Edifice Complex

Building new cultural facilities is a risky business for Valley cities.

"We bemoaned that leadership drain," he says. "But when the new people came in, they got their feet wet, they helped out and took on their roles."

Yet he and others agree that if a new model of community leadership does emerge, it may not follow the same good old boy network that most cultural institutions have counted on.

It may come from the high-tech start-up crowd.

Joanie Flatt, Mesa's Woman of the Year, is a leading supporter of the city's proposed new $92 million art center.
Paolo Vescia
Joanie Flatt, Mesa's Woman of the Year, is a leading supporter of the city's proposed new $92 million art center.
Income from blockbusters like the Norman Rockwell exhibition has given Phoenix Art Museum's director, James Ballinger, plenty to smile about in recent years.
Paolo Vescia
Income from blockbusters like the Norman Rockwell exhibition has given Phoenix Art Museum's director, James Ballinger, plenty to smile about in recent years.

"We've got a lot of that invisible economy here -- the high-growth, new-economy-type firms," says Mary Jo Waites, director of ASU's Morrison Institute. "Those CEOs are generally focused on their business. They're not as visible yet in the community and we don't really know how to find them or get them involved."

She says that in Austin, Silicon Valley and other start-up hot spots, successful consortiums of small businesses have formed to get the new business leaders involved.

"These guys are running five, 10, 20 or 100 employees, and they're working 18 hours a day," says Ed Denison, president of AZSOFT.net, a local trade association of about 450 software and Internet companies. "They're in a death race, trying to get that product to market before five other competitors come in, and before whatever capital they've raised runs out."

The association has begun talking to the Arizona Commission on the Arts about getting its members involved in cultural support, possibly through the contribution of company stock.

"They want to be good corporate citizens if you can make it easy for them," says Denison. "They just don't have much time to put a lot of energy or activity into it."

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