The Art of Governance

Satish Hiremath
Photo by James Patrick

The Art of Governance

Since taking office as the Mayor of Oro Valley in 2010, Satish Hiremath, DDS, has made great strides to promote the importance of the arts in the community, while keeping up his other official duties, and continuing his busy dental practice. It’s no surprise then, that he was one of only two mayors in the nation honored with the 2017 National Award for Local Arts Leadership.
“As a leader, he has made one of the most significant and important impacts on the development of our community, through philanthropy, leadership, and thousands of hours of personal time and commitment directly to the Town of Oro Valley,” explains Executive Director for the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance (SAACA) Kate Marquez, who nominated Hiremath for the award.
Prior to his tenure as mayor, Hiremath was instrumental in the creation of SAACA, previously the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council (GOVAC), in response to news that the Town of Oro Valley was ceasing funding programs seen as non-critical. As president of GOVAC, he led the movement to break away and establish SAACA as a stand-alone identity, which now thrives and has positively impacted the lives of people across Arizona.
“The Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance has grown beyond my wildest imagination in terms of widespread influence,” Hiremath shares. “I always envisioned it would be another local arts organization committed to introducing and continuing the arts in people’s lives, but under the leadership of Kate Marquez, it has become a nationally recognized entity.”
According to Hiremath, the Town of Oro Valley has now come full circle and recognizes the important role that arts play, as reflected in the 1% Public Art Program, for example. This requires commercial developers to set aside one percent of a project’s total budget for the creation of public art. “This ordinance gives our residents a sense of place. It is why you see unique works of public art throughout Oro Valley,” Hiremath muses.
Although the health of a community often is measured by financial stability, public safety and infrastructure, the community’s soul — according to Hiremath — is defined by its arts and cultural offerings. “What distinguishes one community from another is the degree to which art is integrated and embraced,” he says. “I am proud that as mayor, I have helped Oro Valley become a community that values public art. We have been willing to invest the time and resources into developing our arts and culture, and the results have been extraordinary.”
His incredible work so far has culminated in receiving the 2017 National Award for Local Arts Leadership this last January in Washington, D.C., during the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors. Only two mayors were recognized with this distinguished award — Hiremath for communities under 100,000, and Boston Mayor Martin Walsh for communities over 100,000.
Admittedly an incredible experience for Hiremath, he says that “Winning this prestigious award has been the highlight of my mayoral tenure to date, and knowing it was given to only two mayors was humbling,” he reflects.
And those in the arts field couldn’t agree more on how deserving he is. “Mayor Hiremath understands the important role that the arts play in advancing the economy and uniting communities, and his ability to motivate and organize others has had a lasting effect on his community and the surrounding region,” says Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts.
Of the many great arts programs in Oro Valley, one stands out in particular to Mayor Hiremath — Musical Gold in the Morning. This daily listening program introduces creative process to students in Oro Valley, from kindergarten through fifth grade, using classical music. Studies show that children exposed to classical music at an early age have more brain stimulation and development leading to higher test scores. The music speaks directly to children’s minds and prepares them for learning, according to SAACA, with teachers noting a major change in their classroom readiness after students hear the morning script and music.
So what’s next for SAACA and Oro Valley? Currently in the works is a Veterans Art Program, utilizing multidisciplinary arts integration. Examples include music therapy for rehab, hospice and clinical-care patients, as well as visual arts programs for trauma patients and creative writing for PTSD recovery program participants.
“The Town of Oro Valley has tremendous respect for our veterans,” Hiremath explains. “We always look for opportunities to celebrate and support them.” Another recent effort in this spirit is the Southern Arizona Veterans and First Responders Living Memorial, located on 1.5 acres of land donated by the town. The memorial is slated for installation at Naranja Park pending fundraising efforts. It was created pro bono by Norris Design and titled “Stars at Home and Abroad.” — Sarah Burton