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$500,000 gift for Dorsey High
May 2007

By Diane Haithman

As the first step in fostering a long-term partnership between the entertainment industry and the city's cash-strapped public school arts programs, the ICM Foundation is set to announce today that it has pledged $500,000 toward the $1-million renovation of the auditorium of Dorsey High School in Baldwin Hills.

The Los Angeles Unified School District will match the contribution of the foundation, a nonprofit charitable organization recently formed by the powerhouse International Creative Management talent and literary agency. After the renovation, the school's Art Deco auditorium will be renamed the ICM Foundation Performing Arts Center.

"Los Angeles is the center of the entertainment business -- many of these students are going to have careers in live performance or acting or directing. This really speaks to an issue that is in our backyard," said Jeffrey Berg, chairman and chief executive of ICM. "The help isn't going to come from the public sector alone. It's going to need outside support, and we hope this initiative that we've spent the year working on will spark other companies to get involved."

Berg said the company has committed to eventually upgrade auditoriums and theaters at eight to-be-determined LAUSD high schools, one from each local district, as well as to provide additional support for creative and performing arts projects in the greater school district.

"This is a little different from giving to other worthwhile cultural or civic projects," he added. "This goes right into the school district."

The announcement comes just a week after an arson fire gutted the auditorium of 82-year-old Garfield High School in East Los Angeles. The school was made famous by math teacher Jaime Escalante, who inspired the film "Stand and Deliver." It has not been determined whether Garfield could be part of the program because the rest of the list has not been finalized, an LAUSD spokesman said.

The ICM partnership is part of a $60-million commitment in capital funds that the LAUSD Board of Education has made to develop public-private partnerships.

"We are building 150 new schools, and a lot of them have brand new auditoriums," said LAUSD board President Marlene Canter. "But some of our schools are 100 years old."

Berg said the plight of the schools' deteriorating performing arts auditoriums was brought to his attention by Sherry Lansing, former Paramount Pictures chairwoman and now chief executive of the Sherry Lansing Foundation. Through the foundation, Lansing had been working with Canter on PrimeTime LAUSD, a program that links volunteers older than 60 with the public schools.

"One of the things that Marlene Canter was telling me was that often students couldn't perform theater or dance or music because there was no facility -- forget a curtain, there were no chairs, no stage, nothing," said Lansing, a former math and English teacher who once taught at Dorsey High as a substitute. "I thought about how much I love the entertainment industry, the theater, the performing arts, and I thought, 'This is a tragedy.' This is something that the entertainment industry, through a public partnership, should be able to help with."

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