Gilbert’s Arts Advisory Board and the town’s director of art programs are facing some big changes just weeks after they were criticized for seeking town funding for the arts.
A Town Council subcommittee has suggested changes in volunteer boards across Gilbert. The first would merge the Arts Advisory Board with the Human Relations Commission.
Some town officials have questioned how much grant and sponsorship funding they’ve received for town arts, in light of the $87,000 salary and benefits cost of the town’s art director position, held by Kim Grace since 2002, as well as the more than $12,000 for a consultant hired last year to help plan the Global Village Festival in April.
“I don’t know what the goal was, but when I look at the job responsibilities of that person, clearly it’s arts development in the community and the ability to locate grants and private sponsorships,” said Councilwoman Linda Abbott.
Grace has brought in four grants worth a total of $4,345, from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and National Endowment for the Arts, since 2002.
Grace said she expects to see more funding come into Gilbert as plans for new art projects come to fruition.
With an annual arts budget of about $10,000, Grace said she has focused on low-cost ways to bring arts to town, including an arts display program at the Southeast Regional Library and the Gilbert Municipal Court. The town also holds concerts in the park, and is now proposing to bring in a professional symphony to perform at Christmastime.
The arts board was criticized in December by some town officials who learned the board planned to seek help to fund a $42,000 sculpture loan program proposed for the downtown, despite a Town Council policy against funding arts programs. And in October, Grace and the art board’s request for $12,500 to hire a consultant to help plan and advertise the Global Village Festival was approved by the Town Council, but sharply criticized by some, including Abbott and Mayor Steve Berman, who argued that current town staff could do the work.
During the first three years of the Global Village Festival, Grace and the arts board have brought in another $36,700 in sponsorships. And in 2004, the arts board fundraised $1,810 for a then-proposed arts scholarship program.
The sculpture loan program, which could bring bronze statues to Gilbert’s downtown, has not yet gone before the Town Council.
“I have a pretty good feeling we can get more funding from the Arizona Commission for the Arts for this sculpture loan program,” Grace said. “You do have to have some of these programs worked out before you can request a grant.”
Abbott said while she believes the town shouldn’t fund the arts — and require arts money to be obtained through grants and fundraising instead — the suggested change for both boards is an unrelated decision meant to enhance their work in light of a loss of volunteers.