Nonprofits and Government Agencies Advocate for Arts Funding in Arizona

Arizona Capitol in Phoenix on March 10, 2022. (Maya Badman/Downtown Devil)

The Arizona Arts Commission supports various communities in Arizona with state funding, but in recent years that funding has been significantly reduced.

The Arizona Commission on the Arts provides grants to arts and cultural organizations, schools, teachers, professionals, and artists to enrich the lives of Arizona residents within diverse communities. As a state agency, the commission works with the state of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts to direct funding to programs that support Arizona’s arts industry, according to the Arizona Arts Commission.

But to do this, the commission needs money. Funding had been cut 48% due to recession-era budget cuts, according to Arizona Citizens for the Arts 2022 budget overview.

The nonprofit Arizona Citizens for the Arts is advocating with the Capitol and the public to support House Bill 2051, which would renew the commission for another eight years, and a $5 million budget request to fund commission, CEO of Arizona Citizens for the Arts Patrick McWhortor said during the virtual webinar “People power the arts” on March 7.

This budget request could bring the commission amount closer to pre-recession funding, according to the committee budget overview.

This increased funding would better allow the commission to[reach] every corner of this state” through “an empathy delivery system,” said Anne L’Ecuyer, executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

Many communities would be impacted by social change and the influence the creative economy would have on housing, transportation and education, L’Ecuyer said. The commission has several priorities for the communities it wishes to reach, including the elderly, youth and veterans, to encourage the values ​​of creativity, skill and service, L’Ecuyer said.

To achieve these objectives, the commission relies on the help of the public.

“Your voice matters, when you connect one-on-one with [legislators] they really care,” said Dianne McCallister, government relations specialist for Public Policy Partners.

McCallister recommends connect with Arizona legislators and continue that relationship, because legislators have served for many years and “want to hear from the people they’ve built relationships with.”

How the Public Can Get Involved in Arts Advocacy

Everyone can defend the arts.

Robert Meza offered advice to listeners of “People Power the Arts” who are “passionate about the arts”. Meza has nearly 20 years on the Arizona Capitol as a former state legislator, and he is a former member of the Phoenix Theater team and a member of the Centennial Capital Campaign Committee for the Phoenix Theater.

He recommended that these people “call their legislators to have coffee with them,” to create an individual touch and talk about their neighborhood, community, and arts organizations.

Events like March 10 on Capitol Day allow people to communicate with state lawmakers, but Meza urges the public to speak with their lawmakers “outside the Capitol.” [which] could have a huge impact on their belief system,” Meza said.

Most lawmakers are willing to meet with members of their community because “most people who are lawmakers who want to serve or who serve want to meet people,” said Arizona State Rep. Justin Wilmeth.

The Arizona House of Representatives on March 10, 2022. (Maya Badman/Downtown Devil)

Meeting with legislators is a form of advocacy that helps legislators and the community understand the cultural and economic impact of the arts, Wilmeth said.

Arizona is divided into legislative districts with legislators who focus on the community located within that district. The Arizona Legislature website includes links to Find your legislator which allows each online guest to provide their address to locate their legislative district. Once an online guest knows their legislative district, the next page List of members will help customers find their legislators with corresponding emails, room numbers and office phone numbers to get in touch.

How Community Nonprofits Advocate for the Arts

Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits works with nonprofit organizations, such as Arizona Citizens for the Arts, to promote the common interests of the Arizona nonprofit community.

The Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits hosted a day on Capitol Hill on March 10 that allowed representatives from various Arizona nonprofits to advocate for public policies that help the economy and communities of arizona.

Not-for-profit organizations included arts organizations such as Herberger Theater Center, Phoenix Conservatory of Music, and Phoenix Choraleas well as human service organizations like Child Advocates, Raising Special Children, Voices for Children CASA and many more that reach every community in Arizona.

These nonprofit organizations contribute directly to the economy, generating approximately $10.9 billion in Arizona’s Gross State Product (GSP) in 2016 and generating $23.5 billion in Arizona’s GSP. Arizona in 2016 through direct, indirect and induced effects. According to “Beyond the bottom line: The Economic and Social Value of Arizona Nonprofits” report of the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits.

Direct effects include staffing nonprofit organizations, purchasing supplies, and paying their taxes. Indirect effects include local businesses hiring workers to be able to supply non-profit organizations and imposing demand on suppliers. Induced effects include employees of non-profit organizations and suppliers who buy their own goods and services locally from the money provided to them by their work.

The nonprofits met with representatives at the Arizona Capitol to speak with district lawmakers to share their understanding and needs for certain bills that would pass through the legislative process, remaining flexible and s adapting.

“Happy the flexibles because they will not be deformed” Arizona Nonprofit Alliance said CEO and President Kristen Merrifield.

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Ashley C. Reynolds