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Class 37 Arts Day

As experienced and remembered by
Emily Wininger, Class 37

One of my favorite days of Scottsdale Leadership was Arts Day. As a fan of the arts, I went in with high expectations and was very pleased when the day exceeded them.


The day began at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. Natalie Marsh and David Itzkowitz brought us into a beautifully painted room with murals where we heard from Dr. Gerd Wuestemann, President & CEO of Scottsdale Arts. 


Dr. Wuestemann, and fellow classmate Cece Cole’s husband, provided an overview of the history of arts in Scottsdale. He shared how we used to have three branches and a Cultural Council and how we’ve moved into 6 branches included the newly debuted Civic Center Live. 


He informed the class how Scottsdale’s Museum of Contemporary Art (SMoCA) is award-winning, particularly for a younger demographic, a feat that many museums worldwide struggle to capture. 

We learned how Scottsdale has 197 works of public art that we have been collecting for over 50 years and that we have over $200 million in our collection. We learned about Canal Convergence, an event that one day could be Scottsdale’s own SXSW Festival.  Looking ahead we will welcome a new mainstage in Civic Center Live and Stage 2 at the Center for the Performing Arts. While one will open and connect Old Town through art, the other will continue to serve as a place for education. And beyond that, Dr. Wuestmann shared the hope for a 10-acre campus with 3,000 seats for a wide variety of performance in Northern Scottsdale. 


After sharing a small portion of Scottsdale Arts’ successes, Dr. Wuestmann shared why it all matters; we all can “challenge and engage through the arts.” As Dr. Wuestmann so eloquently said, Scottsdale is “investing in creativity” and the momentum is building. 


The issue, however, is the supporters of art have historically been through Scottsdale’s infamous snowbirds and these projects require funding. Dr. Wuestmann must’ve known there were quite a few analytical class members as he shared the ways Scottsdale Arts receive funding shortly thereafeter. There are three major sources:

  • Earned Revenue – buying arts within Scottsdale 

  • Contributed Revenue – donations 

  • Public Funding – extension of Civil Service. 


There was a lot of optimism for the future of Scottsdale Arts as we left Dr. Wuestemann and headed out to Civic Center Live to learn more about the Public Art and the class was split into different groups to rotate through a few key elements of Scottsdale Arts. 

Through our tour of the Civic Center, we saw the newly opened stage and heard the construction noise of the projects due to open in fall. When designing the new space, the designers kept historic trees to provide shade and to frame the new spaces. If you haven’t gone out to see the space yet, we recommend Sounds on Sundays, a free event open to the public. For further shows and details you can also go to Civic Center Live’s website. The 4,000 capacity outdoor venue will celebrate its grand opening in November and will welcome all to Scottsdale and the arts, and we all couldn’t be more pleased to hear it. 


After learning about the stage development, we were taken on a brief Public Art tour including  the famous LOVE sign. Ours is one of a handful and is one of the larger ones. It is also tied to an augmented reality (AR) experience with a QR code. The AR experiences are currently being implemented into all public art after its debut at Canal Convergence during the pandemic, so we all will need to revisit our favorite pieces to see what AR magic happens. 


We walked through Marshall Garden and then looked at more sculptures, such as the Yearlings, one of Scottsdale’s iconic pieces which recently had to be restored. I think what surprised many of my classmates was once the piece is created it is not the end. To keep the art at its full beauty it requires time and money. 


We then switched gears and headed back to the Scottsdale Center for Performing Arts.  In the fabric of Scottsdale Arts, there is always an effort for learning and innovation. They have partnerships with the community, which is led by Natalie Marsh (Class 33), including Scottsdale Unified and Paradise Valley School Districts. 


We learned a lot about the Visions Program, a prominent program that has been going on for 23 years, which welcomes students to work with an artist for eight hours. They worked with a local artist named Kristin who used text and words as a medium. These kids were able use small words to make powerful messages and affirmations.


There are arts and wellness programs in partnership with HonorHealth and school programming in partnership with Nationwide. There are also ongoing programs that work with adults with developmental disabilities. Through integration and collaborative housing, these humans are now living longer and there are lot more programs tailored to these unique needs. 


