I’m what you might call a late convert. Though I moved three decades ago from California to Arizona with my husband James, I never felt truly connected to the state until I began exploring Arizona arts and culture, which is distinguished in both its breadth and depth of offerings.
For those truly passionate about arts and culture, no justification of their existence is needed. But we’re living in a time dominated by national conversations about the relative merits of austerity and investment. So folks who favor arts for arts sake need to do more than simply love art. They need to demonstrate its merits.
I’ve heard Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton speak several times about the role of arts and culture in building vibrant communities, citing concrete examples of the economic impact arts in Phoenix has on the city’s growth and development — including construction inspired by revitalization along Roosevelt Row.
Investments in arts and culture increase tourism revenue, create jobs in creative industries and attract businesses eager to settle in communities that provide a rich quality of life for employees. And they create more opportunities for youth to develop skills like critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration through the arts.
When thoughts of leaving Arizona cross my mind, I call two families to mind. My husband’s parents, whose roots in Arizona go back much farther than my own, and my arts family — all the amazing artists I’ve met while exploring Arizona museums, galleries, theaters and other venues from coffee shops to concert halls.
Folks eager to get a feel for Phoenix arts and culture can head to Margaret T. Hance Park near the Burton Barr Library in central Phoenix today for Phoenix Festival of the Arts, which runs through 5pm. It’s a free event featuring live entertainment, art exhibits and more — even the chance to help paint a community mural.
Mayor Stanton attended the 3-day festival yesterday afternoon, and presented five recipients with Mayor’s Arts Awards — Scorpius Dance Theatre (dance organization award), Downtown Chamber Series (music organization award), Rising Youth Theatre (theater award), Hugo Medina (public art award) and Eugene Grigsby (visual artist award).
I’m delighted that Mayor Stanton appreciates the role of arts and culture in fostering strong communities, but none of us should imagine for an instant that his support alone can move the cause of greater investments in arts and culture forward. We’ve all got to advocate each and every day within our own spheres of influence.
Learn more about championing the cause of Arizona arts and culture from Arizona Commission on the Arts and Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts, and save the date for the next Arizona Arts Congress taking place Monday, Feb. 4 at the Arizona State Capitol.
Note: The next Governor’s Arts Awards ceremony takes place March 6, 2013 at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. Nominations are being accepted in six categories through 5pm on Friday, Dec. 14. Click here for details.
Coming up: Musings on mural art