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«The Role of the Performing Arts in Postwar Phoenix, Arizona: Patrons, Performers, and the Public by Michelle Lynne Bickert A Thesis Presented in ...»

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Phoenix’s later urban development allowed its leaders to model their city on the successes and failures of other major cities established in the nineteenth century or earlier. One piece of that vision included developing Phoenix’s culture to attract skilled workers and technology firms. This goal constituted developing performing arts groups that served as cultural activities for its growing population and also appealed to business by demonstrating Phoenix’s urban status. The civic commitment to the performing arts waned as the original supporters retired or died, and the city needed a new generation of artists, advocates, and audiences who envisioned a role for the performing arts in the city’s future. In the 1980s and again in the 2000s the city returned its focus to the arts, citing an argument similar to the postwar civic leaders’ vision: bring highly skilled workers and high-tech industry to the Valley by developing a high quality of life that includes cultural vibrancy. To bring this vision into the twenty-first century, the Phoenix arts scene initiated an effort to develop beyond merely offering programming to contributing to a clearly defined artistic culture recognized and supported by leaders and residents. As the city grew, the economic base shifted, and tastes changed, the vision evolved from using the cultured image of performing arts to attract high-tech workers, to understanding the arts as intrinsically economically beneficial for recruiting workers and firms, promoting tourism, and raising the overall quality of life. The postwar vision largely worked, as the performing arts culture remained in the Valley, despite internal conflicts and external interests, and the small city became a major urban center. In the twenty-first century the vision began to be modified again and applied to a new type of community.

Although this thesis focuses on the performing arts, they existed within a broader arts and cultural context, and this is evident in the significant reports from philanthropic, government, and cultural organizations on arts and culture in the Valley.. The definitions of art and culture have shifted, and by broadening the criteria to include entities like forprofit organizations, festivals, and sports, these reports found Valley residents have higher levels of participation than previously reported. Arts and culture were traditionally seen to include theater, symphony, fine art, libraries, and museums, but a more accurate perspective also includes science centers, zoos, for-profit organizations, and a wider variety of cultural venues. By this measure, there were 1,070 arts, entertainment, and recreation businesses in Maricopa County in 2011.185 The performing arts are one piece of the larger arts and culture scene in the Valley, and by 2000 they began working with other institutions, private business, nonprofit organizations, and the government to create a long term arts and culture vision not only benefitting their institutional missions but also creating a better quality of life in the Valley and making Phoenix nationally competitive culturally and economically.

Phoenix’s Changing Economy The idea guiding civic leaders to start the Phoenix Symphony Association and build the Civic Center remains the same: the performing arts stimulate the economy by attracting human capital. Performing arts were one piece of the postwar high-tech This estimate includes outdoor recreation and sports, including the four professional sports teams. “2011 Business Patterns (NAICS),” U. S. Census Bureau, accessed November 2, 2013, http://censtats.census.gov/cgi-bin/cbpnaic/cbpdetl.pl.

suburban vision; tech firm CEOs and their skilled workers would be attracted to the Valley’s desirable assets – housing, recreation, art and culture, economy, climate – and would invest in their new community. As Arizona’s economy shifted from manufacturing to high-tech and knowledge economy industries, the arts became increasingly important for attracting specific companies and workers who value cultural amenities that promote creativity, transforming the Valley’s arts scene.

The Valley’s high-tech economy was centered on manufacturing, largely producing electronics and aerospace technology. Motorola’s decision to relocate to the relatively underdeveloped Valley in 1949 encouraged research at Arizona State and built a population of engineers and other skilled workers, leading to tech firms like Sperry Rand, General Electric, and Honeywell establishing Valley bases later. But by the 1970s the Phoenix companies struggled to shift from mainframe to microcomputer production, prompting GE to sell its Phoenix operations to Sperry Rand in 1970 and Honeywell to cut employment significantly throughout the decade. Intel, which arrived in 1979, managed to do better than other electronics firms, and aerospace manufacturers Honeywell and Boeing survived, but in the 1990s Valley high-tech firms were failing and by 2000 they accounted for only 6 percent of the nonagricultural workforce. This was not helped by Motorola’s disastrous decline from twenty thousand Valley employees in the 1990s to one thousand in 2007. The postwar vision broke down because the initial leadership was unable to oversee the high-tech – and performing arts – industries transition to the national level. Civic leaders needed to revamp arts and culture in addition to education and infrastructure to attract a new generation of Daniel Nobles who would make Phoenix a leader in the knowledge economy.186 The knowledge economy differs from postwar high-tech manufacturing in that products and services are focused on information production and dissemination. This type of work relies on intellectual capability instead of physical input or natural resources.187 Although Phoenix hosted its early incarnations in the 1950s, especially with personal computer production in the 1970s, the industry’s downfall in the last quarter of the century prompted city leaders to find new ventures to rebuild the economy. Beginning in the late 1990s Arizona, like thirty-nine other states, turned to biosciences where Phoenix was able to quickly gain an edge largely due to government and private funding that developed ASU’s programs. Updating the high-tech vision for the twenty-first century meant updating its components. One aspect of that plan involved redefining and developing an arts and culture scene that would contribute to Phoenix’s identity as a desirable locale with a high quality of life and strong community, appealing to knowledge industry workers.188 Collins, Emerging Metropolis, 172-173; VanderMeer, Desert Visions, 305Walter W. Powell and Kaisa Snellman, “The Knowledge Economy,” Annual Review of Sociology 30 (2004): 201.





