Dear Colleagues:

Over the past year the Arizona arts industry faced unprecedented challenges: a nearly 80% decrease in contributions to arts organizations, a notable decrease in ticket sales and significant job loss. Already meager arts programs in many Arizona schools were reduced or eliminated, and artists faced the termination of myriad grant programs and services.

Despite these obstacles, the arts industry continues to demonstrate flexibility, resiliency and a ceaseless commitment to serving the citizens of our state. On behalf of the staff and board of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, I thank you for your tireless work and dedication.

Where we are
Even though the Arts Commission’s overall budget was reduced by 42% for the current fiscal year, we continue to preserve core agency values, consolidating resources to maintain General Operating Support grants to arts organizations, preserving resources to arts learning and continuing a commitment to Arizona festivals and individual artists.

The Arts Commission has so far absorbed a goodly amount of budget reductions internally, making significant cuts to operations and reducing agency staff by 33% over two years. Our office, like yours, has had to think creatively about restructuring in order to serve the new and intense needs of the arts field with far fewer resources.

To that end, starting in January 2010, program directors Adriana Gallego (now Director of Strategic Initiatives) and Jennifer Tsukayama (now Director of Strategic partnerships) will oversee state and local partnerships, general operating support and Basic Aid grants, and support to local arts agencies, among other programs. Ginny Berryhill, Grants and Information Technology Manager, and Jaya Rao, Accessibility and Programs Coordinator, will serve as a frontline grants processing office, in addition to their existing tasks. More information about these transitions will be available in the coming weeks.

Where we’re headed
The cuts keep coming. To address the current fiscal year budget shortfall, the state legislature approved additional 7.5% budget reductions for most state agencies this past weekend. The December actions taken by the legislature will still leave a $1.4 billion shortfall in a fiscal year that is half over.

When the next legislative session begins in January, legislators will still be grappling with the shortfall from the current fiscal year as they negotiate a budget for the next. Predictions made by the joint legislative budget committee point to a fiscal year 2011 budget deficit of $3.4 billion.

Ongoing cuts to the state arts budget will continue to negatively impact the arts industry – and will be one of many challenges we must overcome in 2010. More reductions, some crippling in scope, will be proposed beginning in January. In order to stop the complete annihilation of public funding for the arts in Arizona, the entire arts industry must engage elected officials from both parties to present the arts as a part of the solution.

What we’re doing
The Arts Commission remains engaged with our partner in arts advocacy,  Arizona Citizens/Action for the Arts in attempts to minimize losses in this politically-charged environment during this fiscal crisis.

We are realigning our staff and programs, to direct a larger percentage of resources to grantees statewide, and will launch our fiscal year 2011 grant guides and application process in early January. We will launch several programs and resources we’ve been working on over the last year, including a comprehensively refurbished website, to provide greater access to useful resources for arts administrators, artists, educators and advocates. This year we will also conduct a strategic planning process to culminate in a comprehensive state arts plan, and in all of this, we aim to communicate more effectively and regularly with the statewide arts industry.

What you can do
Now is the time to step forward as an arts advocate. We must remain focused on the arts as part of the economic solution for our communities, state and nation.

Now more than ever, Arizona needs the economic, educational, and civic benefits of the arts. Become familiar with the Arts Commission’s publication, Building Public Value for the Arts in Arizona, and consider including the following points when you speak with legislators, board members, audiences and community members:

The arts contribute to economic competitiveness through the generation of jobs, tax revenue, and consumer spending.

  • Arts activities draw new dollars into the state economy through tourism and the export of unique cultural goods.
  • Businesses, in order to thrive, require the imagination, problem-solving and communications skills that arts education cultivates.
  • Arts education contributes to overall student success in school, enhancing academic achievement, and educational attainment as well as school climate and student self esteem.

We’re in this together
As always, please call on us if we can assist you during these challenging times. With you as our partners, we continue to imagine an Arizona where everyone can participate in and experience the arts wherever they live.

Robert C. Booker
Executive Director
Arizona Commission on the Arts