What's So Special About the Getty Foundation's "Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA" Initiative?

The Getty Foundation announced $5 million in new grants to Southern California arts institutions as part of its "Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA" program, which aims to explore the connections between Los Angeles and Latino/Latin American arts and culture.

This announcement marks the third round of funding for the program. Grants will help pay for artist residencies, performances, film screenings, and exhibitions on a variety of topics, including "Latin America's relationship with the rest of the world, the history of exchange among Latin American countries, and the Latin American diaspora."

Of course, the fact that a foundation is funding an initiative that embraces a city's cultural heritage isn't entirely revolutionary. That said, programs don't need to be revolutionary to be compelling and engaging. Furthermore, a closer look at the initiative's mission and some of its recipients suggests that this isn't your typical "celebrating a city's heritage" grant.

For example, Chon Noriega, director of the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, alluded to a depth of cultural complexity in Los Angeles that may not be immediately apparent to the typical bystander. In speaking to the LA Times he noted that, "There's been a bit of a divide, a boundary, with U.S. Latinos and Latin Americans seen as doing fundamentally different work and coming out of a fundamentally different context."

In other words, an American born in Southern California to Latino parents will have a much different experience than a Honduran who emigrates to the region in their mid-20s. And while we can all acknowledge these distinctions on an intellectual level, it's more difficult to grasp them in a day-to-day context. These differences matter, they're real, and the recognition and exploration of these difference is the program's guiding philosophical principle.

One may be forgiven to think that all of the recipient organizations represent an element of typical "Latin" or "Hispanic" culture. But not so fast. The foundation awarded a $55,000 grant to the Chinese American Museum for an exhibition on Chinese artists who work in or emigrated from the Caribbean.

So again we see the program flipping preconceptions on their proverbial heads. Latin America is a diverse region with a vibrant non-Hispanic population. And while people may understand this concept in theory, recipients of the foundation's "Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA" funding will try to communicate these distinctions through the arts.

For more information on the Getty Foundation and how it awards funding, check out IP's profile here.