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Piper, Flinn foundations allocate funds to metro Phoenix arts groups

[Source: Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust & Flinn Foundation] — A total of $1.25 million will go into a one-time arts and culture initiative resulting from redirecting remaining grant funds from the wind-down of Metro Phoenix Partnership for Arts and Culture (MPAC).   The Flinn Foundation and Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, MPAC’s two major funders, have designated the outstanding funds for the Flinn-Piper Strengthening the Arts Initiative.  The initiative has two parts:

  • The Flinn Emergency Fund for Arts Organizations comprising $500,000 in unrestricted grants to 21 arts and culture organizations.
  • The Piper Arts Restructuring and Transformation Fund (ART Fund) of up to $750,000 to implement new nonprofit structures, processes and collaborative ventures to increase revenue and reduce costs.  Piper Trust previously made one-time unrestricted grants to 39 arts and culture organizations.

The Flinn fund will make grants to Maricopa County arts and culture organizations that had received funding historically from the Flinn Foundation. Grant amounts are based on the annual operating budgets of the 21 arts and culture nonprofits.  Flinn does not provide general operating support as a rule but has made an exception given the urgent needs of arts and culture organizations, according to Jack Jewett, president and CEO, Flinn Foundation.  “The arts and culture institutions that play such an important role in our community continue to face severe challenges in the midst of the ‘Great Recession,'” said Jewett.  “We hope these modest grants will provide at least temporary relief in meeting immediate operating needs.”

Piper Trust will use the ART Fund to award two-year grants of $50,000 to $150,000. Successful projects will investigate and implement new business methods that change the organization’s business model and approach to mission to promote long-term financial stability.  The grants are not intended for short-term, cash-flow needs or current core operating costs.  “The daunting new arts and culture world of changing demographics and persistent economic insecurity requires arts and culture organizations to examine new ways to do business,” said Judy Jolley Mohraz, Piper Trust president and CEO.  Organizations eligible for the program are Piper Trust arts and culture grantees with annual operating budgets over $250,000.  The Trust will send application information directly to the 36 eligible Maricopa County organizations.  Piper Trust hopes to award the ART Fund grants by mid-August.

The Flinn Foundation and Piper Trust also have agreed to co-sponsor a four-day April 2011 Arizona Town Hall about the impact of arts and culture on Arizona’s economy.  A survey of Town Hall members revealed the need to address the creation of a vibrant statewide economy incorporating arts and culture.  Each organization will make a grant of $25,000 for the program.  [Note: Read the full press release at Piper, Flinn foundations allocate funds to metro Phoenix arts groups.]

Viewpoint: 2010 offers chances to improve life in metro Phoenix

[Source: Arizona Republic (Phoenix insert) editorial board] — The gifts have been unwrapped.  New year’s wishes have been sent.  Holiday decorations have been taken down and put away.  OK, maybe that last one has yet to be scratched off the to-do list.  But with every new year comes vows to make it better, richer and more enjoyable than the last.  With numerous job losses, mortgage foreclosures, and budget cuts in 2009, everyone should want to strive to make this year better.  Today, we suggest ways to help our communities in 2010.

  • Be a tourist. We are creatures of habit. We dine at the same places, shop at the same stores, and take part in the same weekend activities.  Our continued patronage at these spots will be much appreciated.  But if we lived a day or a weekend like a tourist instead of a local, what might we see, find, or learn?  A visit to a museum or art gallery would open our world to arts and culture.  We should treat ourselves to a meal at a special spot or make a purchase at a store.  If we expect tourists to come to the Valley, visit these places and spend money, we should be willing to do the same.
  • Shop local. We can give city coffers a healthy dose of sales-tax revenues by spending money within our municipal borders.  This enables our cities to provide public safety, fill potholes, remove graffiti, rid neighborhoods of green pools, and offer recreational activities.  And it keeps people employed, which churns the economy.
  • Go green. Park the car and take the bus, light rail, or local trolley.  This saves on gas and maintenance costs, and it makes the skies bluer.  Plus, taking public transportation is a great way to see the city from a new perspective.  Let someone else do the driving while you enjoy the ride.
  • Be counted. Fill out the 2010 Census questionnaire.  The census helps the federal government determine how to allocate $400 billion to cities to fund services and programs.  This includes public safety, parks, libraries and senior centers.  Don’t think skipping the census will save the federal government money.  Census workers will go to your home or talk to neighbors to gather the information they need.  Without an accurate count, the money that should have gone to your city will be diverted to municipalities where residents filled out the questionnaires.  Look for your questionnaire in the mail this spring.
  • Stay involved. Political shenanigans and extreme budget cuts in 2009 made citizens more aware of governmental operations.  Taxpayers must stay connected.  Attend council meetings, volunteer in the classroom, and vote for the candidates who will best represent your interests on the city council, school board, and Legislature.

