Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 Reveals Remarkable Impact on West Valley Region's Economy and Community Well-Being

November 18, 2023 (West Valley Region, Arizona) — The Arts Mean Business! That is the message being delivered today by West Valley Arts Council (WVAC) who led efforts in data collection for the Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 (AEP6) study in partnership with Americans for the Arts. As one of nearly 300 study partners across all 50 states plus the District of Columbia, WVAC worked with local nonprofit arts and culture organizations such as theater and dance companies, museums, festivals, and venues to collect detailed financial information and data on attendee spending and perception. 

The recently published AEP6 study revealed compelling insights into the impact of the nonprofit arts and culture sector in the West Valley Region. In FY 2022/23, the sector generated an impressive $31.2 million in economic activity, supporting 553 jobs and providing $24.9 million in personal income to residents. Attendees at cultural events spent an average of $30.21 per person, contributing significantly to local commerce. The arts attracted nonlocal visitors who spent an average of $36.95, highlighting their role in the visitor economy. Overall the study emphasizes that investing in the arts is an investment in economic development, community retention, and cultural pride. It showcases the critical role of the arts as a powerful driver of economic prosperity and community vitality within the West Valley.

“This study is a clear indicator that arts and culture organizations play a pivotal role in community development and vitality,” said Michael Denson, Executive Director of WVAC. “Not only is there the business side of employing people locally, purchasing goods and services from local businesses, and helping drive tourism; additionally the study shows that arts and culture organizations contribute substantially to community pride and help establish the ‘cultural heartbeat’ of a community.”

About Arts & Economic Prosperity 6:

Arts & Economic Prosperity 6 is a comprehensive study conducted by Americans for the Arts, providing insights into the economic and social impact of the nonprofit arts and culture industry across the nation. The study includes detailed findings on 373 regions, including the West Valley Region, and highlights the critical role of the arts in community development. 

West Valley Region Report: AEP6 West Valley Report

National Study:  https://aep6.americansforth

Mariachi Pasion

March 3, 2023 (Surprise, Ariz.) – A free, one-day-only multicultural festival is coming to Surprise, Saturday, March 11th from 11am - 5pm. The IMPRINT Festival, one of West Valley Arts Council’s (WVAC) signature events, is a free event complete with live performances, visual art, live painting, artisan vendors, food trucks, kids activities, and more! Visitors will be immersed in the richness and beauty of diverse cultures around the valley. 

“A key component to our festival is storytelling,” said Michael Denson, Executive Director of WVAC. “Not only will you be able to enjoy the sights, sounds, and flavors of different cultures, but you will learn history and heritage through stories. We believe that it is through this combination of stories and experiences that we begin to understand one another and move toward a more unified community.” 

The IMPRINT Festival will have key performances by Grammy nominated musician Aaron White, Mariachi Pasion, an all female mariachi band, and Pretty Precise, a performance initiative for minority and at-risk youth providing safe expression through dance and step.

The event also marks the opening of a visual art exhibition, Weaving American Indian Stories. Featuring local indigenous artists, the exhibit captures an informative cultural perspective through contemporary 2D works. Running through April 7th at the Arts HQ Gallery, the exhibit is also free and open to the public. 

The festival and exhibit are key components of WVAC’s IMPRINT: Elevating Cultural Diversity in the Arts program, which is a series of annual exhibitions, workshops, lectures, and celebrations recognizing artists of color in and around the valley. Artists of color have made significant and positive contributions to our collective culture and communities through the arts, and WVAC seeks to highlight those impressions through ongoing activities and opportunities to engage with diverse perspectives, places, and heritage. 

The IMPRINT Festival takes place outdoors on campus at the Arts HQ Gallery and extends throughout The City of Surpise’s new Xeriscape Demonstration Garden, located at 16126 N Civic Center Plaza, Surprise, Arizona 85374. Program sponsors include City of Surprise, On Stage Now Entertainment, Anderson Windows, APS, SRP and National Endowment for the Arts. For more information and festival details visit 

Teri Tobin and Friends, performing live at the 2023 IMPRINT Festival
"Beauty All Around" now displayed at Fry’s Marketplace store in Surprise, AZ

West Valley Arts Council (WVAC), in partnership with Fry’s Food Stores, a division of the Kroger Family of Stores , commissioned local artist, Garrett Etsitty, to create an indoor mural for the new Fry’s Marketplace at their Asante store in Surprise, opening Wednesday, February 22, 2023. Kroger/Fry’s is committed to enhancing customer experience and community engagement by involving local artists in creating artwork that celebrates the unique identity of the area.  

“We know that the arts have the ability to bring people together and foster a sense of community,” said Michael Denson, Executive Director of WVAC. “We're incredibly grateful that a company like Fry’s understands this significance and the importance of supporting the work of local artists.” 

The mural measures approximately 24 feet wide by 8 feet high and is prominently displayed in the entrance of  the Fry’s Marketplace store located at 16400 N Pat Tillman Blvd., Surprise, AZ 85387. Etsitty’s piece titled, “Beauty All Around,” represents the majestic feel of the beautiful landscape surrounding Surprise. Using a combination of abstract and realism, the artist seeks to acknowledge the traditional nature of the past while leading viewers into the possibilities of the future. "Beauty All Around" depicts two ruby-throated hummingbirds, representing unity and equality, two values that are pivotal and widely shared throughout the community.

