Essential Arts & Culture: Slashing the NEA, Deborah Borda leaves the L.A. Phil, a very sweet ballet

Budget cuts hit culture. A beloved leader leaves the Los Angeles Philharmonic. And an unusual ballet premieres in Orange County. I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, with your weekly digest of the week’s most important cultural stories:

Trump slashes culture

The National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities were among 19 independent government agencies that were earmarked for zero funding in the 2018 federal budget blueprint issued this week by the Trump administration. Los Angeles Times

Times art critic Christopher Knight says the cuts are short-sighted. Not only are artists who have benefited from the system in the past now giving back — the charitable foundations established by artists such as Mike Kelley and Andy Warhol are well-capitalized — but the cuts represent the elimination of something vital. “The arts are essential, not secondary,” he writes. “Smaller mid-American communities will be hardest hit. Jobs will be lost. Veterans programs will disappear. Quality of life will suffer. Arts education will vanish from more school curricula.” Los Angeles Times

What would be missing if the budget gets cut? Times reporters Jessica Gelt and Deborah Vankin look at the works of art and the community programs around California that wouldn’t have existed without the help of the NEA — from a critically acclaimed Broadway musical in Los Angeles to a small organization that gives free arts workshops on skid row. Los Angeles Times

Plus, the Times’ Libby Hill looks at works that owe their existence in part to either the NEA or the NEH, including the smash musical “Hamilton” and Ken Burns’ documentary series “The Civil War.” Los Angeles Times

And a roundup of creative responses to the cuts. Hyperallergic

L.A. Phil’s Deborah Borda leaving L.A.

Deborah Borda, the celebrated director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, who turned the orchestra into one of the most progressive major symphonies in the world, is leaving, for — gasp! — the New York Philharmonic. Times classical music critic Mark Swed reports that she will land in New York “trailing success in her wake,” having “triumphantly ushered the L.A. Phil into the most celebrated building of the century” and beating “the competition “to hire one of the biggest classical music stars, Gustavo Dudamel.” Swed also looks at the host of challenges she will face in New York. Los Angeles Times

Plus, the Times’ Jeffrey Fleishman, who has profiled Borda in the past, pays tribute: “To spend time with Borda,” he writes, “is like chasing light. She’s brisk, swift and demanding. She’s a joker and sly cajoler.” Los Angeles Times

Deborah Vankin reports on how the news caught the world of culture by surprise. Disney Hall architect Frank Gehry told her, “My friend is leaving us, right?” Los Angeles Times

Previewing the New York Phil

The somewhat mysterious Dutch conductor Jaap van Zweden is about to take over as musical director at the New York Philharmonic. Mark Swed sat in on a performance at Disney Hall that featured a program of Beethoven and Shostakovich. On paper, the program ran the risk of appearing like a pair of old war horses, Swed writes, “on the podium, however, Van Zweden proved formidable.” Los Angeles Times

A sweet ballet

A boy with a sweet tooth and a wild imagination is the center of Richard Strauss’ “Whipped Cream,” performed by the American Ballet Theatre at Segerstrom Hall in Costa Mesa. Thanks to choreographer Alexei Ratmansky and visual artist Mark Ryden, who did the scenic design, the ballet, reports Times reviewer Laura Bleiberg, is “bewitching.” Los Angeles Times

Deborah Vankin spent some quality time with Ryden, the pop-surrealist painter who not only conceived the ballet’s singular look — but whose work inspired its staging. Ratmansky had been toying with the idea of reinventing Strauss’ century-old work for some time when he saw a book on Ryden’s art in a Tokyo shop. “There’s something very unsettling, disturbing, about his paintings, which hides behind the sometimes very sweet surface,” Ratmansky explains. Los Angeles Times

Unfortunately, there was one hiccup: ABT principal dancer Misty Copeland had to bow out of the production because of an injury. Sarah Lane took her place. Los Angeles Times