The upside to the struggles in 2009 is a renewed determination to make our communities better.  [Note: With the exception of the U.S. Census bullet point, each of the above suggestions is “right out of the playbook” of the Downtown Voices Coalition’s 2004 report, “Downtown Voices: Creating a Sustainable Downtown.”  Good to see we’re thinking along the same lines!]

Metro Phoenix “creative class” hopes to make a dent via MADPHX

MADPHX is a periodic podcast about the issues being faced, and the progress being made, by the maturing creative class in the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area. The show is hosted by passionate local residents Derek Neighbors, Bully Bjorn, Nina Miller, Jose Gonzalez, and Mark Dudlik.  They discuss personal projects, general community issues, entrepreneurship, volunteerism, social networking; and how each of these are helping make a dent in the old machine in order to create a new and more vibrant one.  Their first podcast aired January 4.

Job sprawl high in metro Phoenix

[Source: The Urbanist] — This graph is a jobs index comparing the jobs located more than 10 miles from CBDs to jobs located within three miles of CBDs.  The dark blue sections show the difference in this ratio between 1998 and 2006.  For instance, the ratio for Phoenix is 1:1, meaning Phoenix experienced 100 percent more growth at its urban boundaries than it did in its city center. The lightest areas show the values for cities within the Northern California megaregion.  [Note: Read the full article at Job sprawl in the megaregion.]

Analysts revise methods, find no metro Phoenix population rise since 2007

[Source: Catherine Reagor, Arizona Republic] — Metropolitan Phoenix’s population has remained basically flat since 2007.  That calculation will generate its own set of questions in an area with an economy based on growth.  At the same time, it may be the first accurate estimate of population growth here in years.

This latest population estimate is the conclusion of an 18-month analysis by more than 30 of the state’s top economists and business and government leaders, who are trying to fix Arizona’s method for tracking population.  Their report, “Influx/Outflux: Metropolitan Phoenix,” was presented Tuesday at an Urban Land Institute Arizona meeting.  Problems with the formula used to track the number of people moving in and out of Arizona in recent years led to inflated population figures.  This exacerbated shortfalls in a state budget built on sales-tax projections.

Authors of the study used a new formula based on different data.  Results of the 2010 census will be the best measure of the new formula’s accuracy.  “Clearly, we don’t know exactly how many people we have,” said Rick Brammer, a partner with Applied Economics.  [Note: Read the full article at Analysts revise methods, find no metro Phoenix population rise since 2007.]

Worst may be over for metro Phoenix housing

[Source: Catherine Reagor, Arizona Republic] — Valley homeowners have watched their property values plummet with a sense of shock and horror during the past year.  But the gut-wrenching drop could be over as early signs of the market finally hitting bottom have appeared in some areas.  On Sunday, The Arizona Republic’s latest Valley Home Values report will show prices dropped in every Phoenix-area ZIP code during the first eight months of 2009.  A closer look at the numbers, though, reveals newer communities on the outer edges of metropolitan Phoenix are seeing smaller declines in home prices this year compared with 2008.

Those areas, including neighborhoods in Buckeye, Gilbert, Queen Creek, and Surprise, were the first to experience the housing market’s collapse.  Those former housing hot spots could be the first to recover.

Older areas closer to downtown Phoenix, including many central Phoenix neighborhoods, suffered the biggest home-price hits this year.  Most of these areas were the last parts of the Valley to see housing values tank, but they could bounce back more quickly because many of the neighborhoods are popular with people who want to live closer in.  [Note: Read the full article at Worst may be over for metro Phoenix housing.]

