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March 22
1875 - Construction begins on San Fernando Railroad Tunnel [story]

UPDATE: The Santa Clarita Arts Commission decided to divide up the $48,000 in grant funds differently from the staff recommendation (discussed in the story below), on the grounds that two of the “Santa Clarita Presents” organizations – SCV International Program and SCV Veterans Memorial Inc. – ranked lower (see story) than the two community groups that would have gone without any money.


The Arts Commission voted 5-0 to allocate the funds as follows:


Santa Clarita Ballet Company: $7,500

Santa Clarita Master Chorale: $7,000

Canyon Theatre Guild: $7,500

ESCAPE Theatre: $7,500

Repertory East Playhouse: $7,500

ARTree Community Art Center: $4,137

Santa Clarita Artists’ Association: $5,000

SCV International Program: $1,863

SCV Veterans Memorial Inc.: $0


The commission also approved the PAC contract with COC as discussed below.


Original story from before Thursday night’s meeting:


The Santa Clarita Arts Commission will consider a new three-year agreement with College of the Canyons for community use of the Performing Arts Center tonight, and the commissioners will decide how to divvy up $48,000 to cover local organizations’ costs of renting the facility.

Under the new agreement, community groups will be able to use the PAC for 21 percent of the time the college and the facility are open. In addition, the city will be able to calendar two dates at the PAC for community functions such as forums or debates, increasing to four in the third year.

The city will pay the college $70,000 per year for the privilege, increasing to $75,000 in year three of the agreement, which will coincide with the tenth anniversary of the PAC. Historically, the city has paid $50,000 annually, rising to $70,000 the past couple of years.

Starting in the second year of the contract, the college staff will gain more control over the PAC calendar.

Use of the PAC was a contentious issue in years past. The city contributed $2.4 million to build the facility and initially thought it was entitled to more dates and more flexibility in scheduling than the college was ultimately able to allow.

As the facility developed over time into a first-rate performance venue, its operators needed to be able to book top acts months and even years in advance. Scheduling difficulties arose when community groups reserved dates that they ultimately didn’t use – creating holes in the calendar and leaving COC with too short notice to fill them.

COC’s own bookings generate revenue for the college, but as a public educational institution it’s limited by law in what it can give away – so it charges rent to community groups.

Last year saw a showdown at an Arts Commission meeting as local organizations packed City Council chambers to fight over a limited number of dollars the city made available to them for that purpose. This year the city issued a bid package whereby the organizations could apply for up to $7,500 each to cover their rent.

The combined maximum of $48,000 for the arts groups is in addition to the $70,000 the city pays directly to COC.

Six local organizations applied for the $7,500 (in one case only $7,000) under what the city calls the “Santa Clarita Presents” series, i.e., performances by community groups at the PAC. All submittals are for the current fiscal year (July 2010 to June 2011), so some groups would see their rent paid retroactively.

City staff is recommending that the Arts Commission approve funding for all six. They are:

* Santa Clarita Ballet Company – for last December’s performance of “The Nutcracker.”

* Santa Clarita Master Chorale – for two upcoming performances in March and June.

* Canyon Theatre Guild – for last year’s  Santa Clarita Regional Theatre production of “The Music Man.”

* ESCAPE Theatre – for an upcoming performance of “Alice in Wonderland” in June.

* SCV International Program – for an upcoming performance called, “A Musical Journey through Latin America.”

* SCV Veterans Memorial Inc. – for an upcoming performance of “A Wartime Romance” by Marilyn Hackett in April.

Together, the six organizations are on tap to receive $44,500 of the $48,000.

Three additional groups applied for funding outside of the Santa Clarita Presents series – which, says city Arts and Events Administrator Phil Lantis, has been the Arts Commission’s top priority for funding since its inception.

The three that applied for any “leftover” money are the Repertory East Playhouse, the ARTree Community Arts Center and the Santa Clarita Artists’ Association, which hoped to use the money to stage a new art show.

The city staff report recommends the remaining $3,500 go to the REP, which had requested $7,500 to pay for a Veterans Memorial and Appreciation Museum – a temporary exhibit that would be installed at the REP’s Main Street location in conjunction with the troupe’s planned production of the World War I-themed play, “Journey’s End.”

Lantis said the selection of the REP over the ARTree or the Artists’ Association was based on a rating system. Arts commissioners reviewed the applications and rated them on a scale of 1 to 100. Of the three, the REP’s application rated highest.

Lantis noted that all funding recommendations were just that – recommendations. The Arts Commission could alter the amounts or select different recipients.

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