Los Angeles has the Getty and the Geffen, both on the Westside. And now, the newest G-space for the arts is here in Arroyoland: it’s the Gindler in Glendale. Technically, the building is named the Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center. It was created as the home of the Antaeus Theatre Company, which had outgrown its old North Hollywood digs and was lucky enough to have a pair of generous benefactors; the Gindlers donated $1 million to help build a space for this acting ensemble whose work they’ve ardently admired and long supported.
Most who attend the new theater will not know much about the couple for whom it was christened. Gindler is not (yet) a household name, like Geffen and Getty. But in philanthropy circles, they’re being hailed as emerging “top supporters of the arts in Los Angeles,” according to Inside Philanthropy magazine. And in Glendale, they’ve been praised by civic leaders for weaving a vibrant new arts space into the fabric of Glendale’s urban life and for enhancing the city’s role as an arts and entertainment destination.
The new arts center sits across the street from the Americana at Brand, not far from the iconic Alex Theatre and the remodeled public library. Its interior is a flexible, multi- use space that includes an 80-seat theater, a reconfigurable performance/classroom space, a theater-classics library and a large lobby that doubles as an art gallery. It’s a gift that will keep on giving, civic leaders say, because Antaeus offers community involvement programs as well as great performances of plays with enduring themes that will resonate for generations to come.
So who are the Gindlers, and what makes them tick? And why did they choose Glendale for the new arts center when they live in Hancock Park, except when they’re at their homes in Montecito or New York? They’ve been married for 31 years; both are attorneys, both actively work to advance the music and theater arts on both coasts and together they have an eclectic flair for finding and funding unheralded small arts groups along with large, well-established ones. Philanthropy trackers say the couple — she’s 55, he’s 57 — have given hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpublicized donations over the past few years, as well as $1 million grants to the L.A. Master Chorale, the L.A. Philharmonic and Center Theatre Group. Each sits on multiple boards related to the arts.
In 2015, Kiki Ramos Gindler became the first Latina president of the Board of Directors of Center Theatre Group, one of the country’s largest nonprofit regional theater organizations. She also serves on the boards of the Music Center and L.A. Opera (CTG’s parent and sister organizations, respectively) as well as Pomona College. Her memberships also include the advisory committee to the L.A. County Arts Commission Cultural Equity and Inclusion Initiative and the National Council for the American Theatre, an advisory committee for the country’s regional theaters, which meets in New York. After earning degrees from Pomona College and Harvard Law School, she practiced corporate and entertainment law until she left to focus on philanthropy.
David Gindler is a senior partner at the law firm of Irell & Manella, where he’s carved out a reputation as one of the country’s leading experts in intellectual property litigation and licensing, with emphasis on complex patent disputes in life sciences, biotechnology, medical devices, computer architecture and microprocessor design. When not at work, he serves as chairman of the boards of Antaeus and the L.A. Master Chorale and a member of the boards of the Music Center and Beth Morrison Projects, a top producer of indie opera and new music. For seven years until this past February, he was a board member of the L.A. Phil.
The Gindlers recently spoke to Arroyo Monthly about where they came from, how they met and why they’re so passionate about the arts:
Before we get personal, a question about the new theater that bears your names. David, you and Kiki gave $1 million to spearhead the theater’s building fund. And you are chairman of the Antaeus board. You live in Hancock Park, nowhere near Glendale, and you had all of Los Angeles to choose from. What made you choose Glendale as the theater location?
David: Antaeus operated out of North Hollywood for a number of years, and produced [shows] on an ad hoc basis. We started our first regular season of programming in 2010, and it became apparent within the first two years that we needed a bigger space. In 2012 we began looking for a space, and the process of identifying a location was challenging. We didn’t want to actually build a building. We wanted to take an existing space and then create and model it as our own performing arts center. So that required a combination of the right building with the right ceiling heights with the right zoning, with the right parking, with the right restaurants. And then on top of that you need a landlord who’d be willing to basically make a tremendous deal so we could pay below market rent. Finding a space like that took over two years.
We have a number of company members, actors in the ensemble, who live in Glendale. We reached out to the Glendale City Council and government to see if they could help us identify a space. They were incredibly helpful. They said, ‘There’s this space that’s been empty for the longest time and you should talk to the owner.’ We did, and at first he said, ‘Thank you, but I’m not interested.’ We just sort of kept going back, and ultimately he decided to talk. As it turned out, we’d found somebody with an extraordinarily generous heart, who agreed to lease the space to us at incredibly reasonable terms. That allowed us to raise the money to build our theater. Glendale was incredibly supportive, gave us a great location in this sort of arts corridor in downtown Glendale. It’s easy to get to, it’s got great parking, great restaurants, and we built this extraordinary theater and I know the [Antaeus] company could not be happier.
David, you sound like a proud father when you talk about Antaeus.
D: Well, we have a phenomenal company of extraordinarily talented actors.
Kiki: Glendale is an example of government commitment to the arts. They’re kind of bucking the trend and leading that vision of actually understanding that the arts are integral and important to the community.
