Economics & Escape: The Role Of Arts In The Valley


By Kathryn M. Miller – The “Great Recession” ended in 2009. That’s what economists say, anyway. Technicalities aside, most will agree that the economy is far from rosy – just ask arts and culture organizations who have seen a drop in revenues – some even forced to close their doors. While many of these non-profits are keeping the belts tight, they are, however, optimistic about their futures – financial and otherwise.

“There is always optimism and excitement in the creativity of theater…that is why it continues to survive,” says Carol MacLeod, artistic director at Scottsdale’s Theatre Artists Studio (www.thestudiophx.org). “We are a cooperative of theatre artists who have created a space to work, and we struggle through the difficult financial challenges to celebrate our art and hope that others will celebrate and support our work.”

Beyond performances at the Studio, which opened its doors in 2006, the community can enjoy acting classes, movement study, voice instruction and writers group meetings. It also opens its doors to non-members for meetings and offers sustaining memberships for the public.

After announcing a severe cash-flow issue last fall, Actors Theatre (www.actorstheatrephx.org) embarked on an aggressive grassroots fund raising strategy and is also feeling optimistic this season.

“We were overwhelmed by the success of the fund-raising effort and are enthusiastic about the future,” said Actors Theatre Board Chair Oonagh Boppart in July. “The community’s incredible support and words of confidence sent a very clear to message to us.”

Non-profit arts and culture organizations play a valuable role in the business community. They are employers, producers, consumers and key promoters of their cities and regions. The Americans for the Arts2012 Creative Industries Report, cited Arizona as home to 17,876 arts-related businesses, which employ 56,000 people. Arizona’s Creative Industry accounts for 4.64% of all Arizona businesses. But theater plays a role in communities beyond economics.

“The role of theater is to examine and reflect on the human condition,” says Julie Lee, actor and producer at the Studio. “Theater is 3D without the glasses. There’s no better way to simultaneously feel part of the action yet removed from the conflict.”

A little bit of escape in this current economic atmosphere – that’s priceless. | CST

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