But that didn’t happen. Instead the state adopted a “skinny budget” focused on funding existing programs. Last year, the Arizona Legislature approved $2 million in arts funding, which explains why the arts advocacy group Arizona Citizens for the Arts is referring to this year’s funding as a 100 percent cut. It’s possible the Legislature will use a subsequent session to increase funding in certain areas such as arts and culture.
That’s what Rosemarie Dombrowski, inaugural poet laureate for the city of Phoenix, is pushing for. “I wrote to my legislators,” she says, “but now I’m trying to circulate a letter among the literary community and get hundreds of signatures to send to the governor.”
This isn't the first time the arts have not been included. Arizona Commission on the Arts requested $2 million during the FY 2016 budget process, but none of those funds were included in the budget that year.
“We are going to see a domino effect of more losses to artists and communities,” Benesh wrote in a May 30 advocacy newsletter sent to arts and culture supporters. Typically, the $2 million goes toward grants and programs that benefit artists, arts organizations, and community members. Without that funding, it's likely those grants and programs will be cut.
Arizona Commission on the Arts expects to release a statement in coming days about the outcome of the legislative session and its ramifications for both the commission and the arts sector.
The details will come as artists continue to face financial challenges caused by COVID-19 closures and cancellations. It’s possible that Arizona will use part of its federal CARES Act funding to support the arts and culture sector, but there’s no guarantee that will be the case.
She’s hoping that Arizona will find a way to add $2 million in arts funding to the FY 2021 budget. “It’s a travesty for our communities and our artists that these opportunities are being taken away,” Olson says. “We’ll be losing something beautiful and poignant.”