Culture News

Arizona Commission on the Arts Doubles Grant Funding for 2017

Arizona Commission on the Arts has awarded 239 grants totaling more than $2.2 million to Arizona nonprofit arts organizations, local arts agencies, schools, and community organizations for the fiscal year 2017, which runs from July 1, 2016, to June 30, 2017. That's more than twice the amount it awarded during fiscal year 2016.

The Commission is a state agency funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. It's charged with stimulating the arts, fostering public participation in the arts, and encouraging an appreciation for Arizona's cultural resources. 

A July 6 press release announcing the awards noted that this increase was made possible by the Arizona Legislature’s one-time $1.5 million allocation in the state's 2017 budget to the commission — which comes from interest accrued on the state's Rainy Day Fund. But the Commission's grant-making decisions are also affected by other funding sources, including the Arizona Arts Trust Fund.

Established by former Governor Rose Mofford in 1989, the Arizona Arts Trust Fund receives a portion of Corporation Commission filing fees, which corporations pay when they file certain documents with the commission. In recent years, those fees have resulted in an average of about $1.3 million a year for Arizona Commission on the Arts. 

After the legislature eliminated the General Fund appropriation for Arizona Commission on the Arts from the state budget in 2012, the Arizona Arts Trust Fund became the primary means of funding the arts in Arizona.

That's why Arizona Commission on the Arts was able to award grants totaling more than $1.5 million.

The recent $1.5 million allocation was hard-won by Arizona arts advocates, who decried the fact that Governor Doug Ducey’s proposed budget released on January 16 included none of the $2 million requested by Arizona Commission on the Arts. Ultimately, Ducey signed a 2017 state budget including $1.5 million for the Commission, headed by executive director Bob Booker.

Recipients of these 2017 grants were chosen through a competitive process.

Submitted applications were reviewed by panels led by Governor-appointed members of the Arizona Commission on the Arts. Factors considered include community investment, quality of programming, fiscal ingenuity, and responsible stewardship of public funds.

The Commission awarded four types of grants for fiscal year 2017, including community investment grants, festival grants, arts learning collaboration grants, and lifelong arts engagement grants. Those last two evolved from grants awarded through a previously offered arts learning grant program. The largest grants, for $60,000, went to a trio of Tucson organizations including Loft Cinema, an indie movie house.

Tucson-based Arizona Theatre Company, which performs at both the Temple of Music and Art in Tucson and Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix, was one of several organizations awarded a $47,000 community investment grant. Others include Childsplay, Heard Museum, Mesa Arts Center, and Phoenix Art Museum.

But don’t expect the sizable grant to have an impact on Arizona Theatre Company’s recent plea for fast cash to keep it afloat.

Arizona Theatre Company announced on June 27 that it needed to raise $2 million by July 1 to continue operations, but has since extended its deadline to July 15 and stated that Tucson businessman Mike Kasser will donate or secure $1 million of that total if Phoenix donors provide the other $1 million.

The $47,000 grant from the Commission won’t count towards that fundraising effort because it was already figured into the theater company’s budget, publicist Steve Carr told New Times by e-mail on July 6.

And there's another factor at play.

The dates vary as to when each awardee receives its funds. It's based on several factors, says Steve Wilcox, communications and research director for Arizona Commission on the Arts.

At its quarterly board meeting on June 30, members of the Commission decided to hold off on making a decision about moving forward with funding for Arizona Theatre Company, buying time to see whether the theater company will survive.

Most organizations that are receiving grants aren't dealing with numbers nearly that large. The majority of community investment grants for the 2017 fiscal year are $12,000 or less.

Phoenix-area organizations receiving between $2,000 and $12,000 include Black Theatre Troupe, Center Dance Ensemble, iTheatre Collaborative, [nueBOX], Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art, Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, Space 55, and Stray Cat Theatre.

Festival grants went to more than a dozen Valley organizations. Both Artlink, which presents Art Detour, and Grand Avenue Arts & Preservation, which presents the Grand Avenue Festival, received $2,000 in grant funding. CONDER/dance, which presents the annual Breaking Ground dance and film festival, was awarded $3,000.

The Commission isn't the only art-backing organization to announce grants this summer. The City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture announced its grant winners on July 1.

Grants from the City totaled $865,346 and were divided among 55 nonprofit arts organizations. The total represents a $60,000 increase to its grant program. Phoenix awarded grants for general operations, arts and culture learning, and festivals. All are matching grants that require recipients to raise funds equal to their grant awards, and funds awarded come from the city's General Fund. Grant monies will be distributed to recipients this summer, says Gail Browne, executive director for the City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. 

The largest amounts were awarded to the Phoenix Symphony Association ($99,449), Arizona Theatre Company ($78,909), Ballet Arizona ($62,792), Desert Botanical Garden ($59,108), and Arizona Science Center ($48,354). Recipients of smaller grants include Alwun House and Scorpius Dance Theatre, which were awarded $5,000 each. 

More grant opportunities are already available.

While the Commission's community investment and festival grants are awarded annually, its arts learning collaboration grants and lifelong arts engagement grants are offered in a three-deadline cycle — and cycle B applications are being accepted through September 8. 

The Commission is currently accepting applications for two additional programs, which are aimed at individuals. Applications for its professional development grants, which support artistic development and skill-building activities, are also due on September 8. Applications for its artist research and development grants, which support artistic research and aid in the development of artistic work, are due August 25. 

The next grant deadline for the City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture is in March 2017, and information about that grant cycle will be available this December

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble