Community is a lot like an abstract painting—all the parts work together, even if you’re not sure how or why.
While the Phoenix art scene and the university system exist as two independent brush strokes, the two both come from the same painting and the link between artists and academia can’t be ignored.
Many Phoenix artists contribute to or in some way associate with Arizona State University. I know first hand the impact ASU faculty have on the burgeoning arts scene. For instance, the Kitchenette Gallery in Phoenix—well known for the controversy following ASU Professor Betsy Schneider’s photography—features monthly photographers, who for the most part, come from the pool of ASU graduates and students.
The art community also connects predominately with ASU. College-aged students make up the majority of the art community as well as the major audience that attends the more offbeat scenes. The experimental years of college can provide the most introspective, edgy and controversial movements.
students protest with signs and slogans
With that, I hope I’ve established how crucial ASU’s community has become to Phoenix’s cultural growth. A threat to ASU mushrooms into a threat for the community.
Yesterday, about 1,800 protesters from all three Arizona universities assembled outside the state capitol to oppose sharp budget cuts that university officials say could cripple education. The protest atmosphere — slogan chanting, picket signs, uniform color and moving oration — resembled the idiosyncrasies of the 70s, a foreign experience for members of my generation.
students march on the state capitol
ASU President Michael Crow instituted furloughs last night for all faculty, marking the first decent of the rollercoaster.
“Through this furlough the university will save approximately $24 million to help toward meeting its FY09 state budget reduction which could total more than $60 million,” Crow said.
This comes as a surprise considering the catastrophic numbers originally released in other e-mails from the president. The budget proposal working in the Arizona legislature calls for a 20% cut this year and another 20% next year, totaling 40%. Needless to say, a budget cut of this magnitude would greatly harm the school and art/culture programs are historically the first to go.
However, this issue goes beyond the university. All of Phoenix faces money problems in this bum economy. I fear Phoenix’s unique people and places will be the first to suffer.