Kara Roschi on the State of the Arts in Metro Phoenix

When Jackalope Ranch issued a 10-question survey asking Phoenicians (and anyone with an opinion of Phoenix) to sound of on the state of the arts in the Valley of the Sun, dozens provided insights on what's happening in the city's creative realm. We'll present a selection of survey responses here over the next three weeks. Up today is artist and Practical Art owner Kara Roschi.

1. What are three words that describe the arts in Arizona? accessible, collaborative, and experimental

See also: Beatrice Moore on the State of the Arts in Metro Phoenix

2. Describe your role in the Arizona arts scene (including "observer" -- a very important role!) and how it came to be. I think of myself most as a connector: through my artwork I attempt to connect people to one another's stories, choices, and ideas; Practical Art is about presenting local makers to the market that appreciates the handcrafted; "U.S. Dept. of Arts & Culture," the arts collective in which I am an 'Agent', is about connecting our local grassroots cultural scene to others across the Nation; I'm working on a new curation, sales, and rental platform to bridge the gap between university art and local sites that desire original artwork in their professional spaces; and once I'm out of school, I look forward to returning to touring duties at Phoenix Art Museum as a docent, bringing audiences into dialogue about some of the more challenging aspects of Contemporary Art. All of it came to be because of a sense that Phoenix needs its citizens' initiatives-- it needs and welcomes civic engagement and production, the idea of 'If We Make It, We Can Enjoy It'.

3. Who is making the biggest impact on metro Phoenix's art scene and how are they doing that? City policy and new development projects, for better and for worse, are what are impacting the arts the most in the metro areas. We see wonderful new constituent-supported amenities springing up-- light rail expansions, streetscaping, adaptive reuse building projects, more fairs & festivals, innovative events-- but we also see policies that contribute to our 40 percent vacant-land to total-land-area stats, and we see monolithic, plunk-down developments that supplant the city's organically-vibrant and community-driven character. The State's policies also drive away dollars and creative entrepreneurship that we desperately need with archaic moves like SB1070, heavy participation in the "War on Drugs", and what seems to be a systemic push to create a 'second-class citizenry.' Culture is created by everyone, in the various place-types that foster creativity -- and our politics are squashing the diversity and dynamism of both.

4. Where has metro Phoenix made the biggest strides in the arts in the last 10 years or so? It's embrace, and financial support, of street art. Many of our districts now visibly say, "Hey, Culture Happens Here," and it's with an art form that is always visible and accessible to everyone in that community; that reflects different voices and perspectives; and that creates a visual marker for other creatives.

5. What are Arizona's most underused arts resources? Mentors. Proto-professionals need to reach up, and folks who know the ropes need to reach down, to connect. Both individuals gain from such relationships, as does the field for the new continuity.

6. How can artists and institutions better connect with audiences? Build more, and deeper, relationships. If you're a business leader, a politician, chair of an arts organization-- who in town are you curious about? (And if you're not curious, get curious!) And then invite them to coffee, find out about them, and then figure out how you can partner to expand both of your audiences. If you model a vested interest in another organization, your audiences will respond in kind. Attention is a precious currency.

7. What are the biggest roadblocks in metro Phoenix's art scene and how can we get past them? Funding; we need to vote to prioritize and subsidize arts learning, arts spaces, and artists' livelihoods. It bolsters the economy, reduces crime, fosters inclusionary practices, and creates a more empathetic and vibrant community.

8. Metro Phoenix's art scene needs __________. More buyers, of all levels. Local First Arizona continuously beats this drum, but it's true: with our dollars we fund exactly what we want our world to be made of, and similarly, we can divest those things we oppose. Sure, there are a few big spenders around town, but the aggregate of smaller investments can tell an even more powerful story. I want to see more and more creative critical thought in town, so I make sure there's a line item for art in my personal budget.

9. What can metro Phoenix's art scene learn from other parts of the state -- and country? We need to learn how to make the art scene more visible here. First Friday is only the tip of the iceberg. Maybe we take a note from San Fran and figure out how to do more billboards, street banners, kiosks, et al.?

10. In three years, what three words do you hope describe the state of the arts in Arizona? sustainable, integrated, dynamic

See also: James B. Hunt on the State of the Arts in Metro Phoenix & Melissa Dunmore on the State of the Arts in Metro Phoenix

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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski