Ever wish your city had more arts funding? Learn how artists and arts allies in Phoenix are working to make it happen through the city’s budget process.
PHOENIX—As dozens of people gathered in Phoenix for a recent creative city-themed forum, several artists and other community members shared comments or questions about how the city supports arts and culture, and what might be possible if the city invested more money in the arts.
Gerald Heron was there, thinking about projects he’d love to see in the Sunnyslope neighborhood that’s off the beaten path of the downtown arts scene. So was Francisco “Enuf” Garcia, whose comments addressed the need for more opportunities for artists of color.
It’s a good time to be thinking about Phoenix’s arts budget, according to Mitch Menchaca, one of the panelists who spoke that night. As executive director for the City of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, he oversees the many areas funded by that budget, including public art, city-managed cultural facilities like Phoenix Art Museum, grantmaking, and more.
“Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the country,” Menchaca says, “but we have one of the smallest municipal arts budgets.”
That could change, depending on the amount Phoenix allocates to arts and culture in its 2023-24 budget, which will cover the period from July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024.
The budget process is already underway.
Amber Williamson, the city’s budget and research director, says there are several ways for residents to participate—including eleven community hearings happening around the city in April 2023.
The final hearing, scheduled to take place at the South Mountain Community College Library at 10 am Saturday, April 15, will focus on the arts. It’s the first year there’s been an arts-specific hearing. (Williamson notes that any resident can attend that day.)
Community feedback from the hearings goes to Phoenix City Council before they vote on a final budget, which means it could make a difference in what they ultimately decide to fund.
“If people come out and they are really strong in their message, the city council listens to that,” Williamson says.
City records indicate that eighteen people weighed in to support arts and culture funding during last year’s budgetary process. Eighty-four people took time to request funding for pickleball courts, and thirty-eight asked for more public safety dollars.
Even so, Menchaca says community input made a difference for the city’s fiscal year 2022-23 budget. “We were only supposed to get $75,000 for grants, but we got $225,000 instead,” he recalls.
Now, Menchaca is hoping that grant funding gets another boost, in part because the applicant pool grew by 40 percent last year. “If we get more money, we can award grants to more artists and arts organizations.”
Meanwhile, Heron is planning to attend the April 15 hearing. “I’m going so I can learn the process, then pass it on,” he says.
Others may choose different options, such as calling or emailing the city’s budget office, reaching out to the city council member who represents their district, signing up to speak during the public comment portion of a city council meeting, or accessing an online tool called FundPHX that’s available in Spanish and English.
“Every dollar helps, especially post-COVID,” reflects Menchaca. “It really can make a difference.”