Making Arizona Competitive in Science, Engineering, Medical Research and Innovation: Understanding the Pathways to Success (Phoenix: Morrison Institute, February 2006), 4-5, 20; “State Needs Homestead on Biotech Frontier,” Arizona Republic, February 17, 2002; Max Poll, “ASU Plan is a Boon for South Scottsdale,” Arizona Republic, July 26, 2004; VanderMeer, Desert Visions, 313.

Performing Arts Attract the Creative Class The city’s planners realized that this new economy demanded a new kind of employee. As in the 1950s, Phoenix needed a strong base of young talent educated in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM fields) to fill the ranks of the businesses it recruits. Richard Florida’s popular theories about the changing nature of the economy and workforce are connected to a city’s cultural scene, and his work is often cited in advising reports concerning developing Phoenix’s arts and culture to spur economic growth. He coined the term “creative class” to describe the individuals who as of 2002 comprised 30 percent of the workforce. “Creative” does not necessarily connote artistic creativity, but people in the knowledge economy who are paid to produce ideas and information, like doctors, lawyers, scientists, and entrepreneurs. Paul Romer, professor of economics at New York University, succinctly explained that “the relatively well educated and relatively creative are disproportionately important” to economic growth.189 But unlike the workers Phoenix attracted in the postwar decades, the creative class does not respond to the conventional economic theory that the best talent goes where there are better, higher paying jobs. Instead, they also value the nature of the communities in which they live, looking for cities with tolerant environments and diverse populations. This means cities like San Francisco, Austin, and Seattle will dominate cities like Cleveland and Detroit (or in a closer race, Phoenix) because they are able to combine Emily Eakin, “The Cities and Their New Elite,” New York Times, June 1, 2002.

tolerance, talent, and technology (Florida’s three T’s) to create a high quality of life for its residents – a top priority for knowledge economy workers and firms.190 A creative type’s high quality of life consists of participatory experiences, making the performing arts more important to a city’s cultural scene and potentially changing their format. Florida’s The Rise of the Creative Class (2002) and B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore’s The Experience Economy: Work is Theater and Every Business a Stage (1999) detail how experiences have taken precedence over goods as commodities and participatory recreation over spectator activities. Experiences need to be not only stimulating, but also authentic. Creativity is more valuable in the workplace, which is reinforced in leisure activities that foster this competitive advantage. Joining a soccer league is preferable to watching a game on television, and playing music with friends in a coffee shop is more fun than watching the symphony. Traditional cultural art forms are still valuable, but they need to be reframed as multidimensional, accessible and diverse experiences, not as elitist, high culture. Phoenix has marketed itself as a recreation destination since before World War II, which is especially advantageous as Americans spent 200 percent more leisure time doing sports and exercise in 1995 than they did in Ibid.

1965.191 Though Phoenix has a strong recreational culture, it has had to work harder to build the city’s artistic offerings.192 The shift towards consuming experiences instead of goods had affected the performing arts since the 1960s. Since the 1990s, community leaders refocused the art and culture vision to adapt to a changing economy and new definitions of art. Civic leaders, government officials, educators, and the art and culture community have redefined what constitutes performance art to include a wide variety of offerings beyond the traditional symphony, theater, ballet, and opera standards. The broader definition signaled the Valley’s increased cultural offerings, and altered criteria for qualifying for arts and humanities funding, allowing more groups to earn support. Florida demonstrated why valuing certain art forms over others is a problem. For much of the twentieth century the sign of a modern city was an art museum and an SOB (symphony orchestra, opera, and ballet); however the creative class no longer values the static nature of a permanent collection or the classical music of centuries past. Phoenix only managed to hold the art museum and symphony for any significant amount of time, until opera and ballet professionalized and relocated in the 1970s/1980s. Florida suggested cities encourage institutions to reach new audiences, for example by staging symphony concerts in unusual and accessible venues like parks. Cities must also cultivate street-level culture that incorporates multiple scenes (music, film, art, nightlife) into a variety of venues John P. Robinson and Geoffrey Godbey, Time for Life: The Surprising Ways Americans Use Their Time, 2nd ed. (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997), 343.

Florida, Creative Class, 166-170; B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore, The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business a Stage (Boston: Harvard Business School Press, 1999), 2, 11.

(coffee shops, bars, bookstores, galleries). Florida stressed the creative class desires fluidity: flexible schedules, dynamic programming, and multiple modes of participation.

They do not value the generic culture of the suburbs or antiquated entertainment. Just as Michael Kammen observed the rise of middlebrow culture in the twentieth century based on class issues, Florida noticed the return of “popular” culture (in the democratic sense that Kammen defined it) for the twenty-first century with the rise of the Creative Class.193 The Creative Class Values Cultural Diversity Florida’s creative capital theory states creative people drive regional economic growth and they favor areas with diversity, tolerance, and openness. He and Gary Gates ranked the fifty largest American cities against a Gay Index, Bohemian Index, and Foreign-Born Index and compared the scores to the largest concentrations of high-tech industries according to the Milken Tech-Pole Index. They found cities with high tolerance and diversity also had a strong concentration of high-tech industry, not necessarily because gays and bohemians are knowledge economy workers but because cities with high populations of gays and bohemians (authors, artists, and musicians) signal a progressive and diverse community – a necessity for the creative class. Phoenix ranked in the twenties in all three categories: not the most diverse, but not the least. The authors offered Austin as a prime example: the city invested in cultural scenes as well as research and development through the University of Texas at Austin, creating an environment appealing to technology firms with its education populace and image as the Florida, Creative Class, 182; Kammen, American Culture, 28-34.



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