Arizona Commission on the Arts leaders reflect on successes, vision

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After more than a decade as the executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Robert Booker will retire from the commission and be succeeded by Jaime Dempsey, the deputy director since 2006. We’ll hear from Booker about his time and accomplishments at the commission and from Dempsey about her vision for the organization as she takes over.

Ted Simons: ALL RIGHT, SEAN HOLSTEGE. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US. APPRECIATE IT. UP NEXT ON "ARIZONA HORIZON," A VISIT WITH THE OUT-GOING AND INCOMING EXECUTIVE DIRECTORS OF THE ARIZONA COMMISSION ON THE ARTS.

Ted Simons: ROBERT BOOKER IS RETIRING AFTER MORE THAN A DECADE AS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ARIZONA COMMISSION ON THE ARTS. BOOKER WILL BE SUCCEEDED BY JAIME DEMPSEY, THE COMMISSION'S DEPUTY DIRECTOR SINCE 2006. ROBERT BOOKER JOINS US TO TALK ABOUT HIS ACCOMPLISHMENTS AT THE COMMISSION, ROBERT BOOKER IS RETIRING AFTER MORE THAN A DECADE AS THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ARIZONA COMMISSION ON THE ARTS. BOOKER WILL BE SUCCEEDED BY JAIME DEMPSEY, THE COMMISSION'S DEPUTY DIRECTOR SINCE 2006. AND ALSO WITH US JAIME DEMPSEY, WHO DISCUSS HER VISION FOR THE ORGANIZATION. WHAT'S THE DEAL? WHY ARE YOU LEAVING?

Robert Booker: I'M 62. I CAN. IS THERE A BETTER ANSWER?

Ted Simons: BECAUSE IT'S THERE. ARIZONA COMMISSION ON THE ARTS, WHAT IS THAT?

Robert Booker: WE ARE A STATE AGENCY. WE ARE SUPPORTED BY FUNDING BY THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT OF THE ARTS ARIZONA AND A NUMBER OF CORPORATIONS. WE PROVIDE SERVICES ACROSS THE STATE FOR THE NONPROFIT ARTISTRY. WE WORK WITH SCHOOLS PROVIDING ARTISTS AND EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES FOR YOUNG PEOPLE. WE WORK IN CREATIVE AGING AND SUPPORT ARTISTS ACROSS THE STATE.

Ted Simons: YOU WANT TO LEAVE BECAUSE YOU WANT TO MOVE ON? YOU ARE TIRED OF IT? DID YOU HAVE A ROW WITH SOMEONE?

Robert Booker: NO. I HAVE HAD AN AMAZING CAREER. I WAS WITH THE ART BOARD FOR 20 YEARS. I HAVE TRULY ENJOYED MY WORK IN THIS FIELD. IT'S BEEN GREAT. I'M AN ARTIST. I WANT TO WORK IN THAT AREA. I ENJOY THE IDEA OF TRAVELING AND SLEEPING LATE. I'M GOING TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF IT.

Ted Simons: THAT MEANS YOU ARE UP NEXT.

Jaime Dempsey: IT'S ME.

Ted Simons: I KNOW YOU HAVE BEEN WORKING WITH THE COMMISSION A LONG TIME HERE. WHY DID YOU WANT TO TAKE THE TOP SPOT?

Jaime Dempsey: I AM HONORED TO HAVE THE GIFT OF THIS OPPORTUNITY. I WORKED WITH BOB 11 YEARS. TIMES HAVE BEEN CHALLENGING AND INCREDIBLE AND WE HAVE BUILT AMAZING THINGS TOGETHER WITH AN INCREDIBLE TEAM. WE ARE READY -- THERE ARE CONVERSATIONS ACROSS THE STATE ABOUT INFUSING CREATIVITY INTO ALL KINDS OF SECTOR WORK. THAT'S MY JAM. THAT'S WHAT I'M INTERESTED IN.

Ted Simons: YOU CAME UP WITH A FAST-PITCH COMPETITION FOR ARTISTS AND ART PARTNERSHIPS IN RURAL COMMUNITIES. YOUR OVERALL VISION, WHAT IS IT? WHAT DO YOU WANT TO SEE HAPPEN?

Jaime Dempsey: IT'S IMPORTANT FOR US TO RECOGNIZE AS PUBLIC SECTOR LEADERS, THAT WE ARE FACILITATIVE LEADERS, THAT IT'S OUR JOB TO OBSERVE CLOSELY AS ARTISTS DO. MOST OF OUR TEAM, WE ALL HAVE SOME KIND OF ARTISTIC BACKGROUND OR PRACTICE. IT'S OUR JOB NOT TO GO INTO COMMUNITIES AND DEPLOY OUR AGENDA BUT TO ENGAGE COMMUNITY MEMBERS, DIVERSE COMMUNITY MEMBERS TO LEARN WHAT THEIR DREAMS AND ASPIRATIONS ARE AND LEGISLATE CREATIVE PRACTICE TO SEE THOSE TO FRUITION.

Ted Simons: AND AS FAR AS YOUR TENURE, ACCOMPLISHMENTS. WHAT STANDS OUT THE MOST FOR YOU?

Robert Booker: THE PROBLEMATIC AREAS, WORKING WITH RURAL COMMUNITIES OF THE ART TANK WAS A FUN ACTIVITY. OUR WORK WITH CREATIVE AGING THAT'S REALLY BEGINNING TO BLOSSOM, I THINK IS INCREDIBLE. REAUTHORIZATION, STATIONS NEED TO BE REAUTHORIZED AND WE WENT THROUGH THAT WITH ALL OF THE COMMITTEES, BI-PARTISAN SUPPORT AND RECEIVED A TENURE AUTHORIZATION. IT'S BEEN AMAZING AND WITH AMAZING TEAM AND BOARD MEMBERS.