There really felt as though there wasn’t an area in Scottsdale the arts didn’t touch, which turned out to be true. 90% of the work is out in communities which is why there is such an effort to expand the arts campus in Scottsdale to accommodate more programs. 


What was surprising but delightful to hear was that despite physical buildings being closed during the pandemic, the arts lived on through art kits that were sent to those within the Vision program. For the first year ever, the students will have a full exhibition at SMoCA this year. Without the commitment to arts, even though a pandemic, it wouldn’t have happened. 

While SMoCA was on the mind, we headed there next. We were led on our tour by Jennifer McCabe where she taught us how the arts “can promote empathy.” The collections at SMoCA are beautiful and thought provoking and showcase how artists are processing the time we live in, in very different ways. The class was pleased to hear there may be expansions in the work to the building so more art can be displayed in the future. 


After being exposed to so much beautiful art, we learned how we can help and become part of the three channels of funnel. David Itzkowitz, Class 33, explained how support is needed because those within City Council ebbs and flows. He talked about how the arts serve as a magnet for tourism and that 99% of CEOs who look at relocating their businesses to another city ask about the availability of cultural accessibility. 


When art thrives, there is a cultural hub and a stronger community. Art educates and inspires; it stimulates creativity in the workplace. The images and stories connect time and people. It gives a voice to those who may not otherwise have one. He shared how throughout all cultures and history art is what thrives and survives. 


After inspiring the class with his words, David shared ways to help the Arts. Through donations and attending events and even more impactfully, joining the arts through serving on the board and advisories. David self-proclaimed he has never viewed himself as an artist but through his work with the arts he’s evolved in the work he does with the arts and believes we call could to. He shared how important it is to be involved with areas your passionate in, even if it doesn’t feel directly related to what you do. 


The strength of cultural life is the sign of a city’s future, and we all have a chance to leave a legacy in Scottsdale. 


After many of us were probably already on our phones secretly trying to research more ways to be involved, we heard from Randy Nussbaum, Class 4, who shared similar sentiments of David. He shared a funny story of his connection the arts and encouraged us to put in as much as we want to get out of the Arts and Scottsdale Leadership and encouraged us not to limit ourselves to one organization and most importantly to continue immersing ourselves in art. 


With the weather being as beautiful as it was, we ate in the Civic Center before heading over to Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. We heard from Wade Weber and got to explore the wonderful western artwork on display. We learned of how the art connects those to our area and region. How impactful the work on display is in connecting people to their past and to the history of where Scottsdale came from. 


We then went next door to Stagebrush Theatre/Greasepaint Theater, a somewhat hidden gem in Scottsdale. We got a preview of Sweeney Todd from the show leads and learned how it the theater will become part of the Museum Square Project. Becca, with Stagebrush, talked about the classes they provide and the productions the put on. Somewhat surprisingly, we also learned about how they were able to move forward with outdoor production during COVID which kept the kids in their program inspired and engaged in a time that otherwise may have been very bleak. We learned of how they volunteer throughout the community and further boards we could apply for. Leadership in action was a recurring theme that I don’t think any of us minded hearing about. 


Finally, we went to Scottsdale Artists’ School. Trudy Hays, Executive & Artistic Director, led us on a tour. Trudy shared the history of the school and took us on a tour of the space as she shared the breadth of the programs they offer for residents of Scottsdale and to the global community. Trudy shared how they have mentorship programs and partnerships with other community partners such as Sister Cities. We even got to put it to practice by creating our own watercolor artwork.


A majority of the class was pleased and eager to end the day by celebrating our own Cece at Mountain Shadows where we visited her latest curated exhibit with some delicious cocktails. 


While there has always been some crossover in my job to understanding the art that exists in Scottsdale, I had no idea the breadth of our arts program and community we had until I took this class. Everyone always wants to learn the price of art, but in Scottsdale I believe you can’t put a price on it. Art is one of the most impactful and beautiful aspects of our city. It’s one that surprises and continues to evolve. In today’s world, it’s more important than ever. 


I leave you with this video clip about art and creativity and this thought:


The joy of sharing art is what makes us humane.

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