CalArts touts fund drive

The board of trustees for CalArts, which includes such industry heavyweights as Michael Eisner, Barry Diller, Jeffrey Katzenberg and Michael Ovitz, has gone public with a $ 60 million fundraising campaign for the school.

Not surprising, given the clout of many of CalArts’ trustees, the announcement yesterday had a small footnote–they’ve already raised $ 30 million in mostly in-house pledges.

“It’s easy to think that the arts can be dispensed with,” said Katzenberg, who is co-chairing the fundraising campaign, “but it’s artists and their work that help connect us as human beings. We believe that many of CalArts’ graduates are now shaping the future of this country.”

Among the students who have graduated from CalArts over the past two decades are Tim Burton, Ed Harris, Bill Irwin and Paul Reubens.

“Thirty-five of the key artists on ‘Beauty and the Beast’ were Cal/-Arts graduates,” Katzenberg noted.

Walt and Roy Disney co-founded CalArts with Lulu May Von Hagen. The school, established through the merger of the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music and the Chouinard Art Institute, eventually opened in 1970, after Walt Disney’s death.

The current board actually began this fundraising effort two years ago when CalArts, like most other schools, was falling victim to the dropoff in public and corporate funding.

“We knew at that time that if we didn’t do this, the school would eventually be running a deficit that could endanger its programming,” Katzenberg said. “So we had a call to arms and it was a good thing we started then, because it’s become much worse than anyone ever anticipated.” The largest single start-up pledge came from Sharon Disney Lund, Walt Disney’s daughter, who donated $ 5 million.

Additionally, the Walt Disney Co. pledged $ 8 million over a number of years, with more than $ 1 million of that recently coming in from the sale of a limited-edition animated cel.

Currently the school has about 1,000 students enrolled, with degrees awarded in art, dance, film/video, music, theater and critical studies. Steven D. LaVine , CalArts prexy, said the money will mostly be used to award scholarships (which fund about 81% of the students now attending), pay artists who take faculty positions and purchase state-of-the-art technology for learning tools. Approximately $ 5 million to $ 7 million will be used in capital improvements.

While it took two years to raise the first $ 30 million, Katzenberg said yesterday that he hopes it will take a lot less time to complete the second phase of the campaign.

“If we could do it in a week, that’d be great,” he said.

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