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City Finds More Money For San Diego Opera

Above: The city's arts commission voted in June to replenish some of the funds awarded to the San Diego Opera saying the company restabilized.

San Diego arts commissioners gave an extra $100,000 to the resuscitated San Diego Opera just two months after they cut the company’s funding for fiscal 2015, saying it was unstable.

The San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture replenishes its funding of the San Diego Opera in light of the company's restructuring.

“Between that point and recently there’s been a lot of progress internally in the opera to bring stability to the organization,” said Robert H. Gleason, chairman of the Commission for Arts and Culture, an advisory group the mayor appoints.

The City Council found the extra cash after revising the city’s budget. Council President Todd Gloria and Councilwoman Lori Zapf strongly encouraged the arts commissioners to give the opera’s allocation another look.

When they did, the commissioners voted unanimously to increase the opera’s funding to $260,000 for the fiscal year that began July 1.

The commissioners make recommendations to the council and mayor about how much to award to local arts groups from hotel-motel tax revenues.

In making their decisions, the commissioners consider how well run the groups are, among other criteria.

In May, the commissioners held a special meeting to decide how much money the opera should receive given the upheaval then surrounding the company. The opera was under threat of closure after its board voted in March to shut down for financial reasons. Over half of the opera’s board then resigned and the company’s longtime leadership was forced out.

The commissioners voted 4-2 to give the opera only $160,000 of the $383,322 it was set to receive based on contracts it had been awarded by the city in recent years.

Since May, the opera restructured after raising $2 million through a crowdfunding campaign. It now has a new board and interim director.

Gleason said with those changes and successes in fundraising, the commissioners decided in June that the opera should receive additional funding.

Carol Lazier, the opera’s board president, said the company was happy to receive the extra $100,000 but disappointed to not get the full $383,322.

“I totally understand it,” Lazier said. “The commission is told one year that the opera is a model arts organization and then six months later they’re told the doors are closing. We have to rebuild trust and prove ourselves, but it was disappointing we didn’t get the whole amount.”

The contract awarded to the opera does come with strings attached. The money must be used only for education and outreach or for hiring local artists.

The $100,000 extra that the opera received was substantial, considering that the additional pool of money the City Council came up with for arts groups was $252,000. That remaining money was disbursed to other arts organizations.

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