DTLA—The biggest news at the MOCA Benefit Saturday night didn’t have anything to do with the legions of celebrities and musicians who attended. Instead, it concerned philanthropist Carolyn Clark Powers.
At the May 18 event at the institution’s Little Tokyo annex, Powers, who is president of the museum’s board of trustees, announced a $10 million donation, which will go to making admission to MOCA free.
The museum did not announce a date for when gratis admission will start, as it requires a roll-out plan. Currently MOCA charges $15 for general admission, with students entering for $8 and seniors paying $10.
“This is not a badge for me,” Powers said in a prepared statement. “Rather, it’s a way for me to support the museum and be of service to the Los Angeles community. I am committed to the museum’s continued success and leadership, and to MOCA being at the forefront of diversity, inclusiveness, and openness of spirit.”
The announcement came during a party celebrating MOCA’s 40th anniversary. The event itself marked a shift for the museum under Director Klaus Biesenbach, who assumed leadership of the institution seven months ago. Formerly known as the MOCA Gala, the fundraiser was canceled in 2018 amid complaints about a lack of diversity among past event honorees.
Biesenbach, who replaced the embattled Philippe Vergne, repositioned the event. As part of a donation from Trustee Marina Kellen French, 300 artists were able to go for free. About 700 people attended the benefit, including Keanu Reeves, and musicians Patti Smith, Courtney Love and Billy Idol.
The move stands to level the playing field with a nearby contender. MOCA’s original Grand Avenue location is across the street from The Broad, which opened in 2015 and has had free admission — and constant lines — since day one.
In the statement, Powers referenced the hurdle that having an admission price poses to enjoying art.
“Art has the unique ability to bridge cultural and socio-economic divides. Charging admission is counterintuitive to art’s ability and purpose to connect, inspire, and heal people,” she said.
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