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Santa Monica Arts Foundation Could Return to Its Roots

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

September 29, 2015 -- Hoping to one day double the amount raised for art in Santa Monica, City officials will likely return its Arts Foundation to its fundraising roots three decades ago.

The City Council on Tuesday is expected to amend the Foundation’s bylaws, making it a single entity and splitting it from the City’s Arts Commission. The move would make the Foundation more effective at gathering contributions, said Jessica Cusick, who manages the City’s Cultural Affairs Office.

As it stands, the Foundation and Commission combined raise about $500,000 every three years, almost entirely from “Glow,” a popular biennial event that has become its biggest fundraiser since it was launched in 2008, Cusick said.

The Foundation hopes to boost that total to about $1 million, with the additional funds earmarked for grants to the arts community, she said. The Arts Commission has already given the change its blessing.

“It’s such a wonder decision. The commissioners are excited,” Cusick said. “We hope the Council is too.”

A nonprofit agency controlled by a board of directors, the Foundation was created by the Arts Commission in 1983 to raise funds, according to staff.

In 1990, the two entities were consolidated, at the request of both, but the move resulted in some drawbacks.

The Arts Commission was composed primarily of policy makers, not fund raisers, Cusick said. “The needs of a fundraising group are very different from (those of) a policy body,” she said.

Policy advisors didn’t necessarily make the best fundraisers, Cusick said.  Some were artists unaccustomed to going out into the community to tap funds. Others were the heads of nonprofit groups and found it a conflict to be raising money for the Arts Foundation, she said.

Returning the Foundation to its original status has long been discussed, staff wrote in its report. Starting as far back as 1996, the Arts Commission/Foundation Board mentioned it during a cultural plan update called Creative Capital, the City’s cultural master plan adopted by the Council in 2007.

It sets as a specific goal the “re-energizing “of the Arts Foundation’s capacity as a “fundraising and leadership development organization.”

If the change staff is proposing to the Council is made, reaching the Foundation’s ambitious fundraising goals will take time, Cusick said.

“It won’t happen overnight,” she said. “You need to ramp up for these things.”

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