2050 vision for metro Phoenix: 400 miles of new highways

[Source: Sean Holstege, Arizona Republic] — Picture new Phoenix-size cities beyond the mountains to the far south and west of the Valley, and you get a glimpse of how the region’s future might unfold over the next half-century.  Now imagine how twice as many people as live here today would get around such a vastly expanded urban landscape, and you begin to appreciate the enormous challenge facing state and regional transportation planners.

To cope with Arizona’s anticipated long-range population boom, planners at the Maricopa Association of Governments have sketched out a far-reaching network of new freeways and highways beyond the White Tank and Estrella mountains, serving an area larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, and an urban landscape stretching as far as the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.

MAG’s plans envision 400 miles of new highways and 320 miles of rail track to support the millions of people projected to move into the vast desert area by 2050.  That would double the current highway system and create a commuter-rail network that would loop around the southern mountains and deliver a badly needed line to the West Valley.  MAG estimates that it would cost the region a daunting $60 billion to build all the projects on its drawing boards.

Residents already concerned about sprawl wonder, with traffic and air quality as bad as they are today, how unbearable metropolitan Phoenix will become with 8 million people living here.  Others react with skepticism.  They question whether the economy would ever be strong enough to lure such numbers of people here or whether sufficient water or electricity would be available to support such far-flung growth.  “Being able to stop all these people coming is probably impossible, but is this plan really possible?  Could this really happen?  And if it could, should it?” says Dave Richins, state policy director for the Sonoran Institute, a non-profit group that advocates desert preservation.

The strategy is based on decades-old migration and birth statistics and on existing land- development rights.  Long-range plans for roads to serve non- existent cities don’t foster speculative sprawl, the planners say; they anticipate what’s already in the works.

The Arizona Department of Transportation is looking ahead and next month will unveil an expansive long-term blueprint for the entire state.  The agency’s director, John Halikowski, described the scope as “breathtaking.”  [Note: Read the full article at 2050 vision for metro Phoenix: 400 miles of new highways.]

ASU study: Wealth buys rescue from metro Phoenix’s urban heat island

Original[Source: Shaun McKinnon, Arizona Republic] — Heat discriminates.  Phoenix’s sweltering summer inflicts the most misery and illness in poor neighborhoods, a new study shows, and among people least able to protect themselves from the elements.  Conditions in those neighborhoods, with their sparse landscaping, high-density housing and converging freeways, create pockets of extreme heat that persist day and night.  Inside, homeowners sometimes can’t afford to turn up — or even turn on — the air-conditioner.

Wealthier homeowners, meanwhile, often in neighborhoods just blocks away, maintain lush yards and trees that help cool the air more quickly at night, shortening the hours of the hottest heat waves.  They can buy further relief with a nudge of the thermostat.

The disparities present threats more serious than just discomfort on a hot day, according to the study, produced by Arizona State University researchers.  Prolonged exposure to heat can cause illness or even death. The densely developed nature of the hottest areas also means more of the people most vulnerable — the elderly, children, the homebound — live in the neighborhoods where the risk is greatest.

That link between money and the ability to cope with extreme weather emerged clearly in the research.  Among the startling revelations: For every $10,000 an area’s income rises, the average outside temperature drops one-half degree Fahrenheit.  “It’s an environmental-justice issue,” said Darren Ruddell, a geographer who led the study.  “The people who are most vulnerable are also living in the worst conditions.  It’s a double whammy.”

The researchers say they hope their findings will spur discussions about better managing land, water and energy use, factors that will grow more critical if temperatures rise in coming years, as climate-change models predict.  “If we can identify the areas most at risk, we can try to help them,” Ruddell said.  “We could redesign neighborhoods, build cities differently, improve warning systems and ultimately reduce our vulnerability to heat.”  [Note: To read the full article, visit ASU study: Wealth buys rescue from metro Phoenix’s urban heat island.  Corresponding PDF graphic here.]

Phoenix at night… from outer space

phoenix_1456279i[Source: London Telegraph] — Metro Phoenix at night from space: photographed by NASA astronauts on the International Space Station.

