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Embracing the Personal and Economic Power of the Arts
By Benito Almanza
Few things are more powerful and personal than the arts. Each brush stroke, musical note and body movement creates a journey. My journey didn’t start in a typical way, but it brought me to a profound appreciation of the arts that has led me to a special opportunity to support Arizona’s rich arts scene as a banker.
Growing up in a small California farming community, there were no arts. My parents were farm laborers, moving around the Central Valley with the seasonal crops where we worked hard in the fields every day.
In college I got my first taste of the arts by hearing things I’d never heard before –a Grateful Dead concert.
Some may not think of the Grateful Dead as art. But that incredible night planted something in me, and not just a Grateful Dead obsession. I came to appreciate creativity that can appear in any art form.
The power of the arts is diverse. It reflects and inspires individual expression. It stimulates conversation and debate, opens us up to new ideas and possibilities. It creates a common thread that engages, connects, educates and enriches us as a society. And, importantly, the arts contribute to the economic vitality of our community.
A study, Arts & Economic Prosperity 5, estimates that nonprofit arts and cultural organizations and their audiences spent more than $400 million in Phoenix – nearly $23 million in the West Valley – in 2015, and that the arts and culture industry supported more than 12,800 full-time jobs in Phoenix, generating $19.5 million in local revenue and nearly $25 million to state coffers.
I am proud that my own employer, Bank of America, gets that the arts matter.
The local dance troupe is just as important as the world-class museum in its culture and economic contribution. Core to this is ensuring widespread access to the arts, and the bank takes a thoughtful approach to this locally.
Through our Museums on Us program, now in its 20th year, card holders get free access one weekend a month to local galleries like Phoenix Art Museum. The Arts in Our Communities program loans complete or customized exhibits at no cost to nonprofit galleries and museums to help stimulate local economic and cultural activity. The Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum benefitted from a stunning 32-piece minerals collection from the bank that is now part of its permanent collection.
Preserving notable pieces for future generations is vital, and our Arts Conservation Project helped the Heard Museum restore eight iconic bronze sculptures by American Indian artists.
Finally, through direct funding such as the popular Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibit at the Heard Museum, we can help cultural and art institutions do what they do best – offer diverse and often life-changing art that speak to us in a universal language and becomes its own currency.
Benito Almanza is Bank of America market president in Phoenix. He has seen the Grateful Dead 87 times.