Who would have thought that arts funding could summon such great emotions, and rend the City Council Chambers with woeful demonstration? The great battle of the Office of Cultural Affairs’ recommendations for 2012 funding played out last Saturday as a drama in Two Acts, with an intermission.
The stage opened to members of the Arts and Cultural Advisory Committee arrayed in semi-circle as befits such wise council. First to approach them was The Herald. She recounted the history of the conflict, how earlier this year the San Pedro Playhouse presented Terrence McNally’s Corpus Christi, a retelling of the Christ story with a gay Jesus, and how this play did cause great offence to the mighty Church of the Right. In an effort to forestall battle between Church and Arts she urged reconciliation, proclaiming that “Christ could be homosexual, He still died for my sins.” She then asked all Christians and artists in the room to rise. Many did so, and in a scene that — outside of Texas — would most likely be construed as breaching probability, they recited the Lord’s Prayer.
But the contest ensued as destined. One by one, like great champions, members of the opposed forces strode forth.
An ancient warrior, dressed in black, demanded the destruction of “something that is immoral — the San Pedro Playhouse.” Another valiant of the Right declared, “We don’t like such blasphemy,” and urged the Committee to “completely defund the San Pedro Playhouse” for presenting such “ob-seen-ities.”
Countering the Righteous wrath, artists and their kin gathered to support the beleaguered SPP. Among them were many fighters from the Esperanza Army, who spoke of their great love for the city’s children, and for freedom of speech. The Right countered with a mighty captain, whose words summed up the grudge, “We are having a lot of immorality because of this freedom. So did the devil, and look where he is.”
Act Two opened with the Righteous awaiting judgment on their foe, while a procession of Arts officials approached the Committee. Now the fight over the Playhouse rescinded, as each spoke for their own concern, and how they might be funded. Many asked for more, some were content with their allotment. A few unfortunates, lowly rated, pled not to be thrown off OCA Island.
After all were heard, the Committee spoke. Their decision: That last year’s support of SPP was operational, not specifically marked for the much-discussed McNally play, so all the fighting talk was deemed moot. Then the original OCA funding recommendations were put to a vote. All were passed as published, and so over $5 million in grants will be forwarded to the City Council, a cultural largesse surpassing that of many larger cities. But how, during a year with city revenue from taxes on the hotel industry flat, and funds from the state arts commission drastically reduced (and not yet included in the budget), could such a thing be?
The individual awards this year are often even larger than before, because a notable arts group lost all support, freeing up many dollars to be spread about. It wasn’t the San Pedro Playhouse, but Centro Alameda, Inc, known to the public as Museo Alameda, that was totally defunded, not receiving a dime of the $229,350 they received last year. But that story is for another telling.