Sunday, April 02, 2006

Culture cash (By Christopher Reynolds, the Los Angeles Times)


Note to the caption: Illustration by Gary Taxali / For The Times


Get a job iIllustration by Gary Taxali / For The Times
n the arts and make seven figures? Maybe — if you're a marquee name at Disney Hall. But not if you're dusting dinosaurs. Check out the highs and lows in our first L.A. arts salary survey.


April 2, 2006


Nobody chokes on their Cheerios anymore hearing that Tom Cruise might make $80 million on one movie ("The Last Samurai") or that the Rolling Stones gross $162 million in a year of touring (last year). But since when do museum people make a million a year, and since when do we hear about it?

These questions occurred to many people in February, when Barry Munitz resigned his well-paying post as president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. The result, indirectly, is this: Calendar's first salary survey of the Southern California museums, playhouses, orchestras and other bastions of high culture.

Among the findings:

The biggest salary among Southern California's nonprofit arts organizations goes to the Los Angeles Philharmonic's music director for more than a decade, Esa-Pekka Salonen.



Los Angeles Philharmonic
Music director Esa-Pekka Salonen
Salary: $1,260,639 (plus income from guest conducting elsewhere) for the year ended September 2004
(Genaro Molina / LAT)


The second-biggest? To the L.A. Phil's chief executive, Deborah Borda.


Los Angeles Philharmonic
President and Chief Executive Deborah Borda
Salary: $799,970
Annual budget: $74.8 million
Bonus data: By contract, orchestra players earn at least $112,840, with pay rising to $348,988 for concertmaster Martin Chalifour. And those page-turners who sit next to the pianists in Disney Hall? $40 per concert.
(Hector Mata AFP/Getty)


Meanwhile, the dangling acrobats who squeegee the metal skin of Disney Hall get by on $18 an hour. The top-earning stagehand at the Los Angeles Opera makes nearly four times as much as a bit-part actor on the boards at the Mark Taper Forum. And the most richly compensated arts official in Orange County until last year was apparently an accounts-receivable clerk.

Late in 2005, Orange County Performing Arts Center officials discovered that clerk Ana Limbaring had embezzled $1.85 million since 2000, or $370,000 a year. On Monday, she was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Conversely, the only Los Angeles museum director to be profiled in the New Yorker and awarded a MacArthur "genius" grant puts in 60 hours a week for nothing: Museum of Jurassic Technology director David Wilson.

As for the directors of the city's big three art museums — the Getty, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art — their base salaries ranged from $350,000 to $455,153 in 2004. (That's the most recent year for which figures are available.) On top of that, each director goes home at night to a house owned or financed by his museum. (Some leaders get cars too.)

But if you wonder exactly what LACMA's new director makes, you'll have to wait. Even though the museum in the next year will have to tell the IRS in a public filing — and even though the museum stands on county land and gets millions in county funding — its leaders won't disclose what they're paying Michael Govan.


A wrong turn
Getting back to Munitz for a minute: He wasn't just running the Getty Museum, he was running the wealthiest arts organization in the world. Along with the Getty Museum sites in Brentwood and on the edge of Malibu, the $9.6-billion trust bankrolls grant-making, conservation and research, spending more than $270 million yearly.

What sunk Munitz, most close observers agree, wasn't his salary but his effect on morale and accounts of spending on perks and expenses, including first-class travel for his wife on trips of arguable value to the trust. The state attorney general's office is probing. Most of the numbers in this article came from disclosure forms these organizations fill out as a requirement of their tax-exempt status — 990 forms, in arts-accountant shorthand. But as many arts administrators will be pointing out in the days ahead, it's dangerous to draw too many conclusions from these numbers. There's more than one way to legally fill out a 990 form.

From one glance, for instance, it seems that Uri Herscher, president and chief executive of the $15.2-million-a-year Skirball Cultural Center, makes just $50,000, a pittance compared with the $219,077 base salary earned by Skirball vice president Lori Starr. But the lion's share of Herscher's income, undisclosed on the form, comes from Hebrew Union College, a close institutional ally of the Skirball. Through a spokeswoman, Herscher said his combined compensation is more than $220,000 but declined to specify.

