The Tucson Museum of Art now has a dazzling retrospective of Andy Warhol's work on display that has brought thousands of Tucsonans downtown.

Around the corner at Eric Firestone's new gallery, there's a photography show that traces Warhol's career in New York, Los Angeles and even Tucson, where he once shot one of his nutty films.

Dinnerware Artspace, a nonprofit cooperative that has been supporting artists for more than three decades, is getting ready to open a new gallery in downtown's warehouse district.

Tucson is blessed with an abundance of artistic opportunities, whether it's the Arizona Theatre Company at the Temple of Music and Art, rock and roll at the Rialto Theatre or independent film at the Loft Cinema.

But the arts are in real jeopardy in Arizona.

The city of Tucson cut funding for the Tucson Pima Arts Council by 60 percent this year, which means local arts organizations will have fewer resources.

At the state level, the news is even worse.

Republican lawmakers simply snatched away a $20 million endowment that the Arizona Commission on the Arts had saved up over the last 15 years.

Critics complain that government has no business subsidizing the arts, but I'm not so sure they understand why it's important to provide that funding.

When a theatre group puts on a performance, it has to hire local people to create costumes and build sets.

When a gallery opens up, a landlord can now collect rent.

And when people go out for a night of performance, they grab a bite to eat at a restaurant or a drink at a tavern.

All of this helps local businesses and generates tax dollars.

A study a few years back put the economic impact of the arts in Pima County at more than 57 million dollars.

These arts organization also go into our schools to expose kids to the arts, whether it's painting or performance.

With all the cutbacks in the school districts, these visits might be the only chance many kids have to be inspired by our culture and our heritage.

It's easy to dismiss artists as a bunch of deadbeats living off government welfare.

But they're really small business people who provide a big return on the small investment that government makes.

They make our community a better place to live and they deserve our support.

And by the way: If you haven't had a chance to check out that Warhol show at the Tucson Museum of Art, you have until the end of June. Don't miss it.

Jim Nintzel - March 25, 2010