Garrett Etsitty (Dine’) was born and raised in Chinle, Arizona. From the petroglyphs on the canyon walls to the stories passed down from his elders, his work draws upon the inspiration of what it means to be a Dine’ person. Garrett uses complex unions of vivid colors and layers to articulate an indigenous understanding of thought, creation, and ideology that moves beyond time and space. Learn more about the artist at, Instagram: @krng_1n3.

Frys Marketplace. Photo by Alyse Wallace

West Valley Arts Council in partnership with City of Goodyear, reveals new public art piece.

Under the leadership and expertise of Master Artist, Daniel Nez, 11 students from around the west valley participated in the research, design, and proposal of a new public work in Goodyear, Arizona as a part of West Valley Arts Council award winning program G37.  The fabrication and installation of their imagined work, Gabion Cactus, recently completed and was revealed at Foothills Community Park on Saturday, December 10. The iron and stone work boasts a cultural significance and stands proudly among the surrounding desert landscape. 

“This represents Arizona,” says one student apprentice. “The rock cairn base keeps it natural, and we used the image of a falcon as a nod to the history and culture.”

The falcon imagery atop Gabion Cactus, is an example of the in-depth research that goes into each G37 work. The falcon not only represents native species of birds that one might find in the area, but also carries Arizona’s own historical and cross-cultural allusions to Egypt.

The City of Goodyear has been a long supporter of G37. Gabion Cactus marks their 5th public work commissioned since 2001.

West Valley Youth Create Public Art Using New Technologies!

Through grant funding and individual support, G37 students were able to use brand new iPads this year. Learning new technologies, students were able to turn their two-dimensional sketches into 3D models that could be projected and engaged through augmented reality (AR). The selected work came about through an impressive proposal process. 

“We have never seen anything like this before,” boasts the Goodyear Arts Commission. “We were able to see the students' works as if we were walking around the actual sculpture. We were soo incredibly impressed!” 

A huge thank you to our partners City of Goodyear Arts & Culture Commission, Estrella Mountain Community College, E2 Innovations, and WVAC supporters. Because of your commitment to the arts, our youth and our communities will continue to be impacted for years to come.

More about G37

G37 is a summer arts apprenticeship that provides access to education and experience through engaging and involving youth in the revitalization of communities throughout the West Valley. With a focus on providing career exploration, professional development, arts education, and mentorship; students ages 15 and 18, who are interested in the arts, work with an experienced Master Artist to design, create, and install a permanent public art piece. G37 helps high school students develop job-readiness and employment skills, as well as access post-secondary education and credits.

For 22 years G37 has significantly impacted both the lives of the teens who participate and the communities they are serving. The program's importance was recognized in 2015 when it received the Arizona Governor's Art Award for its community impact. It is the only youth program in the West Valley and Phoenix metro area that uniquely combines public art with access to quality education and career planning for participating teens.

Check out our past G37 projects HERE

September 23, 2022 (PHOENIX, AZ) — West Valley Arts Council (WVAC) is proud to announce
that Michael Denson has been named Executive Director of West Valley Arts Council.
is a community-minded leader and artist, with extensive creative and consulting experience
within the arts and culture sector, bringing new life to the role. He will be transitioning from his
previously held interim Executive Director role into full time placement, effective this month.

"The Board of Directors is excited that Michael Denson will be leading the West Valley Arts
Council,” said Jonathan Robles, Board President for WVAC. “Michael has demonstrated great
leadership in his interim role and we are confident that he will continue to build a strong
foundation for the WVAC. Michael appreciates the rich history of the WVAC and is passionate
about growing the arts in the West Valley."

Michael joined WVAC in 2020 as the Gallery Director of the Arts HQ Gallery, quickly
transforming the space into a sought out destination for diverse, innovative, and meaningful
experiences in art. He was appointed Interim Executive Director in March of 2022 where he
brought much needed visionary thinking and strategic planning to the role. His leadership and
oversight ushered in a new, collaborative movement within WVAC, which has already led to the
finalization of the organization’s exciting new 5 year strategic plan.

“I am incredibly impressed at what WVAC has accomplished in the past 50 years,” said Denson.
“However, I am even more excited for where we are going. In collaboration with local artists,
partner organizations, cities, businesses, supporters, and community members, we are well on
our way to establish the West Valley as a world class destination for art and culture.”

Michael earned his Master of Arts in Innovation and Leadership from Kilns College and his Bachelor of Arts in Photography from The College of Santa Fe. Michael has 13 years of combined experience in nonprofit leadership, strategic planning, and development of innovative programs and experiences. He honed his skills and knowledge through his work for The Rag Collection and Food for the Hungry, Valley non-profit organizations serving the youth, and the marginalized and disadvantaged. His experience as an artist, advocator, and leader in the arts sector has given him keen insight and desire for seeing communities transform through the power of the arts. As Executive Director, Michael focuses on strengthening existing collaborations, building new partnerships, and growing meaningful art and culture activity within the West Valley.

An accomplished visual artist, Michael has exhibited his works in galleries throughout the valley since 2009. His most recent mural works can be seen in Peoria and Glendale. A world traveler and culture craver, Michael has done photojournalism work in South America and the Middle East, as well as an artist residency in India. Originally from Detroit, Michigan, he now resides in Glendale, AZ with his wife and son.

Michael paints street mural in Old Town Peoria, 2019