Friday, February 11, 2011

James Irvine Foundation Gives LACMA $500,000 for Watts Towers

The new partnership between the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art to conserve and promote the Watts Towers has paid its first dividend—a big one, writes Mark Boehm in the Los Angeles Times.
The museum announced Wednesday that it has received a $500,000, one-year grant from the James Irvine Foundation to carry out its work on the towers. The city couldn’t have landed the grant on its own because the San Francisco–based foundation doesn’t fund government agencies.
Facing extreme financial pressure, the city, which manages the towers under a long-term contract with the state of California, which owns them, had budgeted just $150,000 for this year’s work, down from a peak of $300,000 a few years ago. Last spring Virginia Kazor, the historical curator who had supervised towers conservation, took an early retirement offered as part of the drive to reduce government spending.
Conservation work came to a standstill; Olga Garay, executive director of the Department of Cultural Affairs, said no one else on the staff had the expertise to oversee it.
Don Cherry  Brown Rice   1975
The solution was the partnership with LACMA, whose director, Michael Govan, has loved Simon Rodia’s folk-art masterpiece, now a national historic landmark, since the 1980s, when he was a graduate student at UC San Diego and made special trips to see it.
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