Budget & Finance Committee Discusses Cultural Affairs

Fri, 04/29/2011 (All day)

Camille Ameen providing Public TestimonyThe Department of Cultural Affairs for the City of LA presented the proposed 2011-2012 departmental budget to the Budget & Finance Committe on April 29th, 2011.  The Committee also heard public testimony from several stakeholders expressing support for the Department's activities and programs.

DCA Executive Director Olga Garay informed the Budget & Finance Committee that the DCA is in support of the Mayor's budget proposal and would like to move forward with it.  The budget includes some cuts, including a reduction in grants, but is consistent with cuts proposed to other city departments in an especially difficult budget year. Garay spoke to the importance of cultural grants, noting these monies “support the indigenous arts groups in our city, which in turn support residents."  Although the average organizational grant is $6,000 to $7,000, Garay said, they leverage additional support for these service providers and put DCA in "a strong partnership situation with the cultural groups that have made this community so vibrant.  It’s vital to support these groups that are working with very little public support, and to give grants to a multiplicity of groups, not solely those in the very few cultural facilities the city owns and operates."

The members of the Budget & Finance Committee expressed their support of the Department of Cultural Affairs.  Councilman Jose Huizar spoke eloquently on the value of the department, citing the University of Guadelajara's Spanish-language Book Fair this weekend as a direct result of the Department of Cultural Affairs' trip to Guadelajara for the International Book Fair last year.  Councilman Huizar observed, "Arts are not only good in and of themselves, but also for their financial benefits that create a return on investment." 

Several community members provided public testimony, thanking the Council for their commitment to arts and culture and encouraging them to maintain support for the Department of Cultural Affairs.  Speakers included Camille Ameen, Co-Founder of Inside Out Community Arts, Dr. Margaret Martin, Founder of the Harmony Project, Lloyd Schwartz from Storybook Theatre and Theatre West, Kristin Paglia, Executive Director of PS Arts, Nyla Arslanian, Executive Director of the Hollywood Arts Council, Arts for LA Executive Director Danielle Brazell and Advocacy Manager Abe Flores.

Garay noted that funds had been restored for facilities at Barnsdall Art Park and the William Grant Still Arts Center, both of which had originally been on the list to be partnered out to a nonprofit partner through a Request for Proposal (RFP) process.  The RFPs will move forward for several other facilities, including the Warner Grant Theatre, Madrid Theatre and the Lincoln Heights Junior Art Center.  If the RFP process for those facilities is not finished by the end of the 2011 calendar year, the Department will run into additional issues maintaining personnel at those facilities.


Garay also reported that although DCA has half the staff of 2008 levels, they have been able to raise $14 million in outside funding in the past three and a half years, taking care not to solicit funds that grantees also pursue: "Our constituents are out there fundraising, and we’ve been very careful not to encroach on the funding sources that nourish the constituents we serve," she noted.  DCA is also working with LAUSD Arts Education leadership to strengthen that partnership, as 35-36% of DCA grants are for arts education activities both in and out of school. 

Photo: Camille Ameen, Co-Founder of Inside Out Community Arts.  For more photos of those who provided testimony, please click here to visit our Flickr set.