Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cindy Ornsteins Love Letter to Mesa

Cindy Ornstein Arts and Cultural Director for the City of Mesa
 and the Executive Director of the Mesa Arts Center

In 2010, Cindy Ornstein arrived in Mesa for her first job interview for the position of the Arts and Cultural Director for the City of Mesa and the Executive Director of the Mesa Arts Center.

Never having been to Mesa, or even Arizona, she arrived early and was captivated with the beauty of the area. Even from her first glimpses of the metro area she was impressed by the attention to including art in public spaces, such as on freeway bridges and walls. Coming from Michigan, with much older infrastructure, there was nothing like that.

Arriving downtown at the Mesa Arts Center, she was excited because of the potential that exists here. She was excited to see the beautiful facility with all its assets: studios, theaters, the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum and the stunning surrounds. She was also struck by the charming downtown Mesa. She immediately thought it had good bones on which to build. Lucky for Mesa, Cindy got the job. She oversees the Arizona Museum of Natural History, the I.D.E.A. Museum, the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, cultural events in the City of Mesa and, of course, the Mesa Arts Center. Cindy now makes her home in Mesa.

Since her arrival she has worked hard, not only to develop Mesas museums and the Arts Center to be nationally recognized destinations for arts and culture, but to connect them at the ground level with the community. Her desire is that the community understands that the Arts Center is theirs, and that together, we are all invested in making Mesa's Downtown an amazing place.

Interviewing Cindy was enlightening.  She says her mission, at heart, has always been that the arts are for everyone and that they are critical to a healthy, just, and successful society. I believe deeply that arts are important to community development, social fabric, economic development; all of it. I also believe that the assets of the arts, whether they be public buildings or non-profits, work in the public trust. When I was head of non-profits for many years I always said almost every opportunity I get that this organization, this venue, does not belong to me, or the staff or even the Board; it belongs to you, the community. Our responsibility is to manage it and keep it healthy, in the public trust because it is your place. That is what the arts should be all about.

So, in this case where we manage facilities that are literally owned by the public. My mission is for every citizen to feel pride, ownership and engagement with these assets and resources. That they are there, for their enrichment, to make their communities better, to make their children inspired to learn. Our job is to make an impact on the community in a positive way, in all the ways we can. It is really about finding the things that are going to be most effective, what the community is going to find delight in, those things that are going to make them come check it out and make them get involved more.

When asked about her favorite things in Mesas downtown she said It feels like community, it feels so good because we have independent mom and pop stores, it feels very accessible. I love its feel. I love that it is walkable. We already have potential to have a constant activation over time, I think. But it is charming. The trees, the size, the feel of it: it feels like a charming downtown.

Cindy has a vision for Downtown Mesa that builds on its good bones of community, a committed group of downtown activists, an arts community that is here, the influx of visitors for the museums, cultural events, performances, and classes at the Mesa Arts Center.

She is excited that Mesa will become even more of a destination with the opening of the light rail extension into Downtown Mesa. She sees Downtown as an increasingly welcoming place where fun and unusual activities are going on. A place that is vibrant and inviting, with public art where community members of all ages can gather together in public spaces, cultural venues and enjoy places to eat and drink. Cindy envisions a packed events calendar in a beautiful, active, art-infused environment that is a place where strong partnerships create involvement in the city for its citizens, visitors, arts organizations, the city itself, and those in the region connected by the Light Rail.

Cindy has chosen for her Love Letter to Mesa “’Mesas Charming Downtown-Good Bones, because, though we all know we have more work to do to make Mesa what we envision, it is all about the foundation we already have here to build on for an exciting, welcoming, involving, and charming Downtown Mesa, Arizona.

Find out more about all the arts and cultural opportunities in the City of Mesa at

Information on upcoming festivals, performances and studios classes at

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