10 Questions With…Oonagh Boppart

Photo by Tina Celle

1) Where did you move to Arizona from, and when?

I moved to Arizona in 1974 from Massachusetts. I am originally from London and came to America on the Queen Mary.

2) Do you have a background in the arts?

I have a degree in music and come from an artsy family. There was always music, lots of opera, lots of drama, and lots of art on the walls.

3) What was the first arts/culture organization you supported in the Valley?

I’m not entirely sure of this, but I suspect it was The Phoenix Symphony. It was a long time ago!

4) You facilitate discussion groups for people who work in the arts and culture sector. What do you hope to achieve?

The idea came back in 2003 when I noticed the Desert Botanical Garden was opening the Butterfly Pavilion while the Opera was presenting “Madama Butterfly.” I thought this was an excellent opportunity for cross-organization marketing, but nothing like this happened. In May of that year, I invited the then-CEOs of the largest arts organizations in Phoenix to lunch. I said to them, “I am Mrs. Average American, and I see no collaboration within the arts/culture.” We had a very interesting discussion, and they decided they’d like to meet again the following month. Right there and then, they made the only rule we have ever had — only CEOs at this meeting. We have been meeting monthly since and are now 18 years old.

The success of the CEO group led to the creation of similar monthly meetings for development directors, education directors and marketing directors. What I want to achieve — and what I believe we are achieving — is the collaboration that happens when people trust each other. In 2008, when the economy went south, sharing and helping one another meant that we did not lose one organization. I think this is quite an achievement.

5) Have any notable collaborations come out of it?

Yes. The Ballet performs in the Desert Botanical Garden every spring. The Southwest Shakespeare Company and the Opera have also performed in the Garden. I think much of the collaboration goes on behind the scenes. For example, Phoenix Theatre Company built an outdoor stage during the pandemic and both the Phoenix Chamber Music Society and Childsplay used it.

6) You convene people in leadership, marketing and more. Name qualities every arts leader should possess.

A love of the arts, obviously. In any leadership, you need to know your subject and be able to think outside the box.
We are living in a changing world, and the arts are essential to our everyday life. Therefore, all our leaders need to be nimble, willing to share — and willing to listen.

7) Looking back, what did you miss most or come to understand about the value of the arts when our venues were shuttered last year?

I missed the in-person value of the arts. However, our local arts organizations have all done outstanding work in the
virtual realm. They did not just offer performances but also games, competitions and educational experiences.

8) Why are the arts so crucial for Arizona as we move forward?

The arts/culture organizations in Arizona are essential, not just for the economy but for the value of life. Whether it’s the Ballet, the Symphony, the Zoo, the Science Center or Phoenix Chamber Music Society, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Arizona’s arts and culture.

9) On a positive note, what do you look forward to attending every season?

I truly love chamber music, the Ballet, and being at the Desert Botanical Garden. I also really enjoy the museums statewide.

10) Is there a small or under-the-radar arts organization you wish more people knew about?

I think Stray Cat Theatre does an amazing job, but I’m not sure how many people know about them.

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