Erica Cardenas

Arts funding slashed

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Arizona once ranked 25th in the nation in legislative arts appropriations – now it’s ranked last, with all legislative support for the arts cut to zero in the 2012 budget according to Arizona Indicators, an online information resource and analysis tool that centralizes data about the state and its communities.

The data shows an alarming decline over the last few years, with Arizona dropping from 47th place in 2010 to 49th in 2011 and now … nothing given to the arts. The essential role of arts and cultural organizations in Arizona’s economy makes this a pressing policy issue for the state. In fact, Arizona Town Hall chose arts and culture as the focus of its 98th town hall and report. 

Despite boasting a commission on the arts, the picture looks grim when it comes to public resources for the arts in Arizona. 

A former leader in arts funding, legislative appropriations dropped to $665,600 in 2011 from $956,000 in 2010, which in turn was down 34 percent from 2009, according to the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, Legislative Appropriations Annual Survey, FY2010 and FY2011. 

Nationwide, the average legislative appropriation for state arts agencies is $4.8 million, ranging from over $41 million in New York to less than half a million in other states.

In the U.S., there are more than 600,000 businesses involved in the arts (whether creation or distribution), employing 2.9 million people. Communities consistently find that the arts play a crucial role in their local economic development efforts with important direct and indirect effects. 

What are some examples of such effects? Direct efforts include increased jobs, sales and public revenues. Indirect efforts enhance a community’s overall image and contribute to the attraction of new residents, employers, tourists and investors. 

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Americans for the Arts recently released its 2010 Creative Industries report, focusing on arts-related businesses that “range from nonprofit museums, symphonies and theaters to for-profit film, architecture and advertising companies.” 

Arizona has 11,600 such arts-related businesses employing a total of 47,712 residents. Of these 11,600 Arizona businesses, 1,163 are nonprofit arts, culture, humanities, fairs and international cultural exchange entities. 

The 2009 report, Arts and the Economy, by the National Governors Association’s Center for Best Practices, points out that nonprofit arts organizations provide educational and outreach services that help to cultivate demand for arts experiences – and, consequently, they benefit arts industries in general. 

In Arizona, per capita appropriations averaged 44 cents last year, but have now been eliminated. While per capita expenditures have decreased over the last few years nationally, from 96 cents in 2010, to 87 cents in 2011, most states have preserved some level of funding. 

According to Arizona Indicators, funding is being cut for these activities in spite of their contributions to an important economic sector – one that employs a lot of Arizona residents. 

Some nonprofits serve as catalysts or incubators, providing essential advocacy, design, communications, training, education or planning services to artist entrepreneurs and for-profit creative businesses. 

One such organization is Arizona Action for the Arts, a statewide nonprofit arts advocacy membership organization focused on promoting public dialogue, public policy and legislation favorable to the arts, which also serves as a resource for increasing public funding sources. 

Along with its allied organization, the nonprofit charitable arm Arizona Citizens for the Arts, Arizona Action for the Arts strives to increase “discussion and awareness of the importance and impact of the arts in achieving quality of life, educational excellence and economic health for all Arizonans and Arizona enterprises.” 

Other nonprofits are direct producers of artistic goods and experiences. Examples of these abound throughout Arizona and include the performing arts, visual arts, film/radio and museums. And others are the “anchor” attraction in a community whose audiences provide essential business for nearby retail, restaurant and hospitality providers. The Heard Museum is one of many notable anchor attractions.

Arts-related businesses have actually increased in Arizona since 2008. As of January 2008, there were 10,590 arts-related businesses employing 46,000 people – in January 2011 these numbers increased to 13,781 businesses and 47,762 employees. 

These data points, taken from the Dunn and Bradstreet database by the organization Americans for the Arts, explain the role such businesses play in building and sustaining economic vibrancy: “These arts-centric businesses employ residents, spend money locally, generate government revenue and are a cornerstone of tourism and economic development.” 

For more information, visit Arizona Indicators is a project of Morrison Institute for Public Policy and is made possible by support from the Arizona Community Foundation and Arizona State University.

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