The Scottsdale League for the Arts is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit volunteer organization of accomplished members who support the arts through social and educational opportunities.

Founded in 1978, this bustling charity hosted the first Scottsdale Culinary Festival to raise funds for capital improvements to the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts. For many years, the League supported programs for Scottsdale Arts, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and the Scottsdale Arts in Education Council. In the early 2000s, the League expanded to support local arts organizations, including nonprofits in Maricopa County. In total, they have successfully donated $4.5 million to the arts through grants, culinary scholarships and donations to nonprofit arts organizations. 

An array of events carry the League’s signature style and flair for fun throughout the year, such as Cooks + Corks in November; Four Peaks Burger Battle on Friday, March 22; the Brunch Club in December; and its signature event, the Scottsdale Culinary Festival presented by the City of Scottsdale, April 13 – 14. This large-scale event boasts a weekend of food tasting, unique epicurean experiences, wine tasting, cooking demonstrations and live music. 

The League prides itself on evolving to ensure that they are creating safe, memorable experiences that help everyone support the arts and get an intimate glimpse at local restaurants, wineries and culinary exhibitors. 

Volunteering with the League is rewarding, as it means you will have opportunities to support and fund local arts year-round. The League’s grants fund art programs of all types for all ages, from children to seniors. A deep-rooted belief that art is the fabric of our culture allows volunteers with the League to build a future of creativity, beauty and respect. 

“One regular volunteer who serves at one of our busy entrance gates for us every April is Sam. Even though it is hectic when the festival opens, Sam is there to greet guests, calmly process their tickets and wish them a nice festival. He puts in a double shift, from noon to close, and we can barely get him to break for lunch. Volunteers like Sam deliver the home-town hospitality the Scottsdale Culinary Festival is known for, and by donating his time, he supports our mission to raise funds for our grants program,” Dr. Glenn Azzari says. “Our volunteer Jamie assisted at the Festival when he was an ASU student in the 1990s, and now he’s back on the team as a rover, our most critical volunteer position. Rovers can walk 15 miles during the festival weekend, stepping in to do whatever is needed: help exhibitors, move a pallet of beverages, stand in for volunteer breaks, run tickets, find people and fix anything that breaks! Jamie is responsive on radio, quick on his feet, and in 2018 we lost count of the game-saving catches he made. Jamie’s dedication, like the contributions of more than 300 volunteers, is the secret to our charitable success.”

There is a history of longevity when it comes to volunteering with the League. After 15 years of continuous, distinguished service, members can apply to be recognized as a Dr. George Owen Lifetime Member, and currently, there are 15 members with this distinction.

Chelsa Cohen is one such member.

“For four decades, our events have provided a fun and engaging experience for family, friends and loved ones to get together and enjoy all that Arizona has to offer around food, beverages, entertainment and music. We have also provided a platform for new and existing businesses to market themselves, and we support the area youth through our grants program,” Chelsa says. “The money raised is made possible by the year-round donations, countless hours and endless effort of dedicated partners, volunteers and League members. The support that the League gives for developing youth opportunities around art continues to inspire me.”

Ways to Get Involved

1. Volunteering at an event is a great way to support the cause and learn more about events from the inside. During events, volunteers greet guests and scan in tickets. They support fundraising activities—silent auctions, raffles and people’s choice voting—and they sell beverages, tickets and fun items custom to each event. Some volunteers arrive before the event and help set up: placing signage, setting up check-in areas, distributing hospitality items for restaurant exhibitors and more.

2. Attend member meetings monthly where interested prospective members get to engage in planning and even take on key tasks: recruiting, making things and more.

3. Donations are always encouraged, so the League invites anyone with resources to donate or to connect the League with donors who want to engage in this critical component of fundraising.

4. The League seeks engagement with anyone who has an interest in event logistics, hospitality, creative services, grant writing or administration and an appetite for helping others.

5. Attend events and participate in fundraising activities. From silent auctions to raffles, the League offers various opportunities for guests to contribute a little more. Attending events and bringing friends helps to increase audiences.