As reported by Arizona Citizens for the Arts, and as a result of a bipartisan effort, HB2678, which would appropriate $2.5 million in Fiscal Year 2020 for the Arizona Arts Trust from the state General Fund, was reported out by the House Appropriations Committee on February 20 with a “do pass” recommendation on a 6-4 vote (with 3 Republicans and 3 Democrats) voting in favor.

Executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Jaime Dempsey, said the Arizona arts are in a similar position as years past in that there was no allocation of funding in the governor’s budget proposal. Dempsey said that she is still hopeful for a positive budget outcome.

“We exist in a funding environment here in Arizona for the arts where local foundations are terrifically committed to the arts, but where there is comparatively not a lot of private foundation support,” Dempsey said. “There is also not a lot of public funding available for arts and culture, compared to other regions.”

Arts Congress, an annual day of Arizona arts advocacy hosted by Arizona Citizens of the Arts, was January 22. Image courtesy of Arizona Citizens for the Arts.

The funding environment is very challenging, Dempsey said. Without the pillar of public support, there can be significant harm to arts organizations and community projects. Many of those projects, including arts education and economically beneficial projects across the state, won’t happen.

One of the ways the Arizona Arts Commission is funded, is through a $45 annual reporting fee paid by Arizona businesses to the Corporation Commission. Fifteen of the $45 is sent to fund arts and culture in Arizona. However, last year, the Corporation Commission had a computer malfunction which resulted in fee payment reminders not being sent. This caused a nearly $400,000 loss in receipts to the Arts Trust Fund.

Catherine “Rusty” Foley, executive director of the Arizona Citizens for the Arts, said there are other forms of income for the arts, with around $825,000 from the National Endowment for the Arts and the money that they have secured from the legislature, around $2 million the last fiscal year.

In Feb. the NEA announced nine grants for Arizona arts programs totaling $190,000. Some of these programs include $30,000 for the traveling exhibition Agnes Pelton: Desert Transcendentalist at the Phoenix Art Museum, $10,000 to support the Litchfield Park Native American Fine Arts Festival and $25,000 to support the Native American Composer Apprentice Project at the Grand Canyon Chamber Music Festival. This is just one set of grants of many more to come from the NEA.

Dempsey said that although they are grateful for the grants, state funding is still necessary to keep Arizona arts alive.

Arizona is currently home to 14,522 arts-based businesses that employ 74,688 people. According to the Americans for the Arts study Arts and Economic Prosperity 5, the arts generated $27.5 billion in revenue from local to state to federal, generating over $400 million annually in Phoenix alone.

“It’s always a challenge to get the word out, to let people know what kind of impact the arts are making in the community, Foley said. “It’s hard to break through those messages (on social media) and be heard,” Foley said.

To get involved, the public should vote, support the annual Arts Congress, and attend meetings with the legislature, Foley said. To get more information, check the Arizona Citizens for the Arts Facebook page.

Editor’s Note: This story has been edited for accuracy and clarity.