Orange County arts groups will receive thousands of dollars more from the California Arts Council this year, but, in most cases, that doesn't mean the council thinks those groups have improved artistically.
The council on Monday voted to award 17 county organizations a total of $435,419, 36.6% more than what 15 groups got last year. All but one got larger subsidies, and four of this year's grants were at least twice as big.
Factors other than artistic merit were behind most of the increases, council officials said. The biggest was a 50% boost in the CAC's budget, which created a larger pot to be divvied up statewide. That allowed the CAC to give $7.1 million in all to 614 California organizations, compared with about $5 million given to 595 groups last year.
Another factor was growth in several groups' budgets. Groups with budgets of more than $1 million may apply for larger grants than those with budgets under that amount.
The Laguna Playhouse, for instance, was awarded $13,209, up from $6,090. The increase--117%--was the biggest among O.C. awards. But the theater's budget mushroomed by about $700,000 to $3.2 million, largely because of added performances; its 3- ranking from the CAC is the same as last year. Council panels give out by rankings, from a low of 1 to a high of 4, reflecting their assessment of groups' artistic and managerial strength.
"The extra money will definitely come in handy," said playhouse executive director Richard Stein, who said he believes his troupe has improved artistically as well.
The Fullerton Civic Light Opera, whose grant slightly more than doubled to $9,947, found itself in a similar position. General manager Griff Duncan said that increased attendance boosted the company's budget by about $350,000 to $1.3 million, but its rank of 3- did not change.
On the other hand, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County's ranking rose from 4- to 4 and its grant increased 115% to $71,483. The society also won $6,000 to present the Kronos Quartet on Oct. 12 and a $50,000 Challenge grant, its first from the CAC, making it the overall biggest local winner.
"Wow. Wow," said executive director Dean Corey, saying that the society will apply its Challenge grant toward its ambitious yearlong Beethoven Festival, which will culminate with performances of all nine Beethoven symphonies by John Eliot Gardiner and the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique during a single week next May.
Three groups won their first state grants: the Anaheim Ballet, the Mozart Camerata (which recently changed its name to the Mozart Classical Orchestra), each receiving $4,000, and the Orange County Museum of Art, which got $12,168.
Meanwhile, the Pacific Symphony received the largest single grant, $84,941.
The Bowers Museum of Cultural Art, whose award dropped by about $4,600 to $45,118, was the only institution to come away with less than it got last year. While the museum's rank remained at 4, its budget (currently at $4.2 million) dropped by about $700,000 between 1996 and 1997, the years on which its grant was based, a council official said.
Two groups that applied last year were absent from this year's list. Thomas Bradac, founder of the Orange-based Shakespeare Orange County, said he didn't have time to apply. Linda Ruhland at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton said the center was without a development director to attend to the task until she took the post in January, after the application deadline.
Another benefit from the CAC's budget increase came Monday when the council also approved an additional $27,500 to nine local groups that had been awarded grants earlier in the year.
Each of eight groups that previously received $2,000 in Multicultural Entry Grants were awarded $2,000 more. The groups are: The Arpana Dance Company, the Arpana Foundation (a presenting organization), Nicholson Pipes and Drums, the Multicultural Arts Council of Orange County, Scottish Highland Dancers, Xipe Totec Danzants Aztecas, 'Ainahau o Kaleponi Hawaiian Civic Club, and Ramaa Bharadvaj and the Angahara Ensemble.
The Arts Orange County service organization, which won $28,000 from the council's State Local Partnership Program, was given an additional $11,500.
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O.C.'s State Arts Grants
The following are the Orange County arts groups that will receive California Arts Council grants, the recipient's ranking and 1998-99 grant, followed in parentheses by the amount the group received last year.
Group Rank This Year Last Year Anaheim Ballet 3- $4,000 $0 Ballet Pacifica 3- $7,053 $3,575 Bowers Museum of Cultural Art 4 $45,118 $49,754 Fullerton Civic Light Opera 3- $9,947 $4,905 Huntington Beach Art Center 4- $6,706 $6,521 Laguna Art Museum 3 $4,000 $0 Laguna Playhouse $13,209 3- $6,090 Mozart Camerata 3- $4,000 $0 New Year's Jazz at Indian Wells 3- $4,000 $2,000 Opera Pacific 3+ $47,063 $31,865 Orange County Museum of Art 3- $12,168 $0 Pacific Chorale 4 $19,491 $13,780 Pacific Symphony 4 $84,941 $74,735 Philharmonic Society of Orange County 4 $71,485 $33,304 St. Joseph Ballet 4 $11,252 $9,023 South Coast Repertory 4 $8,2483 $73,475 William Hall Master Chorale 3+ $8,503 $5,545