The president of the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, Steven Koblik, also looks notably underpaid. The form shows he draws less than $170,000 in salary while handling an annual budget of more than $25 million. But Koblik's nonsalary benefits — which the filing values at about $39,000 but doesn't specify — include residence in a spacious house on the Huntington property with a view of 80 undeveloped Huntington-owned acres.

Koblik notes that living there is a requirement of the job. Don't cry for Steve, Pasadena.

Now, on to the rest of this region's culture leaders and some of their followers, most of whom dwell in a substantially less salubrious world.

"We work very hard for the money we get paid," said Dick Messer, who earns a little over $120,000 yearly as director of the Petersen Automotive Museum. "By the hour, I'm making about $8 to $10 per hour."

Unless there are 33 hours in Messer's days, he's exaggerating slightly. But veteran nonprofit board members and staffers say his point stands. They also note that most organizations couldn't open their doors without modestly paid junior staffers; volunteer docents, ushers and others; and the donors who prop it all up by writing checks instead of receiving them.

Compensation inflation
Among the city's most visible arts outfits, the drift of leadership salaries is up, up and up. If you lump together salaries for the top executives of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Los Angeles Opera, the L.A. Philharmonic and the Center Theatre Group from 2002 to 2004, the average increase was 28%, while inflation was rising 5%.

This doesn't surprise veterans of the nonprofit world, who say top cultural executives nationwide have followed the lead of their corporate counterparts, seeking raises that sometimes outpace the performance of their organizations.

Like many for-profit executives, nonprofit leaders respond that their jobs have gotten harder and the demand for talent is greater. A recent study on top nonprofit executives by the CompassPoint research group suggests that most expect to be out of their job within the next five years and that 1 in 3 will be booted by their boards.

Another survey, conducted last year by the nonprofit watchdog group Charity Navigator, looked at more than 4,200 organizations and found that environmental, religious and healthrelated charity leaders generally earn more than arts and culture leaders. (Most arts and culture nonprofits spend between 2% and 3% of their budgets on top executive pay — the bigger the organization, the smaller the share that goes to the executive.)

That study also found that West Coast nonprofit leaders tend to make less than East Coast leaders. But as our survey shows, individual results vary widely. The Brooklyn Museum pays its director about the same amount as LACMA does. The Metropolitan Opera in New York pays its top executive about $280,000 more than the Los Angeles Opera does.

At the L.A. Phil, Deborah Borda earns about $200,000 a year more than the New York Philharmonic's top executive. But Esa-Pekka Salonen is paid less than music directors in New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco — even though his orchestra has won more critical acclaim lately.



MUSEUMS
Autry National Center

  • Executive Director and Chief Executive John Gray
    Salary: $208,092 in calendar year2004
    Annual budget: $15.4 million
    Bonus data: The Autry operates the Museum of the American West in Griffith Park (formerly the Autry Museum of Western Heritage) and the Southwest Museum on Mount Washington, along with the Institute for the Study of the American West.


Bowers Museum
  • President Peter Keller
    Salary: $142,701
    Annual budget: $4.4 million
    Bonus data: In Santa Ana, this institution brought in its own mummy show, "Mummies: Death and the Afterlife in Ancient Egypt," to compete with last year's King Tut extravaganza at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.


California Science Center
  • President Jeffrey Rudolph
    Salary: $19,169, plus $111,444 from the state
    Annual budget: $10.3 million
    Bonus data: Because the science center — which stands in Exposition Park and features an Imax theater — is a state agency, some employees, like Rudolph, draw wages from both the state and the affiliated California Science Center Foundation.


Getty Museum
  • Director Michael Brand (started in January)
    Salary: $482,000, plus use of a $15,000-per-month Holmby Hills home
    Annual budget: About $270 million, shared among the museum and the Getty's conservation, research and grant-making operations
    Bonus data: Brand reports to the president of the Getty Trust, a post now filled on an interim basis by veteran administrator Deborah Marrow. In that job, Barry Munitz earned $580,000, plus $478,472 in benefit-plan contributions and deferred compensation. Brand's predecessor, Deborah Gribbon, was paid $350,000.


