By Jackie HOUCHIN
Ollie Blanning, senior deputy to Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich and a 42-year resident of Tujunga Canyon, assumed the office of president of the L.A. County Arts Commission early in April. Antonovich appointed Blanning to the Commission in 2001 and for the last four years she has been serving in various positions on the executive committee.
While Blanning has spent a lifetime in politics since graduating from Penn State University, first doing legislative research at the Library of Congress and later volunteering on Antonovich’s election campaigns and serving as his Pasadena field deputy for 20 years, she has always had an interest in theatre.
“I love being on the Arts Commission,” Blanning admits candidly. “Arts are important. They put the zest in life. I never leave a theater – whether a small community production or the L.A. Philharmonic – without a smile on my face.”
Blanning believes members of the Commission should be visible in their support of the Arts. “We get a lot of invitations. We need to support the newer groups by attending as many as we can and by spreading the word.” She believes local community newspapers help to do this through their ads and reviews. “Without community newspapers, community arts programs are doomed.”
The L.A. County Arts Commission provides leadership, information and resources for all the artistic disciplines: dance, music, theatre and the visual arts. With more than 3,500 arts organizations and 150,000 working artists in L.A. County, the Commission has many opportunities to enrich the lives of its citizens.
They produce free community programs including the PBS Holiday Celebration broadcast and a year-round program that funds more than 70 free concerts in public places each year.
The Commission administers a grants program that funds more than 300 non-profit arts organizations annually. They provide staff and support for the “Arts for All” program that strives to restore arts education to the 1.7 million students in the County’s 81 school districts. (As of September 2010, the program is working in 44 school districts representing 537,000 students.)
The Commission oversees the Civic Art program that encourages original artwork in public buildings, such as libraries and parks. Its summer Arts Internship program (the largest in the country) provides undergraduate students with paid, on-the-job training and experience, while assisting arts organizations to develop future leaders. This year 74 organizations are providing internships for students.
“I appreciate this opportunity to support the Arts,” Blanning stated graciously. “It’s a worthwhile endeavor and I want to do whatever I can.” However she doesn’t foresee making huge changes in the Commission during her year’s administration. “Change comes from the entire leadership, through collaborative efforts,” she said.
However she does believe the community can make a difference.
“Have you ever given money to the places you like to attend?” she challenged. “Not just the admission price, but a real donation?”
Something to consider.
To learn more about the Arts Commission visit www.lacountyarts.org.