Making ideals reality can take a frustratingly long time, especially for organizations in need of funding. Grant-writing and paperwork often come first, followed by waiting. That's part of what's exciting about My LA2050, the $1 million challenge that the Goldhirsh Foundation, a philanthropic outfit with a young, energetic vibe, launched last month. It's fast.
Organizations had until March 28 to submit their “dream of the most innovative…ways to tackle” L.A. problems. These dreams, which had to be feasible, could belong to one of eight “indicators”: arts & cultural vitality, education, environmental quality, health, housing, income & employment, public safety and social connectedness.
By April 2, all of the legit proposals were live on the My LA2050 website and public voting continues through noon on Wed., April 17. The organization with the most votes in each indicator will receive $100,000, all of which must be spent by December of this year. The foundation will also choose two additional projects to grant $100,000. The money comes from the Goldhirsh's endowment and the idea for the challenge resulted from the LA2050 report the foundation commissioned last year, which found, among other things, that L.A. had more arts organizations per capita than other major cities, but less funding.
Most of the arts and culture organizations who submitted projects already do some version of what they propose to do, and will use funding to either keep doing it or complete a specific initiative. There are proposals for arts education, an artist's residency, music archives and the second annual ARTmaggedon celebration. Here's a quick survey of the “Arts & Cultural Vitality” field (though there's so much more, and you should take time to browse and vote):
The two leaders right now:
Fallen Fruit, the L.A.-based collective that uses fruit as its material and subject, wants to expand its “Endless Orchard” project. For this project, fruit trees are planted in a grid then surrounded by mirrors, making it look as though the orchard goes on forever. If they receive the My LA2050 money, the collective plans to grow “Endless Orchards” in neighborhoods around the city. People living in those neighborhoods will be asked to care for the trees and will also be able to eat the trees' fruit.
Machine Project, the alternative space based out of Echo Park, has already led “how to start you own art space” workshops. They plan to use My LA2050 funds to expand this project specifically, helping other art spaces get started. “I talk to people all the time who say I want to start my own space,” says Machine's Mark Allen in their promo video. “My message to them is it's not that hard.” Machine will take applications and then train and support the chosen applicants as they develop programming specific to the community they wish to reach. Compared to another project that's in the top 10, the Hammer Museum's Arts Restore effort to turn abandoned Westwood storefronts into pop-up art spaces, this seems the more sustainable project and it would likely have longer-term influence.
Some arts education candidates:
The foundation, which runs a dance charter school in Echo Park, would use funds to train teachers to implement dance enrichment programs at other schools across L.A. They have a good track record, and supporting high-quality teachers is undoubtedly the best way to bring high-quality arts education to students.
Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), which provides after school workshops to students deemed at risk, would use funds to expand its arts education programs in the MacArthur Park area. Like the Gabriella Foundation, HOLA's strength is that it brings in good educators, usually artists who are as involved in arts in L.A. as they are committed to education.
Archive-building and artist's residencies:
This part-art space, part-kitchen in Atwater hosts residents who provide affordable meals and events for a community that's currently small but hopefully growing.They're all about the vibe, creating a relaxed, welcoming environment.
The alternative space in Chinatown would use funds to give artists studio and exhibition space and support in putting on public events. They already do this to a large extent, but often informally and with limited resources.
Dublab, the community-minded internet radio station, would use funds to create a usable online archive of music events happening in L.A. across different neighborhoods. The archive will include media clips as well as narratives, and dublab will and host monthly community.
Some others to check out:
The L.A. Review of Books, one of a few literary arts candidates.
ForYourArt's 36-hour imagine-the-future project.
Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural's “multimedia wellness” project, which currently has the fifth highest ranking.