Blog Archives

Ruth Osuna Leaves Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture

[Source: Phoenix New Time’ Jackalope Ranch]

Ruth Osuna. Photo credit: New Times

New Times has received a Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture memo stating that Ruth Osuna is leaving her recently appointed post as cultural affairs director of the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture for a position in Eloy.

Osuna will become the city manager of Eloy, located in Pinal County, beginning December 6.

Osuna worked as Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon’s chief of staff before she was replaced at the end of 2008 by Toni Maccarone, who now works in the Public Information Office.

From there, Osuna landed a position as deputy city manager, a job she had held previously, before taking the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture gig in March 2010, when the city manager’s office cut its staff by one third.

New Times‘ request for official comment from Osuna, who held the cultural affairs director position for eight months, as well as Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture staff, went unanswered.

The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, which exists to develop arts and cultural awareness in the city, has completed close to 150 major public-art programs, including the Gimme Shelter Shade and the 7th Avenue Streetscape projects.


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Downtown Voices statement on City of Phoenix 2010-11 budget

The Downtown Voices Coalition Steering Committee, in a unanimous vote with one abstention, supports the City of Phoenix Fiscal Year 2010-11 budget proposal outlined by the Citizens for Phoenix coalition, namely:

  • Acceptance of $49 million in proposed city budget cuts, but rejection of $90 million in cuts that will affect street level police and fire service, as well as cuts that would abandon Phoenix’s most vulnerable residents.
  • Acceptance of the Mayor and City Council approved two percent food tax, with the provisio that the tax sunset in two years and not the five years that was passed.
  • Insistence that 100 percent of the anticipated $62 million in food tax revenue go into the city’s General Fund and be distributed to Public Safety, Human Services, Parks and Recreation, and Arts and Culture, in direct proportion to their share of the original 2009-10 budget.
  • Expectation that the remaining $27 million in revenue needed to balance the budget be raised in the following combination of ways: increase fees for permits and services where possible; gain union and non-union employee concessions; and eliminate remaining fat in the budget.
  • Insistence of an independent audit of the budget, systems, and processes of all city departments by a national audit firm that must report back to the Mayor, City Council, and citizenry within the first 12 months, so its recommendations can be implemented as quickly as possible, but no later than the second 12-month period so the two year food tax will not have been in vain.

Steve Weiss, Chair, Downtown Voices Coalition

Department cuts could hurt Phoenix anti-graffiti efforts

[Source: Michael Clancy, Arizona Republic] — Graffiti could gain a foothold in Phoenix because of several proposed budget cuts.  Cuts in four departments could affect the city’s ability to respond to graffiti, often seen as a precursor to worse crime.  Neighborhood Services, Arts & Culture, Parks and Recreation, and Police have identified potential budget cuts that affect graffiti control.   “These are all quality of life issues that impact neighborhoods and the public,” said Erynn Crowley, deputy director of the Neighborhood Services Department.

In Neighborhood Services, three inspectors who spend time making sure stores have graffiti supplies locked up could lose their jobs.  The employees also check adult-business licenses, enforce mobile- and street-vending rules, and administer laws at special events.  The department now will react to complaints instead of actively checking for violations.  Savings are estimated at $421,000 this year and next.

In Arts, the public-art preservation program could be reduced.  One of its functions is to clean up graffiti and vandalism on public-art pieces.  The program, if the cuts are ultimately approved, would be reduced to half the size it was two years ago.  The cuts would total $60,000.

In Parks, ending a softball program would result in the elimination of maintenance staff in northwest and northeast Phoenix.  If the program ends in July, as proposed, the maintenance cuts will result in longer intervals for graffiti removal, among other items.  Savings are pegged at $179,000.

Finally, the Police Department is proposing the elimination of the bias crimes/graffiti squad. The squad investigates crimes related to prejudice and graffiti, which often is the result of gangs marking their territory. Savings in the department would total $710,000.

Altogether, the cuts would target 15 jobs and save $1.4 million.   [Note: Read the full article at Department cuts could hurt Phoenix anti-graffiti efforts.]

