Cultural leaders aim to focus on 'niche'
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 27, 2007

Lesley Wright

SCOTTSDALE - Scottsdale's cultural leaders said they will worry less about competing with the Valley's burgeoning arts centers and focus more on finding the city's "niche" in the broader market.

That does not mean that Scottsdale lacks the drive to shine in the arts, far from it, said William Banchs, the incoming president and CEO of the Scottsdale Cultural Council.

He would like to find some kind of international competition or festival that Scottsdale could host annually to draw in new, emerging artists.

"You have to think globally," Banchs said. "You have to find a niche, a little something. The genius is finding that need."

Banchs is making the rounds this week to prepare for taking a new job in January directing the Cultural Council, the non-profit group created to manage Scottsdale arts programs and venues, including the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

The Venezuelan-born Banchs said he needs to get to get to know everybody, especially since expanding the group's base of funding is a vital part of his new mission.

"The biggest challenge is getting to know the constituency that supports the organization, getting to know their motivation for supporting the organization," he said. "Then you can expand on that enthusiasm."


New chief is proven fundraiser

Banchs is set to leave his current post at the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, where he raised 80 percent of the group's funding and his own salary.

He will come to Scottsdale just as the Cultural Council begins to absorb a wide-ranging cultural assessment of the community finished this fall.

One overriding theme of the survey was the desire for residents, both young and old, to engage in the arts rather than just sit through performances.

Banchs said that reflects a national trend, and one the Council needs to nurture.

"For the first time, we are having conversations with smaller arts-based groups," said Council Board member Linda Milhaven, who is shepherding Banchs through meetings this week. "I think there are lots of ways we can collaborate."


Study finds youths wants more

Young people especially want the arts to connect to their social life, the study found.

Banchs said that means the arts must also provide a place for people to gather.

"People come out of a performance excited and they want to share that with people," he said. "That way, it's not just the experience enhancing their lives, it's the entire happening enhancing their lives."

With a major renovation underway at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, and a new outlook on community demands, Banchs said the council is at the perfect crossroads for a new leader.

"There is so much behind them," he said of the organization, which has had its ups and downs over its 20-year history.

The Council also could take a new direction, based on the latest feedback, not to mention Banchs's infectious enthusiasm for the role.

"The arts play such a part of the happiness in my life and I want to share that with people," he said.