Arizona arts organizations see multimillion-dollar cut under new state budget

Cathalena E. Burch

Arizona arts organizations will see a dramatic drop in state funding this year after the Legislature on Saturday, June 15, approved a $16.1 billion spending plan that allocates just $2 million to the agency tasked with doling out arts grants.But Arizona Commission on the Arts officials said the $2 million was far better than what they were anticipating based on earlier budget discussions. The state in its negotiations late last week appeared ready to cut arts funding altogether.“It’s certainly better than zero,” said Steve Wilcox, the commission’s communications director. “Considering the general challenges of the state, budget-wise, we’re considering this a win.”The director of one of the Southern Arizona’s biggest arts presenters, though, says any cuts in arts funding creates “a massive hole for us to fill.”

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“That speaks to our ability to keep employees and the new work we’re going to be able to do,” said Kate Marquez, the longtime executive director of the Oro Valley-based Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance. “It’s a 60% cut across the board and more people are going to be applying so the cuts could be much deeper for us. We’re still not sure how that’s going to work.”The cuts could go deeper for rural communities, said Adriana Gallego, executive director of the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona.“We are deeply concerned with the funding that directly impacts our Southern Arizona corridor,” Gallego said in a written statement. “We are paying particular attention to rural communities who rely on funding from the Arizona Commission on the Arts to sustain their cultural production and support for artists and culture bearers.”The foundation relies on commission funding for its general operations, Gallego said, “but more importantly to demonstrate to private funders that there is public investment in the arts at the state level.”“Although the $20,000 we receive in yearly funding is a modest grant, this investment helps us make a case to private funders that there is buy-in on a local level, which is of great importance and value in leveraging dollars at the national stage of philanthropy,” she said.SACCA r …

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