Prior to the pandemic, Arizona was home to a diverse arts ecosystem, including (but certainly not limited to) organizations small and large, working in myriad creative disciplines, delivering a wealth of benefits in communities across our state.

It wasn’t perfect, this ecosystem, and it had its share of stubborn and systemic challenges—but if you’d asked me in February about the state of the arts sector, I would have said that good change was taking root in many Arizona communities.

Like nearly every sector navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona’s arts sector now finds itself facing widespread and unprecedented uncertainty, income loss, and mounting distress.

In response to the crisis, Governor Doug Ducey allocated $2 million in COVID-19 relief to Arizona’s arts and culture organizations. We were grateful to be tasked with stewarding this relief, and immediately set about establishing a distribution plan.

We held and considered several values, realities, and data sets: our role as a public agency, racial equity, geographic parity, a commitment to creative workers, public benefit and access, the vastness of COVID-era financial loss, extensive constituent and community feedback, the need for efficiency in resource delivery. (This list is not comprehensive.)

Our deliberation led us back to a set of principles at the core of our agency’s mission:

We believe the diversity of the arts ecosystem is a strength, the diversity of the arts ecosystem is essential to the wellbeing of communities and economies, and that arts workers, audiences, funders, and supporters have a vested interest in ensuring that a diverse arts ecosystem exists on the other side of the pandemic.

As a result, we aim to ensure support reaches every Arizona county, by investing relief in an expansive range of arts and culture organizations through the AZ Organizational Relief Grant (AZ ORG) program.

AZ ORG will provide operating support grants of $4,000-$11,000 to approximately 300 organizations. Arts and culture organizations are experiencing an avalanche of challenges, so we tried to make the process as simple as possible. AZ ORG is a non-competitive program, meaning funding will be awarded provided applications are complete, meet eligibility requirements, and are in alignment with the program purpose.

You can learn more about eligibility and where/how funding will be directed here.

We know this program framework doesn’t solve all or even most of the sector’s immediate challenges, and that there is not enough funding available to fully relieve individual organizations of their COVID-19 injuries. Yet we believe this program can provide some measure of relief to a cohort of organizations that remain hard at work in the midst of a pandemic, engaging their deep wells of tenacity and ingenuity as they persist in providing valuable services to Arizona residents. We are proud to support them.



Jaime Dempsey
Executive Director