An Interview with the Eliel Sisters

October 16, 2008

Clockwise from upper left: Ruth Eliel, Carol Eliel, the Eliel family c. 1961

A couple of years ago I heard about Ruth Eliel, who was, at the time, running the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra. (She’s now executive director of the Colburn Foundation, the largest institutional funder of classical music in L.A.) My ears perked up. I immediately thought of LACMA’s modern and contemporary art curator Carol Eliel. I figured that these two very significant art leaders couldn’t possibly be related. What are the odds? Pretty good, I guess. Ruth and Carol are sisters. I recently spoke with them about the changing cultural landscape in L.A., a past collaboration, and the kind of parents who raise such powerful and interesting women.

You’ve both been a part of L.A.’s cultural community for some time. How have things changed in town since you got started?

Carol: I came to L.A. in the fall of 1984 and it wasn’t exactly a small pond then, but it’s a huge pond now. The best of what was happening then continues today—there’s just more of it. More shows, more museums, more artists. Yet there’s still not a major arts publication based in Los Angeles.

Ruth: I came here in 1987. One of the biggest changes I’ve seen is that L.A. no longer has a professional dance company. Also, the number of art critics has really diminished. The Los Angeles Times doesn’t have a full-time dance critic any more and is down to one full-time music critic. The L.A. Weekly no longer has a classical music critic.

So while the arts scene here has flourished by all accounts, coverage of the arts hasn’t necessarily followed.

Carol: Right. When I came here in 1984, there were two papers in Los Angeles and thus two visual arts critics at dailies—Christopher Knight, formerly at the Herald-Examiner, now at the L.A. Times, and William Wilson, who was with the Times.

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