Despite economy, metro Phoenix public art well-funded

Civic Space Park, downtown Phoenix

[Source: Weldon B. Johnson, Arizona Republic] — Despite the economic slump, Valley communities are maintaining a commitment to public art thanks in large part to the way those programs receive money.  As a result, local art commissions are able to bring new artworks to the public’s attention, such as the huge floating sculpture, “Her Secret Is Patience,” by Janet Echelman in downtown Phoenix or “The Doors,” by Donald Lipski in Scottsdale.

Most community public-art programs are funded through ordinances that take a small percentage (usually 1 percent or less) of the funds for capital projects such as buildings, streets or parks and set it aside for a public-art component.  If those projects go forward, the art components often continue.  Because many such projects are funded through bond issues and other sources, they haven’t been hurt as much by the recession as items that are paid for through a city’s general fund.

Phoenix’s public-art program is considered one of the most progressive in the country.  Since it was created in 1986, it has installed more than 150 projects throughout the city.  Phil Jones, [just retired] executive director of the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, expects that to continue.  “We’ve had a couple of major bond elections in the past 10 years that have helped feed the program somewhat,” Jones said.  “As time progresses, the resources may not be as plentiful, but right now we have sufficient funding for about 80 projects.  That will keep us busy for a while.”  [Note: Read the full article at Despite economy, metro Phoenix public art well-funded.]

Phil Jones retiring as Phoenix’s arts & culture executive director


...and now


Phil Jones then...

[Source: City of Phoenix] — Phil Jones, executive director of the city of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, is retiring October 14 after 15 years with the city.  Announcing his retirement, Jones said he has been honored to work with artists, cultural organizations, community leaders and other groups “to enhance the quality of life in our city through arts and culture.”  He added, “Together, we’ve made significant progress in developing a cultural infrastructure worthy of the fifth-largest city in the nation.”

During his tenure, Jones oversaw the development of 114 public-art projects at various locations throughout the city, including several large signature pieces.  In addition, Jones coordinated development of the city’s first comprehensive arts and cultural plan and oversaw the development and implementation of several city cultural facility bond projects.  He also supervised administration of the city’s arts grants and arts education programs.

Jones chaired the Downtown Artists Issues Task Force and supported the work of the Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission, a citizens’ advisory board.  Prior to joining the city of Phoenix, Jones headed the city of Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs and was associate director of the Nebraska Arts Council.  Jones plans to remain in the Phoenix area, devoting his volunteer efforts to the arts community.  [Note: To learn more about Phoenix’s public art program, click here or call 602-262-4637 or TTY 602-534-5500.]

Phoenix First Friday vendors change products to suit slow economy

In this Cronkite News Service report, vendors at First Friday in downtown Phoenix make changes to their product mix due to the poor economy.

Down economy causing strain on Arizona’s arts & culture groups

[Source: Maricopa Partnership for Arts & Culture] — Arts and culture in metro Phoenix and all of Arizona is in serious peril.  Already lowest in contributed revenues among a ranking of ten competitor regions, the current economic downturn threatens to severely reduce the capability of arts and culture organizations to provide the public with the current level of quality and quantity of programming.  In the face of this challenge, MPAC is moving swiftly to inform business and community leadership about the immediate importance of supporting this vital piece of the local economy.

MPAC is partnering with the strategic communications firm of FirstStrategic to reach Arizonans with the message that public funding for arts and culture is lacking in our state and is needed to ensure Arizona has a vibrant future and the ability to compete for knowledge workers and industries.

The lack of vibrancy in Metro Phoenix’s arts, culture, and creative cluster impedes the region’s ability to attract and retain workers in the fields of medicine, technology, design, and bioscience, among other high wage sectors.  These workers are critical for knowledge-based businesses to expand their footprint and diversify Arizona’s economy.  Investing in a strong creative cluster has proven to be transformational.  Competitor cities such as Austin, Salt Lake City, and Denver dramatically diversified their economies and regions by making the commitment to invest in arts and culture.