Ted Simons: HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT TO NAVIGATE THE COMMISSION THROUGH THE RECESSION?

Robert Booker: TOUGH. WE LOST $20 MILLION ENDOWMENT FROM LEGISLATIVE SWEEPS. WE SAW TIME AND TIME AGAIN OUR STATE APPROPRIATION REDUCED BY THE BREWER ADMINISTRATION. IT WAS TOUGH TIMES. WE LOST HALF OUR STAFF, BUT WE DIDN'T GIVE UP. WE HAD AN AMAZING TEAM LEFT. WE CONTINUE TO THINK OF NEW IDEAS ON HOW TO SERVE ARIZONANS ON LESS AMOUNTS OF MONEY. WE ACCOMPLISHED THAT. DURING THAT PERIOD, I THINK WE GOT SMARTER. I THINK WE LEARNED TO STRETCH A DOLLAR FURTHER BY LOOKING INTERNALLY AT OUR TEAM AND AS JAMIE SAYS, LISTENING TO THE FIELD. WHAT DO THEY NEED OUT THERE? DO THEY NEED GRANT SERVICES? DO THEY NEED ADVISE? DO THEY NEED TO BE BROUGHT TOGETHER? A ALL OF THOSE HAPPENED DURING THAT CHALLENGING TIME WE QUITE FRANKLY FACED A LOT OF PAIN.

Ted Simons: LEANER AND MEANER TODAY BECAUSE OF THOSE TIMES?

Jaime Dempsey: DEFINITELY LEANER AND MEANER, BUT I THINK IT'S REFLECTIVE OF WHAT HAPPENS IN ARIZONA COMMUNITIES AND MANY ARIZONA SECTORS. RESOURCES ARE UNDER PRESSURE. WE HAVE TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO BE CREATIVE TO MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.

Ted Simons: THERE ARE A LOT OF BUREAUCRATIC THINGS. FOR THOSE OF US ON THE OUTSIDE, WE WANT TO MAKE SURE EVERYONE CAN PARTICIPATE IN THE ARTS. HOW DO YOU DO THAT?

Jaime Dempsey: THAT'S AN AMAZING PROMPT. THAT IS ACTUALLY OUR MISSION TO IMAGINE AN ARIZONA WHERE EVERYONE CAN PARTICIPATE IN AND EXPERIENCE THE ARTS. IT'S NOT SO DIFFERENT FROM OUR ORIGINATING MANDATE 50 YEAR AGO, OUR AGENCY TURNS 50 THIS YEAR. AT THE TIME COMMUNITY LEADERS WANTED TO MAKE SURE EVEN IN ARIZONA, ALL ARIZONANS HAD ACCESS TO ART AND CULTURE. WE ARE STILL WORKING ON THAT. WE HAVE MADE A LOT OF PROGRESS, BUT THERE ARE AREAS OF OUR STATE UNDERSERVED AND WE ARE LOOKING FOR EXPANSE IN THOSE AREAS.

Ted Simons: BIGGEST NEEDS IN TERMS OF ART IN ARIZONA, WHAT DO YOU SEE?

Robert Booker: STRONG MEMBERS ON THE BOARD. ORGANIZES NEED TO LOOK AT THEIR CAPITALIZATION PROCESSES AND HOW THEY ARE SETTING DOLLARS ASIDE IN RAINY DAY FUNDS AND CASH RESERVES. THAT IS SO IMPORTANT TO NONPROFIT ORGANIZATIONS. THEY ARE FRAGILE, EVEN THOSE WITH ENDOWMENTS AT DIFFERENT TIMES. FIDUCIARY RESPONSIBILITY OF THE BOARD AND RESPONSIBLE ORGANIZATIONS.

Ted Simons: STATE OF THE ARTS IN ARIZONA?

Robert Booker: WE HAVE ACTIVITIES GOING ON IN SMALL, MEDIUM AND LARGE COMMUNITIES. WE ARE REACHING OUT OF THE LARGE METROPOLITAN AREAS ACROSS THE STATE AND SMALL AREAS ARE SERVING ARIZONANS IN THE COMMUNITY.

Ted Simons: LAST QUESTION SAME ONE FOR YOU, STATE OF THE ARTS IN ARIZONA?

Jaime Dempsey: WE ARE READY TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP, I THINK, IS THE STATE OF THE ARTS. THERE'S JUST SO MUCH POTENTIAL. I THINK ART LEADERS AND PHILANTHROPIC LEADERS ARE LEARNING TO DEAL MORE EFFECTIVELY. WE BELIEVE ARIZONANS OUT IN COMMUNITY, FROM ALL WALKS OF LIFE APPRECIATE AND DESIRE MORE ART ACTIVITIES IN THEIR COMMUNITY.

Ted Simons: GOOD LUCK TO YOU. CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU. I GUESS WE'LL SEE YOUR ART WORK DOWN THE LINE. GOOD TO HAVE YOU WITH US. THANKS FOR JOINING US.

Ted Simons: TUESDAY ON "ARIZONA HORIZON," THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS RE-DIRECTING JUSTICE DEPARTMENT RESOURCES TO INVESTIGATE UNIVERSITY AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROGRAMS. AND FORMER FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN ALAN GREENSPAN IS AMONG THOSE WARNING OF A BOND MARKET BUBBLE. THAT'S TUESDAY AT 5:30 ON "ARIZONA HORIZON." THAT IS IT FOR NOW. I'M TED SIMONS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.
Video: "ARIZONA HORIZON" MADE POSSIBLE BY THE FRIENDS OF ARIZONA PBS. MEMBERS OF YOUR PBS STATION. THANK YOU.

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Robert Booker: Former Executve Director, AZ Commission on the Arts

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