The city’s funding programs for arts, culture and festivals have caught a fair bit of attention lately. A few readers have asked for a look at what these programs are and who gets the funding.

Here’s a breakdown of the top 10 recipients of the lion’s share of the city funding in the current fiscal year and next year:

Top 10 recipients of city organizational support funding for fiscal year 2011:

  1. Old Globe Theatre: $387,456
  2. San Diego Symphony: $374,445
  3. La Jolla Playhouse: $364,704
  4. San Diego Opera: $354,622
  5. San Diego Society of Natural History: $340,087
  6. Museum of Contemporary Art: $338,351
  7. San Diego Museum of Art: $269,935
  8. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center: $258,850
  9. San Diego Air and Space Museum: $225,156
  10. Maritime Museum of San Diego: $221,393

The 10 biggest contracts the commission’s asking the city to approve for the next budget year look pretty similar:

  1. Old Globe Theatre: $394,382
  2. San Diego Symphony: $391,934
  3. San Diego Opera: $387,863
  4. La Jolla Playhouse: $360,839
  5. San Diego Society of Natural History: $324,837
  6. Museum of Contemporary Art: $259,234
  7. San Diego Air and Space Museum: $252,647
  8. San Diego Museum of Art: $244,056
  9. Reuben H. Fleet Science Center: $235,956
  10. New Children’s Museum: $151,833
  11. Maritime Museum of San Diego: $193,213

But there are a lot more than 10 groups that get money. For the coming budget year, the commission is recommending that 75 groups get some portion of the $5.8 million in the organizational support program. On the other end of the spectrum, the grants are a lot smaller.

Here are the 10 recipients proposed to get the smallest contracts from the city next year:

  1. Art of Elan: $3,258
  2. Common Ground Theater: $4,883
  3. Samahan: $5,362
  4. San Diego Writers Ink: $7,044
  5. San Diego Guild of Puppetry: $7,284
  6. Camarada: $7,598
  7. Women’s History Museum: $8,184
  8. Westwind Brass: $8,269
  9. San Diego Museum Council: $8,520
  10. Villa Musica: $9,145

The money comes from hotel-room taxes. Arts groups apply to the city under two main programs — the Organizational Support Program, which can help pay for personnel and operating expenses, and Creative Communities San Diego, which usually helps groups put on events or happenings like festivals, parades or murals. Each City Council member and the mayor get some discretionary funding to give various groups or festivals, as well.

The lion’s share of the funding goes to organizational support. To apply, arts groups fill out multiple rounds of paperwork. The commission recommends an amount for each group to receive and submits that as part of the budget for the City Council and the mayor to decide on.

In the current fiscal year, The Old Globe Theatre got $387,456 from the city. (Its annual operating budget in 2009 was $19,056,518.) Old Globe spokesman Jeff Weiser said the theater used the funding for actor salaries.

The La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, for another example, has an annual operating budget is $371,362 and the city gave it $28,050 for this year. Diane Salisbury, the group’s executive director, said half of the city funds are used for concert production costs. The rest of the funding is split between paying guest performers and artists, staff salaries, advertising and marketing.

To be eligible for the money, arts groups must be local, nonprofit and have at least three years of ongoing arts and culture programs in the city. The city’s funds can’t be the whole budget for the group; they must be able to match $3 in other grants, contributions and fundraising for every dollar that the city would give them.

The applicants are then prioritized based on the groups’ financial stability and robustness of their arts and culture mission. No single group can take home more than 10 percent of the city’s possible pot of money that year. Arts groups determine how much they can request by using a formula based on their annual operating income. Then the city disburses a portion of that based on how much money there is to go around.

The city granted a total of $6,818,682 through these programs to various arts and culture groups in 2011.

Amy Smith contributed to this post.

You can reach arts editor Kelly Bennett directly at or 619.325.0531. Or you can keep up with her on Twitter @kellyrbennett or on Facebook.

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

Leave a comment

We expect all commenters to be constructive and civil. We reserve the right to delete comments without explanation. You are welcome to flag comments to us. You are welcome to submit an opinion piece for our editors to review.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.