7 healthy signs for the metro Phoenix arts scene

[Source: Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic] — There’s no point in soft-pedaling it: The great financial panic of 2008-09 sent Valley arts organizations into a tailspin.  Cautious consumers sat on their wallets instead of opening them up at the box office, and big corporations had less cash to send trickling down to the non-profits.  So performing companies canceled shows, slashed production budgets and cut staff., a high-profile campaign to raise donations, fell flat.  The latest bad news comes from the West Valley, where the Heard Museum plans to shutter its satellite gallery and the West Valley Art Museum has closed its doors while scrambling to raise $150,000 to keep it afloat.

With the 2009-10 season revving up this month, anxiety about ticket sales and charitable giving remains high.  But the show must go on, and there are hundreds of dedicated individuals, in the spotlight and behind the scenes, who are working to make sure that the crisis doesn’t spin into an arts apocalypse.  To counter the gloom and doom, here are seven reasons to be optimistic about the state of the arts:

  1. Up-and-coming companies: Arizona Opera and Ballet Arizona remain strong, but they are no longer the only game in town.  The upstart Phoenix Opera has brought in top-notch singers for two years of traditionalist stagings, while Novaballet, entering its second season, is committed to cutting-edge choreography that brings dance into the 21st century.
  2. New works: For theaters, the temptation might be to rely on familiar titles to fill seats.  Yes, there’s a bit of that in the coming season.  But in addition to the return of “The Phantom of the Opera,” ASU Gammage is bringing in-the-now Broadway hits “In the Heights” and “August: Osage County” (last year’s Tony winners for best musical and best play, respectively).  Actors Theatre has four Arizona premieres on the bill, while Arizona Theatre Company will be staging a new adaptation of “The Kite Runner” and commissioning a world-premiere comedy, “The Second City Does Arizona.”
  3. Investments in venues: The building boom that gave us new performing-arts venues in Mesa, Tempe and Peoria isn’t over.  The Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and the Herberger Theater Center are undergoing extensive renovations, while future projects, including an expansion at Phoenix Theatre, are in the works.  The economic downturn is sure to slow the pace of big capital projects, but the momentum hasn’t been lost.
  4. Fresh blood: The Scottsdale center’s rebuilt theater comes with a new artistic director, Jeffrey Babcock, who promises to reach out to a broader audience with splashy events, such as its first Festival of Latin Jazz & Culture.  New leadership always presents an opportunity to rethink ways of doing things, which means we could soon be seeing innovative programming at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, ASU Art Museum and Heard Museum: All are on the lookout to fill director positions this year.
  5. Experienced leaders: Shaking things up can be good, but there’s also something to be said for a steady hand on the tiller.  That’s what many major companies have: savvy executives with track records for success.  At the Phoenix Art Museum, Jim Ballinger has been in charge since 1972, growing it into a multimillion-dollar company that attracts well over 200,000 visitors a year and overseeing two major expansions.  On the artistic side are such leaders as Ballet Arizona’s Ib Andersen, a Balanchine protege who in 10 years has elevated the company to one of the most respected ballets in the country.
  6. International networking: The arts community forms a web that crosses all borders, and some of the greatest performers in the world are Arizona-bound this season.  There’s the incomparable cellist Yo-Yo Ma, of course, at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, which also will host top dance troupes, including the pioneering Paul Taylor and Martha Graham companies.  Then there’s the conducting world’s biggest superstar, the charismatic Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel, who will bring the Los Angeles Philharmonic to Phoenix’s Symphony Hall for a performance that’s sure to be a highlight of the season.
  7. Grass roots: Even if the unthinkable happened and every major company in the Valley were forced to close, that would not be the end of the arts.  There will always be actors and singers and dancers, and art lovers who want to see them.  In good times and in bad, every generation breeds a crop of optimistic entrepreneurs who aren’t satisfied with how everybody else does things.  Just one example is Chyro Arts Venue, which opened last year in south Scottsdale and offers provocative, independent-minded theater without the benefit of a six-figure budget.  Many such companies come and go, but some will thrive and move to the next level, becoming the Nearly Naked Theatres and Center Dance Ensembles of tomorrow. The future is always unwritten.  [Note: Read the full article at 7 healthy signs for the metro Phoenix arts scene.]