Arizona Commission on the Arts Awards $2.3 Million in Grants

Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, on the Mesa Arts Center campus.
Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, on the Mesa Arts Center campus. Lynn Trimble
Arizona Commission the Arts recently awarded $2,354,500 in grant funding to Arizona schools and nonprofit organizations. The awards, which went to 234 groups, were announced by press release on Thursday, July 20.

The commission is one of 56 state and jurisdictional arts agencies across the U.S. These grants are part of its fiscal year 2018 budget, which is in effect from July 1, 2017, to June 30, 2018.

More than half these grants were awarded to Maricopa County nonprofit organizations and schools. Collectively, those groups received $1,259,500 in grant funding.

Last year, Arizona Commission on the Arts awarded 239 grants for fiscal year 2017 totaling $2,266,000. This year's funding is an increase of $88,500.

The grants play an important role in helping the commission achieve its goal of increasing access to the arts for all of Arizona's citizens, according to Bob Booker, executive director for Arizona Commission on the Arts.

"The commission utilizes its grant program to provide essential investment in communities across Arizona," Booker says in the release announcing the awards.

These fiscal year 2018 grants were awarded in four categories: community investment grants, festival grants, arts learning collaboration grants, and lifelong arts engagement grants. Grants awarded range from $1,500 to $60,000.

click to enlarge Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, on the Mesa Arts Center campus. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, on the Mesa Arts Center campus.
Lynn Trimble
Grants are awarded through review panels led by governor-appointed members of Arizona Commission on the Arts. Recipients are chosen based on several factors, such as community investment, quality of programming, fiscal ingenuity, and responsible stewardship of public funds, according to the release.

Four metro Phoenix organizations received the largest grants within Maricopa Country: Mesa Arts Center, Heard Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, and Childsplay. Each received a $47,000 community investment grant, which provides general operating support.

Community investment grants for $40,000 went to several Phoenix-based organizations, including Arizona Opera Company, Ballet Arizona, Children's Museum of Phoenix, Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, Phoenix Symphony Association, and Phoenix Theatre.

Dozens of smaller organizations in the Valley received community investment grants as well, including Center Dance Ensemble ($7,500), iTheatre Collaborative ($4,500), Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art ($5,000), Space 55 Theatre Ensemble ($2,000), nueBOX ($4,500), and Stray Cat Theatre ($5,000).

Other groups in Maricopa County also won grants for fiscal year 2018.

Seven schools received arts learning collaboration grants.Those grants are designed to enhance the work of arts educators, classroom teachers, and school-based arts programs through collaborative projects.

Six groups, including Arizona State University, won lifelong arts engagement grants that help community groups, social service organizations, or governmental entities partner with professional teaching artists or arts organizations. Grants in these categories range from $1,500 to $2,500.

Festival grants went to 14 groups based in metro Phoenix, including CONDER/Dance, which presents its annual Breaking Ground festival at Tempe Center for the Arts, and the Latina Dance Project, which just presented the first Phoenix iteration of the BlakTina Dance Festival launched several years ago in Los Angeles.

Other festival grant winners include the Arab American Festival, Arizona Asian American Festival, Artlink, Japanese Friendship Garden, Phoenix Blues Society, Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival, India Association of Phoenix, Arizona Aloha Festival, Arizona Matsuri, City of Mirage, Cultural Coalition, and The Bridge Initiative: Women in Theatre. Each received a $2,000 or $3,000 festival grant.

Back in January 2015, The Bridge Initiative received a $6,000 grant from Arizona Commission on the Arts through a grants program called Art Tank. For those grants, organizations pitched their innovative arts program ideas to community members who voted afterwards to help select which groups got funding. The Art Tank grants are no longer awarded due to reduced arts funding from the Arizona Legislature.

During fiscal year 2017, Arizona's budget allocated $1.5 million for the arts. That's the same amount included in the state's 2018 budget, totaling $9.82 billion. Governor Doug Ducey signed the budget into law on March 12.

Despite the reduced funding, and his decision to retire from Arizona Commission on the Arts after August 7 this year, Booker remains optimistic about the role of arts and culture in Arizona.

"The arts are an economic driver, enhance the education of our young people, and create opportunities for dialogue and understanding among and within Arizona's diverse communities," Booker says.
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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