Arts Foundation Now

An invitation to learn about and participate in a shared vision for arts and culture in Tucson and Southern Arizona.

Since the inception of the The Arts Foundation 34 years ago, our region has seen many changes. As with all change, creating new vision necessitates adaptability, resourcefulness, and imagining what is possible.

What has not changed is our commitment to public art; providing grants and professional opportunities to artists and arts organizations; and looking for partnerships, relationships, and synergies, that enable the arts to thrive in this community.

We have taken stock of our community’s journey, and are leading the conversation about the arts in Tucson and Southern Arizona. The arts have always played a central role in civic renewal, and will continue to remain essential to our success.

We seek to educate our community into action, and we hope you will use the information here to connect, discover, and get more involved.


“A society must assume that it is stable, but the artist must know, and he must let us know, that there is nothing stable under heaven. One cannot possibly build a school, teach a child, or drive a car without taking some things for granted. The artist cannot and must not take anything for granted, but must drive to the heart of every answer and expose the question the answer hides.”

– James Baldwin, novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, and cultural critic, from the 1962 essay “The Creative Process”

  • What is The Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona?

    The Arts Foundation is a 501(c)3 arts organization and funding agency, designed to advance artistic expression, civic participation, and equitable economic growth of our diverse community by supporting, promoting, and advocating for arts and culture in our region. 

  • How is The Arts Foundation funded?

    Primarily through the City of Tucson’s general fund as an outside agency, and through the Pima County Economic Development and Tourism department. We also receive public art funds from the Percent for Art program of both the City and the County, and manage the public art program for both the City and the County with these funds. We also receive support from federal funds like the National Endowment for the Arts, on ocassion, as well as state money from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, for which we apply each year. Private foundations, individual contributions, and in-kind donations of time and talent from the community are also a growing component of our funding.

  • Given your evolving focus, will you still be granting funds to artists and arts organizations and offering opportunities for public artists?
  • The Arts Foundation has a long history of facilitating The Open Studio Tour (OST). Is that still your mission?

    Support for the Arts Foundation from both the City and County has steadily declined since the last economic recession in 2008/2009. Due to staff cuts that resulted from reduced funding, the Arts Foundation has, since, 2015, provided basic funding for the Open Studio Tours to an outside agency who then managed the tours operation. We are pleased to be able to continue the tradition of supporting the Open Studio Tours, and saw an increase in the number of artists who participated in 2018 over 2017 by more than 20%.

  • What happened to the P.L.A.C.E. Initiative?

    For six years, the P.L.A.C.E. Initiative distributed nearly $300,000 in grants to our community. Many important studies and dialogues emerged from these “placemaking” conversations, including the widely-distributed P.L.A.C.E. report. We find ourselves in new territory of evolving language and exciting ideas: What happens when we begin to see our places in a whole new light, and imagine what they could become? The P.L.A.C.E. Initiative is now closed.

  • How is The Arts Foundation organized now?

    The Arts Foundation is comprised of four employees:

    • Carol Varney, Acting Executive Director
    • Mary Schuler, Operations Manager
    • Jeff DeCosta, Public Art Manager
    • Natalia Gabrielsen, Program Coordinator
Back To Top