New $38.5M Fund Launches For Los Angeles Arts Pandemic Recovery

  • February 09, 2021 15:10

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LA Art Show, 2018.
photo: ARTFIXdaily

The largest-ever pooled private investment for arts across Los Angeles County will sustain community organizations and save jobs

Arts nonprofits in LA County will benefit from a record $38.5 million pandemic recovery fund, the result of an unprecedented collaboration between Los Angeles-based and national philanthropic organizations.

The LA Arts Recovery Fund pools contributions from more than a dozen funders to provide multi-year operating support for small and medium-sized arts organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — those with smaller budgets that play vital roles in their communities. 

Lady Liberty, this replica of the statue's right hand is roughly two-thirds scale of the original. 2017. Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles.
photo: ARTFIXdaily

Initiated by the J. Paul Getty Trust and administered by the California Community Foundation, a longtime collaborator in supporting the arts in LA, the Fund quickly attracted local and national funders who recognized the unique LA arts ecosystem and its relevance worldwide. The fund will also support organizations with access to technical assistance and capacity-building support. Donors are asked to join the effort to increase the pool to a goal of $50 million.

“Los Angeles’s arts organizations embody the diverse cultures of our region and are critical to making us one of the most vibrant, innovative, and collaborative arts communities in the nation,” said Joan Weinstein, director of the Getty Foundation, an operating program of the Getty Trust. “By organizing the LA Arts Recovery Fund, we’re mirroring their commitment to collaboration, coming together to provide what we hope will be meaningful support at a time when the very existence of these organizations is threatened. In the process, we hope to help create a more equitable and inclusive arts sector for the future.”

Supporters include The Ahmanson Foundation, Vladimir & Araxia Buckhantz Foundation, California Community Foundation, Ford Theatre Foundation/LA County Department of Arts and Culture, J. Paul Getty Trust, Jerry and Terri Kohl, Robert Lovelace and Alicia Miñana, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Music Man Foundation, The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation, Perenchio Foundation, Snap Foundation, and Sony Pictures Entertainment & Sony Global Relief Fund. The Fund includes a challenge grant from the Ford Foundation’s “America’s Cultural Treasures” initiative, designed to support Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous arts organizations in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and to acknowledge and honor the diversity of artistic expression in America.


LA County’s nonprofit arts organizations, along with the region’s artists, are powerful contributors to the local creative economy, which generates more than $203 billion annually. One of every seven jobs in Los Angeles is in a creative field, according to the 2020 Otis Report on the Creative Economy.

LA Art Show, 2018.
photo: ARTFIXdaily

Yet the pandemic has taken a toll on arts and cultural nonprofits. Surveys by Americans for the Arts show that almost half of LA County arts nonprofits have dipped into financial reserves and one-third have laid off or furloughed staff. One in seven say they are not confident their organization will survive the impacts of COVID-19.

“This is a defining moment for Los Angeles. Our region runs on creativity, and all the arts are interconnected,” said Wendy Garen, president and chief executive officer of The Ralph M. Parsons Foundation. “The LA Arts Recovery Fund represents a down payment on the robust arts community we need, now and after the pandemic. Investing in our community’s cultural and arts organizations today is an investment in a more resilient economy and vital future for the entire region.”

The pandemic has magnified pre-existing financial and structural challenges experienced by arts nonprofits. On average, arts organizations hold fewer than four months of operating cash reserves. Such budget constraints, combined with an unclear picture of how and when cultural institutions will re-open, and under what conditions larger gatherings will be safely permitted, have exposed the financial fragility of this critical part of LA’s nonprofit sector. Further, inequities in arts funding in the U.S., particularly among small to medium-sized organizations and those that serve diverse communities, add to the financial stresses experienced by arts leaders.

“The arts are vital to the wellbeing of our communities and our region's recovery in this pivotal moment, but our cultural sector cannot fulfill that mission without additional support,” said Kristin Sakoda, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture. “Driven by a public-private partnership, collective philanthropic effort, and a commitment to arts organizations that reflect our diverse cultures and communities, the LA Arts Recovery Fund will fortify nonprofits within our cultural ecology so they can fulfill their visions, now and into the future.”

LA Art Show. 2009.
photo: ARTFIXdaily


The Fund was launched in Los Angeles and organized by local funders and informed by interviews with arts leaders in the region. National foundations soon joined the effort.

“This is the time for bold action,” said Elizabeth Alexander, president of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. “Los Angeles is justifiably celebrated for its extraordinary multiculturalism and vibrant arts communities, and this past year has underscored the power of LA arts organizations to help sustain us despite the devastating isolation, uncertainty, and loss generated by the pandemic. For the incredible moments of transformation, justice, and healing that they have given to us, we must give to them now.”

The Ford Foundation selected the Fund for its “America’s Cultural Treasures” initiative based on the LA-based funders’ previous significant investments in the arts and strong commitment to social justice and racial equity.

"We are thrilled to be a part of the LA Arts Recovery Fund and provide vital support to artists and arts nonprofits impacted by the pandemic," said Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation. "The arts are central to our way of life and provide a critical lens through which we understand the world around us. We cannot rebuild our economy without also rebuilding the creative sector and working to ensure a diversity of organizations can thrive in the years to come."

Competitive grants will provide significant flexible operating support for a minimum of two years to organizations in LA County with annual operating budgets of $10 million and below prior to March 2020. Grant applications are available starting today at Grant awards will be announced in May.

“The massive toll of the pandemic on LA’s arts sector demands an urgent response. LA-based funders launched this movement to support our arts organizations, but more help is needed,” said Antonia Hernandez, president and CEO of the California Community Foundation. “We need a broad-based coalition of philanthropy, public and private institutions, and community members to come together to meet this moment and mobilize for larger systemic solutions.”

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