    Getty Museum
    Director Michael Brand (started in January)
    Salary: $482,000, plus use of a $15,000-per-month Holmby Hills home
    Annual budget: About $270 million, shared among the museum and the Getty's conservation, research and grant-making operations
    Bonus data: Brand reports to the president of the Getty Trust, a post now filled on an interim basis by veteran administrator Deborah Marrow. In that job, Barry Munitz earned $580,000, plus $478,472 in benefit-plan contributions and deferred compensation. Brand's predecessor, Deborah Gribbon, was paid $350,000.
    (Rebecca D’Angelo / For The Times)



  • Gift shop sales clerk
    Wage: $12.35 per hour and up. (Don't scoff: That's $2.05 per hour more than the Disney Hall gift shop pays.)


Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
  • President Steven Koblik
    Salary: $162,504, along with use of a house on site
    Annual budget: $25.5 million
    Bonus data: Directors of the Huntington Library, art collections and gardens in San Marino also live in Huntington-owned houses. The payroll includes about three dozen gardeners tending about 150 acres.

  • Gardener
    Wage: $11.85 an hour on average

    TRIMMING: Jennifer Brandt works near the Huntington’s Rose Hills Conservatory for Botanical Science.
    (Brian Vander Brug / LAT)



  • Museum security guard
    Wage:
    $10.72 an hour on average.


Japanese American National Museum
  • President and Executive Director Irene Hirano
    Salary: $165,000
    Annual budget: $12 million
    Bonus facts: Sited downtown on East 1st Street, the museum stages exhibitions and events from drumming lessons to play readings. Hirano also serves as chief executive of the neighboring National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, which opened in 2005.


Los Angeles County Museum of Art
  • Director Michael Govan
    Salary: shrouded in mystery
    Annual budget: $48.5 million
    Bonus data: Govan, who starts this week, has a five-year pact. The county supervisors have agreed to pay him $124,600 a year and he gets use of a home near the museum that would otherwise rent for $9,000 to $12,000 per month. But wait, there's more: LACMA officials will substantially sweeten Govan's salary through the affiliated private, nonprofit Museum Associates. Govan's predecessor, Andrea L. Rich, received more than $330,000 from Museum Associates on top of her county pay. But LACMA leaders won't say how much they're paying Govan — even though the law requires them to disclose it within the next year or so.


Museum of Contemporary Art

  • Director and Chief Executive Jeremy Strick
    Salary: $405,530
    Annual budget: $16.6 million
    Bonus data: When the museum brought Strick and his wife west from Chicago in January 2000, it loaned them $528,000 to buy a house. Strick pays 6.21% interest, but no principal, in monthly installments. Payment comes due in January 2010 or upon the end of his job, whichever comes first. And when payment comes due, Strick will also owe 5% of the appreciation of the property.


Museum of Jurassic Technology
  • Director David Wilson
    Salary: none in calendar year 2004, and none since
    Annual budget: $290,289
    Bonus data: Wilson, who estimates a 60-hour workweek at the 18-year-old Culver City institution, does have a substantial outside income: a 2001 MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant of $500,000 over five years (Wilson estimates he's spent half of it on the museum).


Museum of Latin American Art
  • Director Juan Gregorio Luke
    Salary: $70,000 in calendar 2004
    Annual budget: $2.8 million
    Bonus data: Founded in 1996 on the site of an old silent-film studio, the Long Beach museum is in the middle of a $10-million expansion that will double its size in 2007.


Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

  • President Jane Pisano
    Salary: $180,816 from the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History Foundation, plus a county salary of $120,972
    Annual budget: $19.6 million
    Bonus data: The museum, which also runs the Page Museum at the La Brea Tar Pits and the William S. Hart Museum, uses Diamond Contract Services for janitorial work, which includes cleaning three rooms of re-created dinosaurs and one of Cenozoic fossils.

