San Diego Area Native American Tribes Become Big Arts Funders

Classic Arts News   San Diego Area Native American Tribes Become Big Arts Funders
San Diego County's Native American-owned casinos, which have regularly supported sports events, are now increasingly supporting arts institutions, reports the San Diego Union Tribune.

California has 108 recognized Native American tribes, of which 56 operate casinos that earn hundreds of millions of dollars annually, according to the Union Tribune. San Diego County has eight tribal casinos and is regarded as the gaming casino capital of California.

Daniel J. Tucker, chairman of the Sycuan band of Kumeyaay Indians, whose land is in the San Diego area and which operates the Sycuan Resort and Casino, told the paper that the Sycuan offer financial support to hundreds of arts, cultural and other community organizations.

Like the Sycuan, the Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians has contributed toward the San Diego Symphony's Summer Pops season. Bob Scheid, spokesman for the Viejas, told the paper that for years they have "pursued opportunities to expose the community to the tribe's culture and traditions ... At the same time, the tribe is committed to fostering cultural diversity in the San Diego County area by supporting a wide range of art and cultural organizations and institutions."

Among county arts groups, San Diego Opera and San Diego Symphony currently receive the most Indian support, according to the paper. Sycuan is a San Diego Opera "Bravissimo Angel Patron" donor (the category for those giving $100,000 and above) and a member of the opera's "Corporate Council," providing in-kind support such as goods or services.

Up until 2004, an association of Audi dealers was the San Diego Opera's lead season sponsor. Sycuan became season sponsor last year after being approached by the company.

The San Diego Symphony and Opera both acknowledge Sycuan in the form of logos, signs and ads to show appreciation for "six-figure" sponsorships.

There has not been any negative fallout from arts organizations being affiliated with gaming casinos. "Patrons understand that this type of support provides the means to keep the music and the Summer Pops experience alive," San Diego Symphony executive director Edward B. "Ward" Gill told the Union Tribune. "We have found that patrons very much appreciate this commitment."

The California Ballet Company is reportedly the only dance troupe to recieve casino support; since 2004, its production of The Nutcracker has been supported by $10,000 annually from Sycuan.

And the tribes are happy to give more. "We encourage local charities and organizations to contact us with suggestions for how Sycuan can support worthy causes and events," the Union Tribune quotes Tucker, the tribal chairman, as saying.

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