Arizona's 2019 Budget Includes $2 Million for the Arts

The Arizona State Capitol, where budget negotiations ended well for Arizona Commission on the Arts.
The Arizona State Capitol, where budget negotiations ended well for Arizona Commission on the Arts. Sean Holstege
For months, art advocates have been watching Arizona's budget process, hoping for good news. Today, May 3, they got it. Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona legislature struck a budget deal that includes $2 million in arts funding.

The budget covers fiscal year 2019, which runs from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019. The $2 million will come from the state's rainy day fund, as it has in several years past.

That's the full amount requested by Arizona Commission on the Arts, which is one of more than 50 agencies affiliated with the National Endowment for the Arts. The agency works to increase access to arts for all Arizonans, through various grants and programs.

The news follows months of budget negotiations, and concerns raised in recent weeks by Catherine "Rusty" Foley, who heads Arizona Citizens for the Arts. Unlike the commission, which exists to support arts programs in Arizona communities, Arizona Citizens for the Arts is focused on public policy and the arts.

Foley rallied arts supporters on social media after seeing the Legislature's budget proposal issued on Monday, April 16, which didn't include any funding for the commission.

The commission's $2 million ask included $1.5 million for community investment and arts learning grants. The remaining $500,000 sought by the commission included $300,000 for creative-economy investments in rural and under-served communities, as well as $200,000 to expand a creative aging initiative beyond Maricopa County.

"From the beginning of this legislative session, we made the point that the commission was committed to expanding these programs," Foley says. "We've developed relationships with key legislators over time, and they really stood with us."

Even so, it wasn't clear that the governor was on board with a $2 million arts allocation.

Just days before, on Thursday, April 12, Ducey proposed giving Arizona teachers a 20 percent raise over the course of three years. And it looked like the arts would go unfunded, so more money could go toward education.

But that changed after advocates responded en masse.

More than 1,000 art supporters emailed the governor and Arizona legislators through the Arizona Citizens for the Arts website, and Foley says many more contacted their elected officials directly.

"We did a lot of social media outreach to arts supporters, and that had a big impact," Foley says. "Our message really resonated and people responded."

On Monday, April 30, a new budget proposal came out. This time, it included $2 million in arts funding.

Foley asked arts supporters to contact legislators one more time, to thank them for funding the arts. And then she waited.

In the end, there was good news.

The 2019 budget passed on Thursday, May 3, included $2 million in funding for the arts.

"We got a tremendous response from advocates, and that really put us in the game."

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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