Dance amid the art

A series of performances by the Trisha Brown Dance Company are taking place in the galleries of various Los Angeles art institutions, including the Broad, the Getty, LACMA and Hauser & Wirth. The Times’ Jessica Gelt sat in on the performance at the Broad, where “audience-watching, art-watching and dance-watching” formed “equal parts of the intimate experience.” Los Angeles Times

Architecture and the border wall

As interested vendors sign up to keep tabs on the bidding process for the U.S.-Mexico border wall, Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne looks at the roiling debate it has stirred within the architecture community — and around the interested firms that have signed on to the government business opportunities website. What’s “most striking” about the wall, he writes, “is the space for debate it has already managed to open up — and more to the point, the blind spots and half-baked philosophy it has laid bare. Los Angeles Times

In the meantime, U.S. Customs and Border Protection laid out some additional details for what it might be seeking in terms of design. “The north side of wall (i.e., the U.S.-facing side) shall be aesthetically pleasing in color, anti-climb texture, etc., to be consistent with general surrounding environment,” the agency says. NPR

Plus, Trump may want to build a wall, but a group of Tijuana architects wants to build a cross-border Hyperloop from Ensenada to Los Angeles. Woodbury University

An opera about Walt Disney

When composer Philip Glass wanted to premiere his new opera about Walt Disney, the Disney family voiced their objections to having the warts-and-all portrayal staged in Los Angeles. But the daring Long Beach Opera took on “The Perfect American.” Mark Swed writes that the opera’s effectiveness is in the “continual shifting between the grandiosity of all that Disney stands for and this one mortal man.” But the staging of the work could use some imagination. Los Angeles Times

Plus, Catherine Womack has the story on how Long Beach Opera landed Glass’ fictionalized look at the life of one of the country’s most indelible entertainment figures. Los Angeles Times

Jazzy ‘Twelfth Night’

Times theater critic Charles McNulty describes it as “a frolicsome introduction” to the work of Filter Theatre, the British company known for its “merry way with classics.” The work in question is Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” on view through Sunday at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, which the company has remade with a setup that evokes a band rehearsal, for a work, writes McNulty, that is “part jazz riff, part rave.” The work sacrifices “poetic emotion,” he notes, but the refreshingly modern take “will nonetheless leave you smiling.” Los Angeles Times

Esther McCoy in Mexico

Esther McCoy, the celebrated Los Angeles architecture writer, who helped put SoCal Modernism on the map, is the subject of a small exhibition at the Museo Jumex in Mexico City. The writer spent eight months in that country in the early 1950s and filed some of the earliest reports on key Mexican architectural developments for the U.S. media. “The show presents [McCoy] as this kind of bridge,” exhibition co-curator Jose Esparza Chong Cuy told me, “from L.A. to Mexico and from Mexico to L.A.” Los Angeles Times

In other news…

— Gentlepeople, start your browsers: Tickets for “Hamilton,” which is set to be staged at the Hollywood Pantages, go on sale at 10 a.m. April 30. Los Angeles Times

— The Metropolitan Museum of Art was handing out raises even as deficits loomed. New York Post

— Nobel Prize-winning playwright and poet Derek Walcott, who wrote of the Caribbean, its beauty and its brutal history, has died at 87. NPR

— The California Symphony in the Bay Area has named Katherine Balch its resident composer, the first woman to occupy the post. The Mercury News

— The music that soothes one man’s soul in the ruins of Aleppo. Do not miss this moving story — or the artful photo that goes with it. AFP

— An artist protest group goes after Ivanka Trump. ARTnews

— Tom Kiefer, the border custodian who preserves the seized belongings of migrants, and photographs them. New Yorker

— How the Underground Railroad has inspired a wave of books, plays and television. Los Angeles Times

— Museum of Contemporary Art director Philippe Vergne was recently spied in a warehouse in Los Angeles … serving as a model in a runway show by French fashion house Hèrmes. Werk! Artnet

— The L.A. cannabis dispensary that also functions as an art gallery. High art. Los Angeles Times

And last but not least …

Ten hours of paint drying. This is an excellent antidote to all the cable news. YouTube

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