/ Modified jan 10, 2023 5:26 p.m.

Cochise County art programs get a boost

The Arizona Commission on the Arts awarded grants to a number of local organizations.

Bisbee Central School At the central school project in Bisbee, Executive Director Laurie McKenna said the $10,200 will help the 501c3 provide an affordable space for theater productions and studio spaces for local artists.

The arts in Cochise County are receiving a boost this Winter; the Arizona Commission on the Arts awarded Cochise County more than $77,000 in total to seven art organizations across the county.

According to local artisans and organizations in Cochise County, the commission’s grant is a crucial lifeline to keeping resources available and enables them to expand their programming as they bounce back from COVID-19-related cutbacks.

For the Bi-National Art Institute Executive Director and Cochise College Music Teacher Lori Keyne, the $8,750 grant plays a critical role in the organization’s ability to host its “Concert Without Borders,” which features musical performances at the U.S. Mexico border with musicians from both sides of the border.

She said that grants like this are crucial as “They are 95% of our income of the assets that we receive within a year,” said Keyne. “It's because of grants such as this that I can continue to work as an executive director that goes into the community and here's what's going on as well as find opportunities for us to be able to collaborate and be a part of the broader community as well.”

Studio Mariposa Director Gretchen Baer said that the $7,500 grant keeps their free art learning center in Naco, Mexico free, and also funds a mural that students of the studio will be painting on the border wall.

“So we plan to paint a full mile of it and they are helping just to fund that process which is expensive,” said Baer.

At the central school project in Bisbee, Executive Director Laurie McKenna said the $10,200 will help the 501c3 provide an affordable space for theater productions and studio spaces for local artists.

“This money helps with each facet of our mission,” said McKenna. “So we can go towards paying artists for their forthcoming, you know, for their work here, and they'll come on, give a workshop. It pays for honorariums to — like — a speaker or a poet. It can pay for the licensing for films and they can be added into our fund for repairs like pipes that need [to be] replaced or new, you know, radiator work or boiler work.”

While artisans in the southeastern region of the county say that the art community is thriving and resources are easily available, that’s not necessarily the case for the northern parts of the county.

For Gayle Berry, executive director of the Willcox Historic Theater, the 501c3 theater is one of the only hubs for art in Willcox.

“For the K-12 student population, there is not much opportunity,” said Berry. “The school systems try. But there is not much opportunity for arts of any type in the schools. So to some extent, we are trying to supplement and make available things that aren't there for the school.”

She said that the $24,000 dollar grant helps to sustain the theater and provide youth in Willcox with access to the arts and new programs.

“And what the grant allows us to do is have support to establish new programs and help them get going and stay sustainable in the long-term,” Berry concluded.

The Arizona Commission on the Arts invested $5 million dollars towards 323 various art organizations across Arizona. According to the commission’s press release, the funds were issued to the commission on a one-time basis as part of the state’s $18 billion budget package.

“With this round of grantmaking, the Arizona Commission on the Arts nearly doubles the total funding awarded through comparable grant programs in Fiscal Year 2020, the agency’s last year of regular grantmaking prior to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the press release stated.

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