KUSC’s gift to two community groups — free rent
What would be the best gift a nonprofit arts group could receive?
A healthy endowment fund would probably be first on every community group’s wish list, but not far behind would be free office space in a prime location.
Two lucky Los Angeles nonprofits — Arts for LA and Arts High Foundation — enjoy well-appointed office space in the 32-story AT&T Center at 1150 S. Olive St., courtesy of Classical KUSC.org, the nonprofit classical music radio station that serves as a broadcast service of USC.
Arts for LA and Arts High Foundation have been given space for their operations by KUSC for five years and three years, respectively, even moving with the station when it relocated from Manulife Plaza at 515 S. Figueroa St. to a smaller space at the AT&T Center last year.
Each group has four modern workstations on the building’s first floor, adjacent to the office of USC Radio President Brenda Barnes, who was the spark behind the donations.
Arts for LA’s former office, located in a basement under one of the fountains in California Plaza, had space only for one person, said Danielle Brazell, the organization’s executive director.
The nonprofit represents 110 arts and culture organizations in Los Angeles County. It also advocates for keeping and expanding arts and music in the schools, supports cultural tourism and works to have artists expand their voter participation and representation on public commissions.
Michael McDowell, senior director of cultural tourism for the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, knew of the group’s space crunch and arranged a lunch between Barnes and Brazell. Barnes decided that the free rent could be KUSC’s annual membership contribution to the advocacy group.
“It’s an honor to have them in our environment, and it makes sense for us,” she said. “It’s actually a no-brainer as it only benefits us and every other arts organization in the area.”
Brazell said the contribution of free rent is only one benefit of the arrangement. Being affiliated with KUSC allows the group to leverage the partnership when it asks for support from foundations and businesses. “KUSC is very well-respected,” she said, “and it helps us to show we are supported by respected partners.
“We were — and are — so grateful,” she said. “Brenda and Eric DeWeese [the station’s general manager] have so graciously brought us in. We’re really part of the KUSC family. We attend their holiday party and celebrate birthdays. It is such a blessing.”
Brazell’s words were echoed by John Jackson, executive director of Arts High Foundation.
“We couldn’t afford to be in this building with this prestigious address otherwise and being here has changed our work life in ways we couldn’t imagine,” he said, citing a greater ability to interact with donors and prospects, as well as the impetus to set the group’s sights higher.
Previously, the foundation was housed on the California State University, Los Angeles campus along with the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts it supports. Space issues there prompted the need to move.
Jackson called Barnes, who has been on the foundation’s board for more than 10 years, asking if she knew of any available space. “She said, ‘Why don’t you guys move in with us?’ ” Jackson recalled. “It was just that simple.”
He continued: “KUSC and USC saw us as something they wanted to support, and that means a lot. It adds a certain amount of social proof from well-respected institutions of the value of what we do.”
Jackson, a classical saxophonist and classically trained baritone, said another perk of the KUSC location is that he regularly gets to talk to radio host Alan Chapman, music director Jamie Paisley and others about music.
Barnes said that inviting the foundation that supports the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts was another easy decision.
“The school provides a really important place for arts students and helps ‘arts kids’ find their home,” she said. “I was an arts kid and know what it’s like to try to find your niche.”
Taking the larger view, Barnes said, it is vital for Classical KUSC to support the next generation of artists. “One of the most important things the arts can have is strong people who can carry the arts forward,” she said.