Two brochures are available for download here.  One highlights the role arts and culture plays in attracting knowledge workers and encouraging a diverse economy, the other on the educational impact of arts and culture in the community.

Phoenix schools/students can benefit from city’s education grants website

The city of Phoenix Youth and Education Programs Office has compiled a list of available grants for schools and youth programs.  Complete information can be found on the School and Teacher grants page.  Schools, teachers, and youth program staff can visit the Web site often to receive current updates about available grants.

Educational grants highlighted on the list include the Arts in Education Grant from the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture and the Intel Foundation Schools of Distinction Program grant, which both have an application deadline of Feb. 17.  The list also includes the U.S. Department of Education Partnerships in Character Education Program and the National Association of Biology Teachers Ecology/Environmental Teaching Award among others.

The Youth and Education Office provides resource information for schools and youth programs and serves as a catalyst for Phoenix youth to express their voices.  The office facilitates the Outstanding Young Man Young Woman and Principal for a Day programs and manages know99, the city’s educational television channel.  Additionally, youth and education staff oversees the U.S. Airways Center Suite Program, staffs the Phoenix Youth Commission, and sends out a monthly e-newsletter to Phoenix schools.

Phoenix arts advocates scramble to protect at-risk groups

[Source: Arizona Citizens for the Arts] — Phoenix arts advocates, like supporters of numerous other programs facing the spectre of significant budget cuts, have expressed concern for the following programs “on the chopping block:”

Pueblo Grande Museum is facing proposed reductions including elimination of a museum curator, museum assistant, two museum aides, a secretary and a semi-skilled worker.  Special events, summer programs and lectures will be reduced by 50 percent; and school tours will no longer be available, and maintenance of landscaping and surrounding grounds will be reduced.

The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture grants budget of $890,000 will be cut by 50-75% or more. These grants along with grants from the state arts commission are typically the only source of unrestricted funds these organizations receive and have been the only source of stable funding they could count on for years to help provide affordable programs to the community.  The city’s grants budget over the last 20 years has never been lower than $460,000.  These reductions will take us well below that number — and with the growth of the city population and inflation over these 20 years, the support given to arts organizations will be dismal, at best. (Imagine how long it would take to rebuild to the current level of support.)

The Heard Museum, which relies heavily on sales made at its famous gift shop has seen a significant reduction in sales, forcing huge budget cuts and program reductions mid-year.

The Shemer Arts Center, a community arts center and Phoenix Point of Pride, is facing closure.

The Phoenix Center for the Arts, an affordable arts education facility, serving local emerging artists and arts organizations and located in the heart of the city is facing budget cut of 70%, essentially shutting down most of its programs serving students and artists.

Many large and small arts organizations have begun staff reductions and layoffs including the Phoenix Art Museum, the Phoenix Symphony, Ballet Arizona, and Free Arts of Arizona which serves young children, among others.

Due to these drastic budget shortfalls, grant guidelines have been rewritten at the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture.  These will result in elimination of funding to any organization that is not producing arts or located within the city will be cut.  Organizations who’ll see no further grants from Phoenix include Free Arts of Arizona, Herberger Theater Center, Boys and Girls Clubs, Habilitation Center, Artability, Childsplay, and local arts agencies such as the North Valley Arts Council and the West Valley Fine Arts Council.  [Note: For more information from the Arizona Citizens for the Arts, click here.  For City of Phoenix budget hearing information, click here.  For related Arizona Republic article, click here.]

Phoenix New Times looks to overhaul blog topics, seeks feedback

Phoenix New Times blogger Martin Cizmar asks, “What Should Go On Our Blogroll?” Specifically, “We’re going to be overhauling the links to other music and culture blogs on the right hand side of the page (the ‘blogroll,’ as the kids call it) and we thought we’d solicit your suggestions. We’re looking for critics, labels, promoters, and fans but not band blogs. We’re most interested in sites that concentrate on — or at least occasionally discuss — Phoenix music, arts, nightlife, and culture but we’ll take a look at national stuff too.”   [Note: To read the full article and provide feedback, click here.]