Scottsdale art scene sees jump in attendance - East Valley Tribune: Get Out

Scottsdale art scene sees jump in attendance

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Posted: Wednesday, August 24, 2005 10:26 am | Updated: 9:24 am, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Museums, galleries, theaters, even public art — nothing in Scottsdale has remained untouched by a cultural boom resounding throughout the city.

True, the arts always have played a major role in Scottsdale, but this year, attendance to art venues and events has taken off, and shows no signs of slowing down.

At the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, ticket sales since May have jumped by more than 22 percent compared with the same time last year. That puts the venue on pace to have its best season ever, said center director Kathy Hotchner.

"The longer we’re here, the more people find out how wonderful we are," Hotchner said.

Additionally, revenue from ticket sales has increased by 49 percent compared with this time last year, to more than $718,000 in the past three months.

And the season hasn’t even started. Tickets went on sale in May, but the first show of the season isn’t until October.

There also has been a boom at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, increased success at downtown’s weekly ArtWalk and a stronger devotion to public art projects.

Attendance at the contemporary art museum increased by 11.3 percent, or 41,000 visitors, over last fiscal year, which ended in June.

The only other more successful year than this past year was the 2002-03 season, when the museum hosted an exhibit of work by worldfamous landscape photographer Ansel Adams. That year, attendance reached more than 45,000.

"SMoCA has attracted a lot of interest," said John Little, executive director of Scottsdale’s Downtown Group, a cityrun department. "That’s very good for downtown, and it’s certainly great for the art scene."

Little said the popularity of arts events affects more than profits for each venue.

"Rising tides raise all ships," he said. "The arts in downtown Scottsdale are undergoing the same revitalization we see in the physical nature of downtown."

Little referred to upcoming projects such as the Scottsdale Waterfront, Main Street Plaza, and the ASU/Scottsdale Center for New Technology and Innovation, among others.

And because of a public art ordinance in 1985, 1 percent of those big-budget projects have to go toward public art.

Each year, city spending on public art increases, according to records.

In 2000, the program spent $1.9 million. The budget — which excludes what private developers spend — has increased steadily every year since, and in 2004, the program spent more than $3.4 million on public art.

In addition, more highprofile artists are beating out locals for high-priced commissions, including New Yorkbased Dennis Oppenheim, who recently was chosen over dozens of artists to design the public art at the planned municipal complex at McKellips and Miller roads.

Oppenheim, who also is one of four national finalists vying to design the signature art for the Waterfront on the southwest corner of Scottsdale and Camelback roads, has designed public art around the world, including Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Argentina and Lithuania.

"We’re seeing more and more public art in Scottsdale," said Michelle Korf, deputy director of the Downtown Group. "We embrace public art as part of our community identity — it’s part of ‘who’ Scottsdale is."

Another major element of Scottsdale culture includes the more than 100 galleries downtown.

"We’re all experiencing strong numbers," said Kathy Duley, spokeswoman for the Scottsdale Gallery Association and co-owner of the Duley/ Jones Gallery on Main Street in downtown.

While the association does not track attendance at the Scottsdale ArtWalk — a free weekly nighttime event during which visitors stroll throughout downtown to browse and buy art — Duley said she takes note of how many people visit her gallery during the event.

This summer, more than ever before, Duley said she has lost count of visitors, which "is always a good thing."

Sales at her gallery were up 40 percent this July over the same time last year, and are up 60 percent from July 2003, when her summer sales didn’t reach $10,000.

"People are feeling good about buying art for their homes, and they’re dazzled by how much there is in Scottsdale," Duley said.

The reasons this year’s sales and attendance are up are numerous, but part of it is because there are less distractions this year than in the past, said Frank Jacobsen, president and CEO of the Scottsdale Cultural Council, the nonprofit

organization that oversees the city’s arts programs.

Jacobsen said that in 2001, people were too affected by the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C. to go to arts events. In 2003, the war in Iraq broke out, and again people were not in the mood for art.

And in 2004, the presidential election held the nation’s attention.

"Here we are a year later — there is no election, the economy seems to be in pretty good shape in the Valley, and people are going out," he said.

Even with increasing competition from surrounding cities — such as the new Mesa Arts Center — Little said Scottsdale should be able to maintain its success.

"One of the strengths of Scottsdale is there’s other things to do that might not exist in other places — great restaurants, very pedestrianoriented places to go," he said.

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