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NEA announces $5 million in grants for California

April 25, 2012|By Mike Boehm
  • Fourth of July fireworks near the U.S. Capitol and monuments.
Fourth of July fireworks near the U.S. Capitol and monuments. (Capital Concerts and WETA,…)

The National Endowment for the Arts announced $77.2 million in grants Wednesday, including $5 million for California.

More than half the total -- $48.8 million – covers the NEA’s annual operating grants to state and regional arts agencies. The California Arts Council receives $1.1 million, the largest amount for a state.

The grantmaking round included $28.4 million in competitive grants in two categories: $24.8 million for Art Works, which covers arts education, engaging audiences and using the arts as a tool for community improvement, and $3.6 million for Arts in Media, projects involving broadcasting, digital creativity and the Internet.

California organizations won $3.9 million in competitive grants, including $1.6 million for Southern California groups, among them the Los Angeles Philharmonic, CalArts and the contemporary art space LAXART.

The largest grant nationally was $125,000 to the Sundance Institute, based in Park City, Utah, for its programs that help emerging screenwriters, directors, producers and composers hone their work.

The Los Angeles County Arts Commission received $100,000 to help fund artist residencies in public schools, a component of Arts for All, its countywide education initiative. It was the seventh straight year the NEA has helped fund the residencies, which give about 8,000 students a year a chance to learn from professional artists.

At the other end of the spectrum, L.A.’s Blank Theatre was celebrating a $10,000 grant -- the smallest denomination, but the first one it has received from the NEA in its 22-year history. The Hollywood stage company will use the money for its 20th Young Playwrights Festival, a national competition for writers 19 and younger in which the winning plays are staged by professional actors and directors. It opens May 31 at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood. Stephen Karam, who was among the festival’s teenage winners three straight years from 1997 to 1999, went on to write “Sons of the Prophet,” a finalist for this year’s Pulitzer Prize in drama.

Keeping up with the times, the NEA is helping artists explore new turf: Lower Manhattan’s Flea Theater, famed as the birthplace of “The Guys,” a star-powered tribute to New York City firefighters who died responding to the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, received $100,000 for its Virtual Theater Collaborative. According to the NEA, the project “will apply video game technology to professional theater productions to create a new medium for the performing arts,” in which audiences can decide whether to experience a play from the perspective of a character, a production staff member or simply as a viewer.

USC received $40,000 to help it produce an online video game based on the writings of Henry David Thoreau. The game world will be a 3-D simulation of Walden Pond and the neighboring woods outside Concord, Mass., where Thoreau lived in a cabin for two years during the 1840s, writing journal entries that he later turned into “Walden, or Life in the Woods,” his masterpiece of nature writing and philosophy.

Atlanta’s Spellman College received $100,000 to create a computer game geared for young women, about an alien superhero sent to save the Earth from climate disaster, and New York-based Games for Change got $75,000 to adapt “Half the Sky,” a book about the struggles of oppressed women in Africa and Asia by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, as a game for Facebook.  

Among the other L.A.-area grants: $75,000 to Craft in America for a weekly series of YouTube videos about craft artists; $70,000 to the Music Center for its arts education programs; $67,000 to the Renaissance Arts Academy for free music and dance instruction for secondary school students in northeast Los Angeles; $65,000 for the HeArt Project to sponsor weekly arts workshops at alternative high schools; $60,000 to CalArts for developing and staging interdisciplinary work at REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles; and $50,000 to LAXART, for its share of “Made in L.A. 2012,” the first installment of an envisioned biennial exhibition spearheaded by the Hammer Museum. It opens June 2.  

The Los Angeles Philharmonic received $30,000 for three installments of its “LA Phil Live” series, in which its performances are captured  for real-time viewing or rebroadcast in movie theaters across the United States and Canada.

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