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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.

Aired 7/7/14 on KPBS News.

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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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 7, 2014 at 1:22 p.m. ― 2 years, 8 months ago

Great news - glad to see our local officials are recognizing the amazing efforts put forth to turn San Diego Opera around!

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Avatar for user 'Operatenor'

Operatenor | July 7, 2014 at 2:18 p.m. ― 2 years, 8 months ago

Angela, do we know if they also restored the SDO's credit rating? Previously, they reduced it from 4 to 0, and in by so doing, denied the SDO the ability to even apply for a grant next year.

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | July 7, 2014 at 5:41 p.m. ― 2 years, 8 months ago

If it cannot survive on its own, it needs to perish. Does the porn industry get county money to exist? They are both art in the eyes of the beholder.

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Avatar for user 'Peking_Duck_SD'

Peking_Duck_SD | July 7, 2014 at 7:44 p.m. ― 2 years, 8 months ago

muckapoo, while I agree with you on a very broad philosophical level that art can be found in anything and anything can therefore be art, I think your hostility to government contributing SMALL amounts to keep the popular arts thriving (or in SDs case, barely surviving) is ridiculous.

Not only do the arts enrich our lives, they also generate revenue when you look at our city as a whole.

Things like ComicCon and cultural attractions bring people who spend more.

If San Diego is a region with a rich array of cultural venues, it can only help our overall vitality and economy.

Personally, I think the government should contribute MUCH MORE to the Opera AND other arts venues in our city - what they give to the arts here is pocket change and yet people still whine about it.

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Avatar for user 'muckapoo1'

muckapoo1 | July 7, 2014 at 8:54 p.m. ― 2 years, 8 months ago

Duck, you are, of course, right on this one. My point is one of choice. I think the opera is an important part of our city. However, what if a different breed comes to power? What will you say if porn is just as important and funded? We see differences in our city currently. There are people who take pride in our great zoo. The same people want Sea World shut down. Are they not basically the same?

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | July 8, 2014 at 8:56 a.m. ― 2 years, 8 months ago

Why are my tax dollars paying for this?

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Avatar for user 'Angela Carone'

Angela Carone | July 8, 2014 at 1:07 p.m. ― 2 years, 8 months ago

@Operatenor: The commission did void the ranking. According to officials at the city, they will consider reinstating a ranking for the opera at some time in the near future. I was also told the opera can apply for funds next year.

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