Arizona Citizens for the Arts announces leadership changes

Arizona Citizens for the Arts (AzCA), Arizona’s primary arts and arts education advocacy group, announces several leadership changes to prepare for a focused effort to reauthorize the Arizona Commission on the Arts (ACA) and secure additional public funding to support the work of artists, arts educators and arts organizations statewide and enhance the quality of life in all communities.

Joseph Benesh

In September, Executive Director Joseph Benesh will transition to a contract development role with AzCA. Benesh’s two-year tenure is marked by successful outreach efforts in communities across Arizona, giving AZCA a broader base of support for our advocacy efforts in every community. 

In addition, Benesh leaves behind a more financially secure organization, with long-standing debt eliminated and a clear path forward for sustaining its operations. A search process for Benesh’s replacement is being organized. 

“We’re grateful to Joseph for what he has accomplished in the toughest of times, and for his continuing work to support the organization,” said Stuart Graff, chair of the AzCA Board of Directors.

While the organization transitions to new leadership, AzCA board member Lorna Romero will take on leadership of the organization’s advocacy efforts supporting reauthorization of the Arizona Commission on the Arts in 2022.  

Romero is the founder of Elevate Strategies, a communications and public affairs firm based in Mesa with extensive experience in advocacy work. 

“The Arts Community plays a significant role within our state’s education system and thriving economy,” she said. “Arts, culture and entertainment are woven into the fabric of our diverse state, providing jobs and opportunity in every community. I look forward to working with arts, business, and community leaders across the state in support of the Arizona Commission on the Arts.”

“We are pleased to include Lorna’s effective work experience across political dividing lines in our efforts to reauthorize the Commission for another ten years,” said Graff.

Romero’s work will be coordinated with the work led by Dianne McCallister of Public Policy Partners (P3), one of Arizona’s leading Government Affairs firms.  Public Policy Partners will lead the efforts on the reauthorization of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, as well as advocate for ongoing funding for the Commission in the state budget. 

The AZCA board of directors, along with Benesh, Romero and McCallister are working now to coordinate with arts allies around the state leading to a full push for reauthorization and funding for the ACA. Business and economic development leaders, tourism industry leaders, and providers of services to veterans, youth, and disadvantaged communities are being called to join in this effort.  

“In my time with AZCA I’ve come to understand, even more deeply, the arts touch lives and communities in so many ways—helping vets address PTSD, teaching young people to think creatively and building their confidence, and giving people in all walks of life the opportunity to see through each others’ eyes,” Benesh said. “This is why this work is so important, as we’ve seen during the difficult challenges of the pandemic.  We need more art, music, dance, theatre, and digital entertainment so that we can fully celebrate the beauty of life and connection to each other.”

For more information about Arizona Citizens for the Arts, go to

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