Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

August 12, 2009

Host: Ted Simons

Arts Conference

  • The Executive Director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Robert Booker, discusses the Southwest Arts Conference which will address the current economic crisis and its impact on the arts.
  • Robert Booker - Arizona Commission on the Arts
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: arts, economy,

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
The rough economy impacts everything. Including the arts. That will be part of the focus of the upcoming Southwest Arts Conference, an annual statewide gathering. It will be held in Carefree, and in addition to focusing on the impact of a down economy, the conference will also examine the issue of sustainability and the arts. Here to talk about the Conference is Robert Booker, executive director of the Arizona commission on the arts.

Robert Booker:
Good to be back.

Ted Simons:
What are you looking to do?

Robert Booker:
To help our arts industry face the current economic times, to learn new strategies and build audiences and resources and to move forward. It's also help working teachers understand the value of the arts in the classroom and help working teaching artists participate in the classrooms at the highest level possible.

Ted Simons:
Safety, sustainability, the future is no accident. What does that mean?

Robert Booker:
That's an old line from the '50s that basically said be careful in what do you, plan for the future and be aware of what you can do to build your future. And the idea is that we want to train folks during this conference to be aware of the options they have to make smarter decisions in the future. How to partner with collegial arts organizations and develop resources for their community and develop new programs that will address younger and more diverse audiences.

Ted Simons:
How do you do that when it seems the paradigm of the economy changes on ballot measure almost a monthly basis and the arts in particular with the internet and new technology change even faster? How do you look ahead when you can't even look forward to the next couple of days, it seems?

Robert Booker:
It's an incredible challenge. Arts organizations that have five or three-year plans, they might as well throw them out the door. They don't work. We're working with younger voices and working with diverse voices and bringing them to the table and hearing what they have to say about how to service their community, their age brackets, we're really looking at this sort of dramatic change of tide of people who are in audience seats and in galleries across our country and hearing from those people that are going to be our future. It's very, very important.

Ted Simons:
Arts education in Arizona I know got hit pretty hard by the budget and cuts therein. Not as hard as it could have been, though.

Robert Booker:
You bet. We lost about 42% of our resources at this last legislative session. We're committed to moving forward. With key elements that we -- we're proud of. Working in the classrooms with professional artists and continue to bring them into K-12 classrooms, public and private and charter schools to work with the teachers and young people. In many cases, this may be the first time a young person is introduced to the arts so that early introduction, the performing arts, visual, music, dance is so important in our schools.

Ted Simons:
With the cut in funding and with the recession and a rapidly changing arts atmosphere, some could say, oh, me, oh, my, but it's also an opportunity, isn't it?

Robert Booker:
It's an opportunity for change. We know arts leaders are incredibly smart and nobody can stretch a dollar further. We're professionals and good at what we do. We should be charged with how to face the future smartly and cooperatively.

Ted Simons:
Two-part question: Where does Arizona stand compared with other states in terms of funding and what can we learn from other states?

Robert Booker:
We were in the high 30s per capita and with the recent cut, moved to the high 40s and that's not good. Hawaii is number one in per capita funding. Their legislature provides a little over $5 per person in funding for the Hawaiian arts council and you'll find other arts councils across the 50 states and six territories, few are worse than us. What we need do is as individuals we need to take awareness to this and become contributors. We need to contribute to arts organizations that we take our children to. I would make a call for our corporate friends. Our corporate leaders need to find ways to support arts organizations by loaning their executives or making contributions themselves. This is a time when everybody needed to take responsibility to ensure that the arts are in Arizona and active. I often joke and say without the arts in Arizona, we'd be a hot Idaho and we don't want that to happen. We want the arts to thrive in every one of our communities across the state.

Ted Simons:
Keynote speaker is Chris Jordan at conference. This is a big coup.

Robert Booker:
If you Google his name, you'll have seen his work before. He's an environmental photographer. He does work that relates to the environment, relates to sustainability, and he's a prime example of an artist that works not only in their own field but with the community at large and we have so many artists in Arizona that do that. Open dance has been working with young people and obesity issues. Reaches kids annually and we have artists that work with at-risk kids and the arts are vital to us in and of themselves but also do so much more in helping Arizona be a better place to live.

Ted Simons:
I know one of the sessions is titled "the arts: Who needs them?" Who needs them?

Robert Booker:
We need them in Arizona, and our country needs them. They're economic generators. Over $300 million was generated by folks who attend them. And they help our kids succeed in school and help us understand each other and our cultures and backgrounds and the arts have a way to renew communities. If you look at Roosevelt Avenue, Grand Avenue, the renewal of those main streets are all because of the arts. If you take it to a rural community, an abandoned theater, and the mayor has got folks walking up and down her main Street and it's because of the arts.

Ted Simons:
Can that message be delivered better?

Robert Booker:
I think what happens is a lot of folks don't understand the structure of non-profit arts organization is a 50-50 match. 50% of the money comes from contributions, grants, resources like that from foundations and businesses and individuals. 50% is earned at the box office. So as we understand better how nonprofits serve and function, we then understand our role as individual citizens in contributing to those and taking our kids to those events.

Ted Simons:
Bob, good to have you.

Robert Booker:
Always good to be here. Thank you.

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