Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker on the State of the Arts in Metro Phoenix

Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker weighs in on the state of the arts in metro Phoenix.
Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker weighs in on the state of the arts in metro Phoenix.
Courtesy of Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker

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 isKevin Vaughan-Brubaker, public art manager for Scottsdale Public Art and member of There is Danger.

What are three words that describe the arts in Arizona? Perpetually emerging potential.

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

Describe your role in the Arizona arts scene (including "observer" -- a very important role!) and how it came to be. Phew, that is tough, I do so many things in the Arizona arts scene. I am a project manager for Scottsdale Public Art, before that I was a PM for Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art program, before that I was strategic initiatives director for the Arizona Commission on the Arts. I am a musician who's played in various local bands. I have an MFA in creative writing from ASU. I do my own installations and art pieces that involve interactive poetry at places like ARTELPHX, the Shemer Art Center and Museum and in local parks like Civic Space, Encanto and Coronado. I try to be a connector and a maven of the art scene, supporting it and helping it grow as much as I can. Perhaps this all started when my mom enrolled me in a summer program at the Phoenix Art Museum as a kid in the '80s where I wrote and performed my first poem to go along with a drawing I made.

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Who is making the biggest impact on metro Phoenix's art scene and how are they doing that? Interesting question. The biggest impact? Perhaps it is the galleries who are moving to downtown like Bentley Projects and Lisa Sette. Perhaps it is the development of Roosevelt Row and the Grand Ave areas. Perhaps it is the artists who stay here instead of moving to LA or New York. Could it be the local arts organizations like Scottsdale Cultural Council, Phoenix Office of Art and Culture and Mesa Arts Center who are bringing quality artists and projects to the metro area.

Where has metro Phoenix made the biggest strides in the arts in the last 10 years or so? The First Friday art walk has been an energizer and allowed a steady arts presence to be felt downtown and recognized nationally. The public art programs in the region have been able to complete many high quality and highly visible projects both permanent and temporary with nationally and internationally recognized artists. These projects both create a unique sense of place for the metro Phoenix area and give it an authentic character apart from other cities.

What are Arizona's most underused arts resources? Each other, both on an individual level and an organizational level. If you are short on resources as an individual artist or an arts organization, you can pool funds, manpower, or materials with others to help defray the costs of producing or presenting art. Promotions and marketing costs too onerous? Share those costs with another artist or organization that makes sense to collaborate with. Need some labor but can't afford to hire someone? Make a deal to work on another project in return for someone working on your project. Can't afford to purchase supplies? Go in together to buy in bulk to get a better deal and greater quantity/quality. Resource sharing can mean the difference in being able to execute a project or expand the size, scope and reach of a project.

How can artists and institutions better connect with audiences? Offer many different points of entry for people to interact and engage with art of all disciplines. This should range from events and programs for artists at every stage of their career. These should deepen the experience for existing audience and also create compelling opportunities to attract potential audiences who may never have participated in the arts before.

What are the biggest roadblocks in metro Phoenix's art scene and how can we get past them? Lack of venues and opportunities for mid-career and emerging artists. Many artists just starting out have lots of opportunities here to get their feet wet as artists, but there is nothing to sustain them once they hit a certain level. Therefore, these artists must leave for LA or New York to grow their career.

Metro Phoenix's art scene needs __________. To be able to support artists at every career stage and to be known as a place where an artist can make a living and have a supportive community to be a part of.

What can metro Phoenix's art scene learn from other parts of the state -- and country? Learn from the mistakes of the Tucson art scene which is even more volatile and prone to boom and bust cycles. Learn from cities like LA, Denver, Seattle and Austin on how to build a sense of their cities being bastions of arts and culture by supporting their arts communities and enacting legislation to support the arts and fostering organizations that support local artists' growth and development.

In three years, what three words do you hope describe the state of the arts in Arizona? Considered a destination for artists at all stages of their career where they can live and make a comfortable living.

See also: Kara Roschi on the State of the Arts in Metro Phoenix

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