Let the Arts Live: Los Angeles Visual Arts Coalition Reaches $2.66M | Arts and events

The Los Angeles Visual Arts Coalition (LAVA) has $2.66 million after catalyzing grants from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Teiger Foundation. The coalition serves 34 neighborhoods in the city, representing 33 contemporary visual arts organizations, including San Gabriel Valley destinations such as Fulcrum Arts, Side Street Projects and the Armory Center for the Arts.

LAVA will now provide each member organization with $50,000 in unrestricted funds to support general operations, giving executives the freedom to determine how best to use the funds. The coalition will then issue a report to funders on the specific ways each organization has used the deposits to expand its work and impact.

“It cannot be understated how impactful this coalition is not only for the immediate partner organizations, but also for the larger Los Angeles cultural landscape,” said Yoon Joo Eli Lee, executive director of GYOPO, which is using the deposits to fund the full time positions, a first for the organization. “Small groups like ours struggle with the ability to hire staff due to a lack of funding opportunities for basic operational support and unlimited investment for growth and scaling. LAVA’s confidence in coalition members is confidence in the potential of our evolving cultural landscape.”

LAVA was founded in 2020 to restructure the city’s ecosystem of artists, institutions and philanthropy by building a fundraising model that distributes resources across a collective. In 2022, the coalition membership presented over 100 exhibitions and 1,240 public programs and welcomed over 350,000 visitors.

“What began as casual conversations during an unprecedented moment has transformed into a sustainable, scalable and nurturing coalition of mutual support and care,” said Anne Ellegood, Executive Director at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. “This is an opportunity for our entire chain, from arts workers to philanthropists, to redefine the way we think about the arts and cultural community in Los Angeles.

“Existing fundraising models often put us in competition with each other and can unwittingly create an atmosphere of scarcity. We argue for the value of all our organizations in the belief that there is sufficient capacity among a range of advocates and patrons to allow us all to thrive. With LAVA, we offer funders an unprecedented opportunity to work with us to create a new model and make an impact in Los Angeles, impacting diverse communities that truly represent the county’s demographics.”

Along with the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Tager Foundation, LAVA’s contributors include the Jerry and Terry Cole Family Foundation, the Krupp Family Foundation, the Ruth Foundation for the Arts, Metabolic Studios and Betsy Greenberg.

As Los Angeles continues to bear the financial impacts of the pandemic and navigate an uncertain economic environment, LAVA’s mutually supportive ecosystem stands as a financial hedge that helps ensure the health of the city’s visual arts sector.

“At the heart of LAVA is a shared sense that by elevating the value of mutual aid and deep collaboration, we can work together to create a transformative, radically transparent and intergenerational economic model that benefits us all,” said Laura Hyatt, executive director of the Nomadic Division of Los Angeles. “It really shifts the thinking away from organizations as competitive entities and supports efforts to change the field.”

Over the past two years, the number of community program collaborations and audience cross-pollination among LAVA organizations has tripled. The coalition also engages in dialogues with the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, Arts for LA, and the Contemporary Art League to learn more about LA County’s contemporary art environment and build equity.

LAVA’s goal for the future is to provide health insurance to all 180 full-time and part-time employees working for the 33 member organizations by the end of 2023.

“We’re proud to support a group that took matters into their own hands and saw how together we can better address the issues—exacerbated by but definitely predating COVID—shared by virtually all small visual arts nonprofits,” said Larissa Harris, Executive Director of the Teiger Foundation. “Let the LAVA model spread far and wide.”

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