After more than a decade as executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Robert C. Booker has announced that he will step down in August. He will be succeeded by Jaime Dempsey, who has been the agency’s deputy director since 2006. Her promotion was approved by the state on May 18.
“I will be forever grateful to have served Arizona residents through the work of the Arts Commission,” Booker said. “I thank the artists, educators, elected officials, community leaders, and advocates who have played such important roles in advancing our shared work, and who so generously offered inspiration, guidance, and support throughout my career.”
During his tenure, Booker led the commission through recession-era budget reductions and major shifts in public policy and successfully maintained the Arts Trust Fund as a primary source of state arts funding. He also initiated new private funding partnerships between national corporations and foundations, established Arizona’s first poet laureate post, and collaborated with rural communities to create programs that would employ the arts to address community problems.
Commenting on Dempsey’s appointment, Booker said, “Jaime has established herself as a respected leader in Arizona and throughout the country, known for her expansive knowledge of arts industry challenges and public policy opportunities, as well as for her ability to devise productive collaborations. Over our eleven-year partnership, we encountered substantial challenges, which only strengthened our resolve to fulfill the arts commission’s mission and mandate as an agency of the State of Arizona: to ensure that every Arizona resident can participate in and experience the arts.”
Prior to joining the arts commission, Dempsey developed community programs and partnerships as the first program manager for the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University, and she taught courses in arts leadership and nonprofit management for ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. She has also managed programs for Idaho’s nexStage Theatre and the multidisciplinary Sun Valley Center for the Arts. In 2016, she was elected to the board of directors for Grantmakers in the Arts, a national service organization which holds racial equity in American arts philanthropy as a core priority.