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Online Exclusive: Arts get a financial boost in Tucson

By Lisa Schumaier
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday October 17, 2002

The Tucson Arts District was awarded a $12,000 grant earlier this month from American Express. Part of American Express' philanthropic program, the grant was awarded through the National Arts Marketing Program (NAMP).

The Tucson Arts District was among 18 recipients that claimed the award after a rigorous marketing training conference held in Chicago. Thirty-six arts organizations from all over the United States partook in a curriculum that instructed participants on how to reach larger audiences and increase revenue.

"American Express Prides itself on being a true partner, helping cultural institutions create innovative ways to retain their audience and attract new audiences," said Mary Beth Salerno, American Express Foundation President. "Our hope is that this program will assist organizations in becoming better marketers and continuing to enrich our lives with performances and exhibitions."

Interim executive Director of the Tucson Art District, Joann Johnson, said, "We feel very honored. We were a peculiar organization that attended the training because most groups were strictly dance or theater companies. We do not have revenue that comes directly from our events."

The Tucson Arts District is a non-profit organization that is responsible for various events around the downtown area such as Downtown Saturday Night, ArtWalk, Art Market, Third Saturday Craft Market and Phantom Gallery. Dia de los Muertes in November is the first event that will benefit from the grant, but will not be the only cultural event.

"We wrote our plan up and what they were really interested in was that we directed some planning specifically to Latino audiences and bringing them into the downtown area to participate in the cultural heritage of the community," Johnson said.

They plan to reach a diverse audience by advertising events with press releases, posters and flyers in Spanish as well as Latino radio and television stations. Also, more scheduled festivities will take place, like a Latino Music and Cultural Festival in May.

Rio Nuevo, a big scale expansion plan, caused the Tucson Arts District to reexamine their current agenda. The city recently approved the plan, which will provide the downtown area with more attractions, hotels, plazas, and parks. However, the development affects the Tucson Arts District in two ways: it subtracts money from the organization and brings in a larger audience. The grant money allows Tucson Arts District to fill the financial void and cater to important denizens of the city.

However, Rio Nuevo will not be immediately completed.

"We are interested in bridging the period between now and when it happens," Johnson said. "Which could be anywhere from ten to twenty years from now. We are concentrating on the organizations and the arts as it is now and maintaining it, at least keeping the galleries here and the art studios. There are more than 300 artists in the downtown area."

American Express is a long time supporter of the arts. NAMP is part of the company's dedication. In 1999, $300,000 in grant money promoted 32 arts organizations. The Arts and Business Council is a principal association with the goal "to keep the arts in business."


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