You each seem to have come from different backgrounds. Kiki, where did you grow up, and can you talk about your Latina roots?
K: My mother was Canadian, here on a green card. My father was a naturalized Mexican citizen. My parents met in L.A., so I’m first-generation American, and Angeleno. I was born at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, spent my childhood on the Westside. Two of my uncles had shops on Olvera Street. My dad was a tax accountant and worked for
McDonnell Douglas in Culver City. My parents then moved to Ventura County and I went to Simi Valley High School, then to Pomona College, which is where David and I met.
David, where did you grow up?
D: Woodland Hills in the San Fernando Valley. I went to Taft High School, then to Pomona College and UCLA Law School. I met Kiki at Pomona, and we had our first date about a week after I graduated in 1981. We got married in August of 1986.
You’re both so devoted to the arts. Did that happen during your marriage or was that a shared interest from the start?
K: My father was incredibly artistic. He played piano, guitar, accordion. He knew how to paint and sculpt and he taught me all those things. My cousins with whom I grew up were always focused on the arts; we were always doing little plays, with one of my cousins directing. He’s now head of the theater department at the University of Vermont. Another cousin is now a visual artist. My connection with the arts is ingrained in my DNA.
And you, David?
D: I was lucky enough to go to public school at a time when arts education still mattered, when it was still an important part of the curriculum. For example, from junior high school through high school I played in the school orchestra, because that was an elective you could have. I learned to play the bass and developed a love of classical music. At the age of 16 I got a really cheap student subscription to the L.A. Philharmonic. I sat high in the balcony at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and it was fantastic.
I was also lucky enough to be part of large educational programs where students at public schools were brought downtown to see plays. I remember as a kid being taken downtown to see Oliver! at the Chandler Pavilion. And one of the most meaningful, almost life-changing experiences I had in high school was when my English class went downtown to see two plays performed at the Mark Taper Forum. One was The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. The other was Tom Stoppard’s Travesties. Seeing those performances was extraordinarily powerful for me, gave me a real understanding of what a force drama and storytelling could be in helping to elevate and educate. In fact, one of the most wonderful gifts I’ve ever gotten was [years later] when the folks at the Center Theatre Group found [and gave to me] what’s called the one-sheet from that performance of The Importance of Being Earnest in the 1976–77 season. A one-sheet is the [poster] that appears in the glass cases outside the theater, advertising the performance.
So the arts were important to each of you when you met. And together, you’ve built a career of giving time and money to promote the arts, both to large organizations and small, emerging ones. David, you’ve quoted Gustavo Dudamel’s reported statement that “music is a fundamental human right.” And you’ve quoted an article that said, “If as much money was spent on the arts as on the military, we wouldn’t need the military.” Kiki, you’ve said that “the arts save lives.” So I wonder what each of you think it will take to reintegrate the arts into public education? Or is it destined to all be STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) from here on out?
K: I understand that this whole emphasis on STEM started because we were falling behind in the international marketplace, and we needed to catch up to be competitive. But with the shift toward STEM, we dropped the arts education aspect, which had been so ingrained in public education for so long. One reason I just joined the Pomona College Board of Trustees is because they’re acknowledging the importance of arts education even though a good portion of their students is focused on becoming doctors, engineers or tech people. They’re understanding how important the arts is and the relationship between the parts of the brain that are used, for example, in mathematics and music. I think it’s not enough to rely on philanthropists to support the arts in children’s lives. There has to be a shift of consciousness in society and in our leaders who make decisions about curricula in schools. Brain researchers are all over this issue about how the arts are fundamental and can enhance human experience. The government is lagging behind in that realization.
D: I agree with Kiki, but I’m a bit more cynical. There was a huge retrenchment in taxation in the 1980s, when tax rates were cut dramatically at the state and federal level. The first thing that got cut was the arts. It just got decimated in California and throughout the country. It had really tragic implications for our country. We’ve basically had an entire generation who were raised without any meaningful arts education in the public schools. And now those people who never had any exposure to the arts when growing up, they are now the people who are the decision-makers. So the climb right now is a very steep one, and Kiki and I are trying our best to rail against what we think is an attitude that can really negatively impact people’s growth. The arts do matter. And I agree with Kiki that arts education saves lives. It just does.
You’ve given four gifts of $1 million and many smaller gifts. How do you choose?
D: Kiki and I think very hard about how we donate our dollars. We give to organizations that are truly committed to making an impact on Los Angeles as a community and at all levels. They’re devoted to expanding the arts and access to the arts. Some are organizations that have been impactful to Kiki and me when we grew up in Los Angeles and we want to try to help sustain that for the next generations who live here.
Antaeus Theatre Company presents Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Christopher Hampton’s award-winning adaptation of the scandalous novel by Choderlos de Laclos, at Glendale’s Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center from Oct. 26 through Dec. 10. It’s a story of seduction and intrigue, complete with sex, revenge and betrayal, set in the decadence of prerevolutionary France. Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 10. Tickets cost $30 to $34. The Kiki & David Gindler Performing Arts Center is located at 110 E. Broadway, Glendale. Call (818) 506-1983 or visit antaeus.org.