  • Dinosaur-skeleton duster
    Wage: $8.32 per hour and up


Norton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena

  • Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Walter W. Timoshuk
    Salary: $197,000 from the museum for the year ended June 2005, and $189,792 from the Norton Simon Art Foundation for the year ended November 2004
    Annual budget: $4.9 million
    Bonus data: If you read the 990 form alone, it seems the museum, renowned for its collection of Old Master paintings, is paying its store manager more than any of its five curators — about $61,500. But Simon, who died in 1993, left behind a web of nonprofits, including the museum and two foundations. Some employees, including senior curator Carol Togneri, draw salaries from more than one, and not all of their income is specified.

  • Security guard
    Wage: $8.25 hourly and up


Orange County Museum of Art
  • Director Dennis Szakacs
    Salary: $165,000 for the year ended March 2004, since bumped to $186,000
    Annual budget: $3.1 million
    Bonus data: Newport Beach-based OCMA, known for its contemporary bent, recruited Szakacs in 2003 from a position as deputy director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York.


Petersen Automotive Museum
  • Director Richard Messer
    Salary: $122,400 in the year ended September 2004
    Annual budget: $3.9 million
    Bonus data: Born in 1994 and housed in a former department store across from LACMA, the Petersen has collected scores of vehicles on four floors, from bakery trucks to hot rods.


Skirball Cultural Center
  • President and CEO Uri Herscher
    Salary: $50,000, not counting the much larger amount (at least $170,000) kicked in by Hebrew Union College
    Annual budget: $15.2 million
    Bonus data: The 10-year-old center stands near the Getty in the Sepulveda Pass. Senior Vice President Lori Starr, who directs the Skirball Museum in its efforts to explore connections between Judaism and American democracy, earned $219,077.


UCLA Hammer Museum

  • Director Ann Philbin
    Salary: $234,334
    Annual budget: $7.1 million
    Bonus data: Philbin arrived from the Drawing Center in New York in 1999. An ongoing expansion will add a 288-seat theater to the 16-year-old museum in Westwood.



UCLA Hammer Museum
Director Ann Philbin
Salary: $234,334
Annual budget: $7.1 million
Bonus data: Philbin arrived from the Drawing Center in New York in 1999. An ongoing expansion will add a 288-seat theater to the 16-year-old museum in Westwood.
(Al Seib / LAT)



MUSIC

Los Angeles Opera
  • General director Plácido Domingo
    Salary: $598,465.
    Annual budget: $43 million
    Bonus data: Domingo draws an additional $450,000 or more yearly for running the Washington National Opera. Music director Kent Nagano, who earned $680,000, will be succeeded by James Conlon in September. If you do your tallying per diem, the richest L.A. Opera paycheck lately may be the $250,000 paid guest performer Mstislav Rostropovich for conducting five widely scorned performances of the company's "Nicholas and Alexandra" premiere in September 2003.


    Los Angeles Opera
    General director Plácido Domingo
    Salary: $598,465.
    Annual budget: $43 million
    Bonus data: Domingo draws an additional $450,000 or more yearly for running the Washington National Opera. Music director Kent Nagano, who earned $680,000, will be succeeded by James Conlon in September. If you do your tallying per diem, the richest L.A. Opera paycheck lately may be the $250,000 paid guest performer Mstislav Rostropovich for conducting five widely scorned performances of the company's "Nicholas and Alexandra" premiere in September 2003.
    (Stefano Paltera / For The Times)


  • Stagehand Steve McDonough
    Salary: $160,556


Los Angeles Philharmonic
  • Music director Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Salary: $1,260,639 (plus income from guest conducting elsewhere) for the year ended September 2004
  • President and Chief Executive Deborah Borda
    Salary: $799,970
    Annual budget: $74.8 million
    Bonus data: By contract, orchestra players earn at least $112,840, with pay rising to $348,988 for concertmaster Martin Chalifour. And those page-turners who sit next to the pianists in Disney Hall? $40 per concert.


Music Center of Los Angeles County
  • President Stephen Rountree
    Salary: $311,325
    Annual budget: $41.1 million
    Bonus data: The Music Center operates the Ahmanson Theatre, Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Mark Taper Forum and Walt Disney Concert Hall, serving as landlord to the Center Theatre Group, the L.A. Phil, L.A. Opera and the L.A. Master Chorale.

  • Maintenance worker, Disney Hall
    Wage:$18 an hour if you're up on a rig, skimming the hall's metal skin; $13 if you're on the ground.



