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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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defined districts. One of the key lessons learned from other cities was that sustained leadership is important: arts and culture need clear champions fighting to keep their needs a priority. Phoenix has learned this lesson multiple times whenever civic leaders were no longer able to advocate for the arts. Just as postwar leaders built the performing arts based on other cities’ models, twenty-first century arts and culture advocates looked to similar regions to realistically determine how to build cultural infrastructure and make Phoenix more appealing to knowledge economy workers than its competitors.222 Epilogue Early arts supporters’ legacies live on through the groups they established and the culture they created. Although Phoenix is still developing its cultural identity, what exists is the product of decades of dedication to growing the city. Phoenix Theatre offers a full season of professional theater in their Mainstage Theatre and Black Box Theatre, plus their Cookie Company productions for families. The Phoenix Symphony Orchestra is in its sixty-sixth season under director Michael Christie, and remains Arizona’s only fulltime professional orchestra. The PSO shares the Symphony Hall stage with professional companies Ballet Arizona and the Arizona Opera. ASU Gammage presents touring Broadway productions and smaller performing arts shows and guest lectures through its ASU Gammage Beyond series. Combined with ASU’s Herberger College of Fine Arts, the university is one of the largest presenting organizations in the country. Suburban residents have more chances to view performances with venues in their own cities, such Technology Partnership Practice and Batelle Memorial Institute, Learning from Others: Benchmarking the Maricopa Region Against Other Regions’ Efforts to Build a Vibrant Arts and Cultural Sector (Peoria, AZ: Batelle Memorial Institute, 2003), 2, 19-20.

as the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Mesa Arts Center, Chandler Center for the Arts, and the Tempe Center for the Arts. Leaders are also cultivating culture downtown, with the Valley Metro Light Rail conveniently bringing people into the city for art, sports, dining, and ASU’s downtown campus offerings. First Fridays highlight these amenities and allow guests to preview cultural institutions for free, introducing people to the Roosevelt Row and Heritage Square districts.

Leaders from multiple industries are working hard to further develop Phoenix’s arts and culture, and they recognize the sector’s role in advancing the city’s economic goals. Residents and leadership must be fully committed to the mission or it will not work – after all, a performance demands an audience. Opting to allocate taxpayer funds to a group’s operating costs, or deciding to spend money on a night at the theater is difficult when today’s art consumers are not reaping the benefits of a booming economy. Because arts and culture are not viewed as vital, they are the easiest to eliminate when the economy fails. Postwar leaders had the benefit of a strong economy when they first established the cultural scene, but they understood the arts as a vital urban component, not a luxury. Arts supporters used the same argument in the 1980s to once again convince Phoenicians the city needed the arts. The performing arts have evolved tremendously since the first stock companies rolled into town thanks to tireless work by many to force culture on the city’s residents. The crusade to develop a strong arts and culture scene continues, its supporters still fixated on making Phoenix the high-tech, sophisticated urban center they believe it can be.

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Johnson, Ian Patrick. “Historic Preservation in the Phoenix Metro Area: History, Current Challenges, Ongoing Stuggles.” Master’s thesis, Arizona State University, 2007.

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Stoneburner, Bryan Carrol. “The Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, 1947-1978: Leadership, Criticism and Selective Commentary.” Master’s thesis, Arizona State University, 1981.

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