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Cultural Non-Profits’ City Facility Leases Secure - For Now

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Photo by juliejordanscott via Flickr

Photo by juliejordanscott via Flickr
After years of proposed budget cuts for the Department of Cultural Affairs, recommendations from the mayor to cut art grant money, and now the threat of charging non-profit art organizations rent, the art community has had one simple message: no. Currently there is a program in place allowing non-profits to rent city owned buildings, such as Barnsdall Art Park in Hollywood and the Watts Towers Arts Center, for $1.00 per-year. The lease is essentially free for non-profits acting in the interest of the public. But with recent budget strains the City Administrative Officer (CAO) recommended the City abolish the program as a sort of revenue source. If passed non-profits will start to pay at least half of the market rate rent.

However after many letters, consistent lobbying, and general public concern for the non-profits the City Council decided to send the proposal back to committee earlier this week. City Councilman Richard Alarcon admitted, “If the nonprofits charged us in real value what they are providing us, we would owe them money,” according to Arts for LA, an art advocacy group. The non-profit lease subsidy was sent to the Arts, Parks, Health & Aging Committee for further consideration after a 12 to 3 vote.

Arts for LA, SPARC (The Social and Public Art Resource Center), and other art advocacy groups see this as a huge positive. Many of the non-profits that would be affected by this proposal are art organizations who are already experiencing financial difficulties.

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Opinion writer Leonard Jacobs in his blog Clyde Fitch Report asked the inevitable question of why, when the LA arts takes such a tiny portion of the overall city budget anyway.

For now art advocates are celebrating, but they know the battle is far from over.