A Message from Laura Zucker
My career has followed the trajectory of many in the field: I started as an artist, attending the Yale School of Drama as an actor, moved quickly to directing, and then found my forte in producing and arts administration. My interest in cultural policy grew organically. While running the theatre I founded, the Back Alley, I became chair of the Associated Theatres of LA, and was responsible for negotiating the first 99 seat theatre plan for L.A., an important early opportunity to see the effect of cultural policy in action.
After the planned closure of the theatre, I headed to the Ventura Arts Council, which had an arts education program, ran a gallery and produced chamber music concerts—everything but theatre! As my interest in multidisciplinary work grew, I had the extraordinary opportunity to become the third executive director of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission since its founding in 1947. There I discovered my inner cultural policy wonk and was transfixed by the potential of helping grow the arts ecology in Los Angeles through policy initiatives.
Initially a small agency, the Arts Commission grew from administering a modest grant program and producing the now Emmy Award winning Holiday Celebration, to helming the civic art policy for the county, implementing the regional initiative to restore arts education to all 81 public school districts, and re-inventing the Ford Amphitheatre as a hub for Los Angeles based artists and performing arts organizations. Major accomplishments during my tenure, in addition to completing a $70 million historic renovation of the Ford Amphitheatre, included growing the grant program to $4.5 million annually to fund more than 400 organizations, creating a robust technical assistance program, completing a strategic plan for Cultural Equity and Inclusion that resulted in actionable recommendations, creating the largest paid arts internship program for undergraduates in the country in conjunction with the Getty Trust, and heading the California Cultural Tourism Initiative, which shaped the regional cultural calendar on DiscoverLA.com.
I’ve had the wonderful good fortune to work in the cultural policy arena in both practice and theory. After directing the program for six years, I’m now a senior fellow in the Masters in Arts Management program at Claremont Graduate University where I teach a master class in cross sector work in the arts and a course in cultural policy.
And I continue my work in the field globally as both an independent arts management consultant and through my affiliation as a senior associate with AEA Consulting, steering strategic plans and feasibility studies for arts organizations and government.
I’m proud to say that I was a founding board member of Arts for LA, recognizing the critical need for a strong regional advocacy organization for L.A., and couldn’t be more honored that this fellowship has been created in my name.
Cultural policy creates the sea in which we all swim. The wrong policies can create obstacles to achieving good work; good policies can create currents that carry us to our goals. We often only think about it when things go wrong, but focusing on cultural policy can help us make sure things will go right!
More about Laura
"Titan. Warrior. Great Cook."
On the occasion of her retirement, KCET produced this video honoring the deep impact Laura Zucker had during her 25 years at the LA County Arts Commission.