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Entrance to the Getty Museum, Los Angeles (image via Thad Zajdowicz on Flickr)

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California has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19, with restrictions and shutdowns affecting most areas of social, political, public, and private life — especially in the state’s highest population centers, such as Los Angeles. Among the many ways in which LA businesses have been impacted by pandemic policies and complications, the arts have especially suffered; this is devastating in a city where one in every seven jobs is in a creative field, according to the 2020 Otis Report on the Creative Economy. Los Angeles is currently the largest city in the nation whose museums have yet to reopen even temporarily since the pandemic struck last March, according to an article in the New York Times — while the small- and mid-range arts and culture organizations (a few of which, including galleries, have been allowed to reopen) typically have even smaller reserves upon which to draw in uncertain times.

“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, in a press release announcing the LA Arts Recovery Fund. “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.” Last year, the Getty also jumpstarted a $10 million relief fund for museums and visual arts organizations.

This year’s fund is an unprecedented public-private initiative to connect dozens of funders from national philanthropic organizations with LA-based arts and cultural nonprofits, in an effort to preserve jobs and retain the cultural capital of LA’s creative workforce. Los Angeles County arts and cultural organizations with annual operating budgets of $10 million and below prior to March 2020 are invited to apply for funding support.

The fund has raised $38.5 million so far to devote to this effort, and is continuing to solicit new donors in a push to reach $50 million. Supporters of the fund 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; the Perenchio Family Fund; 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 the United States.

“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.”

Competitive grants offered by the fund will provide significant flexible operating support for a minimum of two years to organizations in LA County. The call for grant applications is currently open, and awards will be announced in May.

Sarah Rose Sharp

Sarah Rose Sharp is a Detroit-based writer, activist, and multimedia artist. She has shown work in New York, Seattle, Columbus and Toledo, OH, and Detroit — including at the Detroit Institute of Arts....