In August 1933, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt issued an open invitation to the readers of a popular magazine: “I want you to write to me.” Though she admitted from the outset that she would be unable to respond to every letter (she received over 300,000 in the first year alone), these letters offered Roosevelt invaluable and deeply personal insights into the lives of her fellow Americans.

With a similar aim, I set out in my new role to visit personally with creative leaders and to listen for those matters of most concern right now. Whenever possible, I took advantage of the beautiful spring weather to walk and talk together in Valley neighborhoods and in other locations around the state. I love these mobile conversations. Movement and changing scenery steer conversation down unexplored paths, revealing insights that are otherwise missed.

In March, I visited Wickenburg for Cowgirl Up! at Desert Caballeros Western Museum, where I served as one of three judges for the show, gave a morning talk, and had the great honor of selecting the winner of the exhibition’s 2022 Governor’s Award. Congratulations, Judith Durr!

Anne L’Ecuyer speaks to attendees of the “Cowgirl Up!” opening weekend in Wickenburg.

I spent the last week of April in Flagstaff. As a proud Lumberjack, I do still know my way around town and I’m grateful to the exceptional creative leaders who brought me up to speed, including Debra Edgerton, Margot Wilder, Andrea Lenhart, and Karen Begay. It was great to see a big crowd at the annual Viola Awards, and inspiring to hear all that the Creative Flagstaff network is doing. Congratulations again to the nominees and awardees!

Anne L’Ecuyer and Karen Begay in Flagstaff

And did I mention my appearance at Mesa’s Neighborhood Comedy Theatre on April 1? As the evening’s designated storyteller, I shared personal anecdotes, which the master improv performers of NCT spun into hilarious vignettes. What a cool creative way to connect with old friends and new neighbors in downtown Mesa.

Though I am always listening and learning, a few themes are emerging:

  • We can do much more to coach creative leaders on career and enterprise pathways. Unstable wages and rising housing costs are putting the squeeze on working households, while arts institutions are struggling to compete in a tight labor market. Time to connect the dots around creative workforce development.
  • Whether creative aging is a personal practice, professional calling, or program opportunity, our relationships to healing and healthcare systems couldn’t be more relevant right now. Let’s be wise about wellness in every way.
  • When it comes to inclusion, the effort is mission-critical and requires every one of us. Let’s each explore our own ‘why’ and work in that direction toward better cultural connections.

In the months ahead, I look forward to exploring more places and meeting personally with those of us who make our lives and/or living through Arizona’s vibrant, diverse, intersecting arts and culture communities.

Right now, however, there is work to be done at the Capitol, where I am closely in touch with Arizona Citizens for the Arts to brief our elected representatives on the value and impact of the arts sector. We drive local economies, build stronger communities, enhance education, and improve the quality of life for residents and visitors. When care and comfort are required, we’re here too.

The agency has requested $5 million in ongoing appropriations from the State’s General Fund. This core public investment ensures reliable support from the arts sector and catalyzes new collaborative opportunities with private philanthropy, corporate partners, and federal agencies.

In reality, rapid population growth and continuing uncertainties in economic and social conditions are demanding much more from us. Quality of life, personal wellness, youth development, economic mobility, and civil society – in times like these it all begins with connected conversations. Luckily, we are built for these challenges – a statewide arts ecosystem that responds regeneratively to people, resources, and opportunity. Our long term vision is ambitious, reasonable, and achievable, but we must invest now to get to what’s next. This year’s appropriations request is a step toward Arizona’s brightest and most sustainable future.

As an Arizonan, you have a role to play in determining that outcome. If the arts are important to you and your community, reach out to your representatives and let them know. For more information on how to get involved, visit the Arizona Citizens for the Arts website. Your voice, experience, and insights are powerful and essential. You tell the stories that no numbers reveal.

Which brings me back to Eleanor Roosevelt’s invitation, one I’d like to echo here: What is something you would like me to know about yourself? What is working (or not!) in your community? Tell me about a place I need to see or a food I ought to try. What are your hopes for Arizona, our people, places, and shared spaces? What are your concerns?

This is an invitation, not an assignment, but I do hope you’ll reach out now and in the future. On the right side of this page, I’ve left a video greeting for you and there is a simple form to share a brief story, video, or photograph. Direct your note to me, specifically, or to the Arts Commission more generally. If you have a question, it will go to the staff member who can best answer it.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Anne L’Ecuyer, Executive Director
Arizona Commission on the Arts