Phoenix Celebrates 30 Years of the Arts and Culture Commission with Free Downtown Festival

In 1985, Phoenix Mayor Terry Goddard had an idea. He approached the City Council with a proposal to create a commission dedicated entirely to preserving the growing arts scene and encouraging others to pursue their artistic endeavors. Interest and funding for the local art scene had grown significantly, and Goddard and the council saw an opportunity to encourage even more progress. Together, they worked to create the Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission.

On Saturday, October 3, the city will celebrate the commission’s 30th anniversary with a festival dedicated to the flourishing arts scene. PHX Arts and Culture @ 30 Years Celebration will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Phoenix Convention Center, Herberger Theater, and on Monroe Street between Second and Third streets. Monroe Street will be closed for the event. The event will incorporate music, dance, theatre, and live art demonstrations.

Gail Browne, the executive director of the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, saw this anniversary as a chance to call attention to promote local arts organizations, as well as incorporate Phoenix residents.

“It’s a way of turning the spotlight on organizations that we’re very fortunate to have here,” Browne says. “There’s really something for everyone. We’ve got family-friendly activities, a walking art tour of downtown Phoenix.”

The free event, which will help ring in the beginning of National Arts and Humanities Month, will feature performances by local groups, presentations by some of the most prominent players in the Phoenix art scene, and hands-on demonstrations.

To name a few, Cyphers Center for Urban Arts and Rosie’s House musicians will be on the main stage, and there will be numerous choir and dance performances. Four Chambers Press and the Black Theatre Troupe, among others, will represent the city’s literary and theatrical groups. There will also be a showing of a film about the history of public art in Phoenix.

Traveling art tours will be led by Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art team and will feature installations by Louise Bourgeois, Tom Otterness, and others.

A caravan of some of the most popular food trucks in Phoenix will be available for hungry attendants, as well as special appearances by Mayor Greg Stanton as he announces this year’s Mayor’s Arts Awards nominees.

Browne says that, in terms of size and scale, it’s an unprecedented event for the office.

“It’s new for us to do something this large,” Browne says. “But this is a real chance to focus attention on the growth of our arts and culture in the last 30 years, which is a dramatic change.”

The types of changes Browne has seen reflect an increased effort in allocated space for the arts.

“Thirty years ago, we had limited building for culture facilities, we’ve seen major expansions over at the Phoenix Art Museum, of the Phoenix Theatre, the buildings for the Arizona Ballet and the opera and the Black Theatre Troupe. Theses are relatively new projects,” Browne says.

Along with an increase in space and resources, Browne said that increases in federal funding have made significant impact on the office’s ability to bring art into various areas in the city.

“The whole landscape of our arts culture has changed drastically, and that was made possible largely through voter-approved bonds started in 1988 and 1989, and then one in 2001 and one in 2006. That money that they approved helped expand and build some of these cultural facilities,” Browne says.

It’s ballots like these that, according to Browne, help make art structures like the bridge on SR-51 or Her Secret is Patience in Civic Space Park possible.

The PHX Arts and Culture @ 30 Years Celebration is free and open to the public. For more information on PHX Arts and Culture @ 30 Years Celebration, including times and location of specific presentations, visit or call 602-262-4637.