet Eggers, who nonetheless had reservations about opening all the museum's board meetings to the public, another possible city requirement. City Councilman Steve Dicterow sits on the museum's board.

Dicterow, who is pushing for the full $122,500, said the council wants to give the institution substantial support because "we had such a scary and harrowing experience over the possibility of losing local control of the museum that we want to make sure after all that hard work it survives."

The museum was merged last year with the Newport Harbor Art Museum to form the Orange County Museum of Art. Community members, however, were able to reclaim its deed and, with it, independence. It is now operated by the nonprofit Laguna Heritage Corp. and has a 1997-98 budget of about $600,000.

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