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Jessica Palomo (center) flanked by friends and fellow artists while her work was exhibited at Bentley Gallery in Phoenix.EXPAND
Jessica Palomo (center) flanked by friends and fellow artists while her work was exhibited at Bentley Gallery in Phoenix.
Lynn Trimble

Phoenix Approves $2.6 Million in COVID-19 Relief for Artists and Art Organizations

Phoenix artists have something to celebrate, now that the City Council has decided to spend $2.6 million of its $293 million in federal CARES Act dollars on providing emergency COVID-19 relief to the city’s arts and culture sector.

The city's arts and culture coronavirus relief program will fund grants to individual artists and nonprofit arts and culture organizations affected by the pandemic. Details about eligibility, and the application process, will be posted on the city’s website on June 1.

The plan calls for grants of up to $50,000 for local arts and culture groups that lost revenue because they had to cancel events, programs, or performances due to COVID-19 public health concerns. Eligible artists who lost income due to canceled events, contracts, and sales can apply for grants of up to $1,500.

“This is a critical time to help support the cultural sector,” Regina Johnson told Council members during the May 12 policy meeting in which they approved the funding. Johnson, who serves as vice chair for the city’s arts and culture commission, made the case for emergency funding along with Mitch Menchaca, who heads the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. “Due to COVID-19, the arts and culture sector is in peril,” he says.

The council considered several factors in making its decision, including results of an economic impact study by a national nonprofit called Americans for the Arts.

The study notes that the arts and culture sector in Phoenix generates more than $400 million in economic activity, supports the equivalent of 12,815 full-time jobs, generates over $285 million in household income, and brings in more than $44 million in city and state revenues.

The arts and culture sector in Phoenix generates more than $400 million in economic activityEXPAND
The arts and culture sector in Phoenix generates more than $400 million in economic activity
Rose Torres/Scorpius Dance Theatre

Six Council members voted for the $2.6 million allocation. Only Council members Sal DiCiccio and Jim Waring voted against it.

Conversations about arts funding are happening at the state and national level, as well.

When the Arizona legislature passed its "skinny" budget in March, it opted not to include $2 million in arts funding requested by Arizona Commission on the Arts, which would have helped to provide grants for artists and arts organizations working with communities throughout Arizona.

Now, Arizona has another chance to support arts and culture, because the state also received CARES Act funding, as did the city of Mesa, and both Maricopa and Pima counties.

“The state of Arizona has received $1.8 billion in CARES Act funds and I hope that they will do more to support our arts and culture community,” Mayor Kate Gallego said during the Council's May 12 meeting.

Kate Gallego pulls a print during the 2018 Oak Street Alley Mural Festival just days before being sworn in as mayor.EXPAND
Kate Gallego pulls a print during the 2018 Oak Street Alley Mural Festival just days before being sworn in as mayor.
Lynn Trimble

Both Gallego and Mayor Regina Romero of Tucson are part of a 22-mayor coalition that’s urging the U.S. Congress to include arts and culture in its next relief package.

In a May 11 letter sent to House and Senate majority and minority leaders, the coalition asked Congress to take several actions — including extending the duration of unemployment benefits for artists, undertaking rapid processing of artist visas, increasing funding for the National Endowment for the Arts, and more.

More than 5 million people are employed by the arts sector, according to a March 2020 report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis that’s cited in the letter. The report states that “the arts and culture workforce contributed $877.8 billion, or 4.5 percent, to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017.”

Even so, Gallego also recognizes the role of arts and culture in fostering quality of life. “I know that arts can be a lifeline for so many people, especially in even more stressful times,” she said during the May 12 meeting. “We are a vibrant arts and culture city, and we hope this aid will be important as we navigate COVID-19.”

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