SKIN CARE: Walt Disney Concert Hall’s steel-paneled covering gets some TLC from Jose Paiz.
(Ken Hively / LAT)



THEATER

Center Theatre Group
  • Artistic director Michael Ritchie
    Salary: $302,500 this year
    Annual budget: $44.5 million
    Bonus data: CTG consists of the Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, an empire built by Ritchie's predecessor, Gordon Davidson. In the year ended June 2004, Davidson earned $385,000, plus $1,019,941 in benefit contributions and deferred benefits.


    Center Theatre Group
    Artistic director Michael Ritchie
    Salary: $302,500 this year
    Annual budget: $44.5 million
    Bonus data: CTG consists of the Ahmanson Theatre, the Mark Taper Forum and Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City, an empire built by Ritchie's predecessor, Gordon Davidson. In the year ended June 2004, Davidson earned $385,000, plus $1,019,941 in benefit contributions and deferred benefits.
    (Glenn Koenig / LAT)

  • Supporting actor at Mark Taper Forum
    Salary: begins at $816 a week, by current Equity contract


Geffen Playhouse
  • Managing director Steve Eich
    Salary: $150,467 for the year ended August 2004
    Annual budget: $6.5 million
    Bonus data: Geffen producing director Gil Cates (who is also the sometime producer of the Oscars broadcast) was paid $56,900 by UCLA, the Playhouse's landlord affiliate. The operation includes five paid ushers, along with many volunteers.

  • Artistic director Randall Arney
    Salary: $125,467

  • Playhouse usher
    Wage: $26-$28 per performance



THIS WAY, PLEASE: Abdoulaye N’gom is a longtime usher at the Geffen Playhouse.
(Gary Friedman / LAT)


Laguna Playhouse
  • Executive Director Richard Stein
    Salary: $120,572
    Annual budget: $5.3 million
    Bonus data: Aided by a $5-million donation last year, the playhouse, near the Pageant of the Masters site along Laguna Canyon Road, plans to build a second performance space.

  • Artistic director Andrew Barnicle
    Salary: $117,697


Orange County Performing Arts Center
  • President Terrence Dwyer
    Salary:
    Dwyer starts April 20 at the Costa Mesa facility, and OCPAC officials (who don't get government funding) say they'll wait until tax filings are due to disclose his pay.
    Annual budget: $35.2 million
    Bonus data: Dwyer succeeds Jerry E. Mandel, whose salary was $301,886.


Pasadena Playhouse
  • Artistic director Sheldon Epps
    Salary: $125,000 (via St. Kathryn Productions)
    Annual budget: $6.2 million
    Bonus data: Epps moonlights as a TV sitcom director. The playhouse's executive director, Lyla White, pulled down $91,371 in calendar year 2004.


    Pasadena Playhouse
    Artistic director Sheldon Epps
    Salary: $125,000 (via St. Kathryn Productions)
    Annual budget: $6.2 million
    Bonus data: Epps moonlights as a TV sitcom director. The playhouse's executive director, Lyla White, pulled down $91,371 in calendar year 2004.
    (Mark Boster / LAT)




  • Box office cashier
    Wage: $9 hourly and up


South Coast Repertory
  • Artistic director Martin Benson and producing artistic director David Emmes
    Salaries: $146,012 each for the year ended August 2004
    Annual budget: $10.4 million
    Bonus data: Founded by Benson and Emmes in 1964, SCR has grown to offer six productions this season on its main Segerstrom Stage in Costa Mesa and eight on the smaller Julianne Argyros Stage.



South Coast Repertory
Artistic director Martin Benson and producing artistic director David Emmes
Salaries: $146,012 each for the year ended August 2004
Annual budget: $10.4 million
Bonus data: Founded by Benson and Emmes in 1964, SCR has grown to offer six productions this season on its main Segerstrom Stage in Costa Mesa and eight on the smaller Julianne Argyros Stage.
(Mark Boster / LAT)



The time frame: Unless we say otherwise, salary figures quoted here cover the year ending June 30, 2004, the most recent period for which numbers are available. The same goes for the organizational budgets.



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