Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dorothy Buffum Chandler: The Cultural Leader of Performing Arts

By Krissy Chavarin - 2013 Getty Intern

Dorothy Chandler, Order #00081875

Born as Dorothy Mae Buffum, Dorothy Buffum Chandler was born in Lafayette, Illinois in 1901. A year later she and her family moved to Long Beach, California, where her father opened the Buffum Department Stores. She attended Stanford University where she met her peer Norman Chandler, son of Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler. They married in 1922, had two children, Otis and Camilla, and became one of the wealthiest families in Los Angeles. After his father’s death in 1944, Norman Chandler became publisher of the Times and took over his father’s legacy.                                                                 

Dorothy Chandler’s participation in the community began at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles; she volunteered and fundraised for the benefit of the patients and staff. She was offered the hospital presidency in 1944, but instead decided to work with her husband in the Los Angeles Times, a major political influence and future cultural influence thanks to Mrs. Chandler.

Norman Chandler, Order #00044394

During the late 1940s, Chandler worked as an administrative assistant and continued as Vice President and Director for the Los Angeles Times; she was responsible for keeping the women’s section of the paper updated. Because of the lack of recognition of women’s creative leadership, in 1950 she established the annual awards ceremony known as the Times Woman of the Year Awards.

Chandler was chosen as Regent of the University of California in 1954. She served a sixteen-year term, as Chairman of the very important Buildings and Grounds Committee that supervised the addition of seven campuses and the growth of others. Her importance in education caused her to participate in an educational presidential committee under Eisenhower, and later was appointed to a Senate Advisory Committee by President Johnson.

Chandler was also a part of the board of the Southern California Symphony Association for many years. She was chosen by the board to raise funds for the Hollywood Bowl’s financial crisis that was causing it to close down in 1951. This began the “Save the Bowl” concerts where well-known and talented conductors performed for free. Because of these efforts, the Bowl reopened and the public’s support grew for the Bowl and the arts. Chandler was then named Symphony Association President in 1958.

Hollywood Bowl, 1963 Order #00083847

 Chandler believed that the lack of cultural facilities held back Los Angeles from being perceived as a major world city. In the mid 1950s, she focused her efforts to find a permanent home for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, so she began a fundraiser with several members of the Symphony Association in 1955. The fundraising event was called the “El Dorado Party,” named after the Cadillac that was auctioned, which raised a total of $400,000 in a matter of hours. Later that year, she was selected by County Supervisors to lead an advisory committee of thirty-six members, which later grew to become the Civic Auditorium and Music Center Association of Los Angeles County (CAMCA). These members included business, film, publishing and education leaders of Los Angeles.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Chandler convinced political and business leaders that Los Angeles needed a performing arts facility, distinguishing herself as the head of the Los Angeles arts scene. Her efforts and leadership helped build the Los Angeles Music Center project. The efforts to build this Music Center were highly publicized through the Times, television and radio. This media influence attracted community interest, support and participation in this project.

Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Model, 1961 Order #00043021

Fundraising for this performing arts facility, volunteers used “Buck Bags” which were commonly seen at local events. These buck bags helped raise enough money to build the $33.5 million, three-Theatre complex, which was dedicated as “A Living Memorial to Peace” on December 6, 1964. The main building, which is the home of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, was named the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Soon after, Time magazine featured Dorothy Chandler on its cover. The article reported, "Buff Chandler...almost single-handed raised a staggering $18.5 million to build [The Music Center], and organized a company to float another $13.7 million in bonds to finish the job. It was perhaps the most impressive display of virtuoso money-raising and civic citizenship in the history of U.S. womanhood" (Time 1964).

 Music Center Model, Order #00043001 

"Peace on Earth" fountain at the Music Center, Order #00015170 

Chandler was praised for her achievement of the Music Center. In 1968, she began the Amazing Blue Ribbon 400, a fundraising organization with the main goal to raise money for the process of the Music Center.

The 59th Academy Awards, 1987 Order #00082572
                                                                                                                                                     The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion hosted many events, like the Olympic Arts Festival in 1984, the 59th Academy Awards in 1987, and the Oscars in 1996. It continues to host performances like ballet, opera, dance, and theatre.

The Joffrey Ballet performs "The Dream" at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. Order #00087084

Chandler died in 1997 at the age of ninety-six. She dedicated her life to improve and establish culture and performing arts in Los Angeles. 

Aerial of the Music Center in 1970, Order #00018555

Inventing L.A: Dorothy Chandler. (n.d.) Retrieved from
            Dorothy Buffum Chandler. (n.d.) Retrieved from
Grimes, Teresa. Dorothy Buffum Chandler. (n.d.) Retrieved from
Peace On Earth. (n.d.) Retrieved from 

All photos are from the Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection: 


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