Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

July 9, 2009

Host: Ted Simons

Funding for the Arts

  • Funding for the arts suffered a 42 percent drop recently, partly due to cuts by the legislature and partly due to decreased revenues. Brenda Sperduti of Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts talks about the drop in revenue and budget cuts.
  • Brenda Sperduti - Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts
Category: The Arts

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Funding for the arts suffered a 42% drop recently, due in part to cuts by the legislature, as well as declining revenues. I'll talk to a representative of an Arizona arts advocacy group, but first, here's an example of art currently on display in Arizona. It's a clip from the play, "Wicked," the untold story of the witches of Oz. The musical is playing at A.S.U.'s Gammage Auditorium. Here now to talk about arts funding is Brenda Sperduti of the group Arizona Citizens Action for the Arts. Thanks for joining us tonight.

Brenda Sperduti:
It's a pleasure to be here.

Ted Simons:
How hard is the arts community getting hit right now with -- start with budget cuts and we'll take it from there.

Brenda Sperduti:
Well, of course, the state is experiencing just unprecedented budget shortfalls and so the arts is taking quite the hit. Proposals from the legislature had us cut anywhere from 39% up to 80%. And that's on tOP of already what arts organizations are experiencing. They're already laying people off because of shortfalls in contributions from foundations, from individuals, from corporations. But also ticket sales are down because of the sluggish economy. So you know, it's a tough time right now for the arts organizations.

Ted Simons:
It sounds like budgets are about 42%.

Brenda Sperduti:
Yeah, it turned out to be 42% cut overall in the state funding.

Ted Simons:
Could have been worse, then?

Brenda Sperduti:
Could have been much worse, yeah.

Ted Simons:
The impact of the arts in Arizona. For those who aren't familiar, who think that arts means going TO a play or seeing paintings on the wall, what does it mean to the economy of Arizona?

Brenda Sperduti:
Well, we're talking about arts and culture and the impact -- it's interesting, we've got many studies we've seen. One shows there are 50,000 jobs that are art-related in the state of Arizona. And in addition, there are 12,000 businesses that are arts-related businesses in Arizona and most of those are small businesses and they generate quite a business to the state. In fact, the city of Phoenix alone, arts organizations generate $40 million in tax income for the state.

Ted Simons:
With that in mind, there is some talk, maybe an idea of a dedicated tax, 1/10 of a cent sales tax for the arts. Is that feasible at all?

Brenda Sperduti:
I do believe that most people understand that the arts contribute to our economic vitality. They're really a great contributor to the state overall as mentioned in revenues. I believe that a dedicated funding source for the arts is the way to go. I do believe we'll be advocating for expanding resources for the arts over the years, because as the state talks about diversifying industry, not relying on growth and development as much, it would make so much sense to invest in the arts. The arts really bring so much back to the state economically.

Ted Simons:
And yet others will say it makes sense in these troubled times you've got to have the money for education, the money for services. Arts is just going to have to take a back seat. How do you respond?

Brenda Sperduti:
The arts is a big part of our community and it's a part of business, it's a part of healthcare, education. The arts really give us a sense of being. A sense of who we are. And it's so important that a community, a state, invest in this part of their economy. The arts industry. It really does add a lot. Yes, we're right there with everybody else taking cuts and absorbing and doing our best to cut expenses in these difficult times but as the economy turns around, there should be just as much investment in the arts and arts industry. Because it will help every part of the state.

Ted Simons:
Is the message getting across at the legislature or do you think they've got more important fish to fry right now?

Brenda Sperduti:
Well, they have a lot of fish to fly right now, certainly, at the legislature, but they're listening to us. Our organization, Arizona citizens action for the arts is a grassroots advocacy organization and we're building relationship with the elected officials and continue to do that and they are listening and we are very optimistic.

Ted Simons:
All right. Very good. Thanks for joining us tonight. Good to see you.

Brenda Sperduti:
It's a pleasure.

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