The Mayor’s Arts Awards serve to identify outstanding leaders in eight areas: Dance Artist, Literary Artist, Music Artist, Theatre Artist, Visual Artist, Young Artist (age 12-17), Innovative Arts Organization, and DIY/Maker (new category!) Finalists are chosen based on the criteria of innovation, impact, and collaboration.
Congratulations to the 2019 Mayor’s Arts Awards Winners!
Dance Artist: Susan Bendix
Life takes unexpected turns requiring us to adapt to new circumstances. Artistic process is the same. Being unexpectedly widowed with a small child, my artistic destiny was put on a back burner. I taught dance in an inner-city public school in central Phoenix. The significance in this story lies in the emotional barriers and restrictive doubt that interfered with students’ uncovering their creative identities. This recognition became the foundation for Moving Grief – Moving Loss, a movement-based program for people dealing with loss and trauma where story is embedded in gesture; feelings are explored through shape; line drawings visually map the course of loss; and ritual brings community together. Using techniques from dance, theater and improvisation.
I provided rich creative and performance opportunities for my students. I spearheaded a partnership with ASU dance. We brought in guest choreographers to set work on the combined group of ASU dance students and my students. We also created truly collaborative choreography which was performed at the ASU dance theater and the Herberger. I have shared my movement and grief work with a broad range of people – from children at the New Song Center for Grieving Children, staff at Hospice of the Valley, public school teachers, incarcerated adolescent girls in Black Canyon City, Maricopa Community College students, drug rehab centers, and seniors.
In the various iterations of this dance work, I collaborated with poets, dancers, photographers, choreographers, installation artists and dance scholars. I collaborated with local poet MaryKay Zeeb this year in a dance poetry response to Hatsubon, photographic work of Tomiko Jones. I was part of the Jews and Jewishness in Dance Conference at ASU last October. I worked with Hospice of the Valley as I developed my grief program – presenting to their staff. I’ve presented this work for Maricopa Community Colleges as professional development and for students. I am currently collaborating with ceramic artist and MCC faculty Linda Speranza as we tailor this program for the specific needs of veterans and incorporate visual arts.
DIY/Maker: Tina Ferguson
Tina’s innovative art education techniques have allowed senior homes to throw out the stickers, crayons, foam, plastic canvas, and paper plates and replace it with hammers, goggles, glass paint, polymer clay, canvas, watercolor pencils, silk scarves, fine jewelry findings and so much more!
Creating fine art from readily available, recycled and inexpensive materials is also paramount to the work Tina does with her students. (This allows her students to use these techniques regularly on their limited budgets.) Before Tina began her innovative/high-quality arts programs in senior homes their CRAFT program was embarrassing and childlike. Successful/innovative art is created when an admirer has no idea how it was made.
Studies show that TV viewing for over 3.5 hours/day could contribute to cognitive decline;seniors spend the MAJORITY of their freetime doing just that!Tinas arts classes give seniors,the oldest who are 106,an alternative.The corridors of their communities are covered with displays of their artwork,which itself creates a more stimulating environment, a source of more intimate and prideful conversation, and a sense of ownership in their home.Having a great art program in a senior community ALSO greatly contributes to its social success! It helps build friendships, better communication with staff, while making it a more enjoyable place to be and thats when you see success. For some seniors her classes are the only thing they participate in.
Tina teaches art with the City of Phoenix in multiple senior centers, over 45 senior communities, adult day programs, with veterans, and even with hospice companies. She worked with Phoenix Consortium of the Arts to provide a public outlet for her students art, showing over 350 Blue Guitar paintings of her students at this years Blue Guitar festival at Desert Ridge Marketplace. Tina also collected pet food, beds, accessories, & blankets from local senior communities for a local Pitbull shelter after her monthly Paint your Pup month where over 350 seniors painted dogs to help gain recognition for the cause! Tina also has donated time and materials to the annual Alzheimers walk in DT Phoenix providing the only art booth at the event.
Music Artist: Downtown Chamber Series
Chamber music is traditionally performed in the sterile settings of churches and concert halls with a limited range of repertoire and instrumentation. DCS strives to do everything differently. During our 20 year history we have performed in over a dozen different warehouses and art spaces featuring over 175 different musicians, including all the orchestral instruments as well as folk and world music. Pieces such as Reich’s “Drumming” for 8 percussionists, works by singer songwriters which we have arranged to accompany with orchestral instruments, as well as the standards from Brahms and Beethoven can be heard on our programs.
Traditional chamber settings limit the scope of audience development due to their venues, neighborhoods, and patrons. DCS seeks “culturally aware non-attenders,” patrons who are interested in culture, art, architecture, and getting away from their computer screens, but who may not attend due to high ticket prices or other factors. Concert experiences that offer vibrant performances amidst visual art in the core of the city, often in old buildings which carry their history and intrigue in their walls, attract a broad range of people. Our ticket price is $20 and full-time students of any age are free.
Because we do not own our own building and thus travel like a cultural MASH unit, every DCS concert is created through a process of collaboration. Interested musicians suggest pieces they are inspired to perform, they choose the musicians they want to work with, and the galleries provide their own collaborative efforts curating their shows. All constituents are highly interdependent. DCS exists because of the vibrant urban visual arts scene and the committed gallery owners and artists who collaborate with us. We also collaborate with schools and skilled students as well. In winter 2019 we worked with The Arizona School for the Arts and Rosie’s House on the Violins of Hope project. In August 2019 we featured two high school students on part of a program at Bentley Gallery. DCS musicians coached these students prior to their performances and brought in their parents to our unique brand of performing arts. This has broadened our audience demographic as well. DCS offers these services to the schools and students at no charge, as their budgets are strained enough.
Theatre Artist: Bobb Cooper
Bobb Cooper is a producer, director, designer, songwriter, composer, actor, and mentor. Since 1996, his innovation has transformed Valley Youth Theatre (VYT) into a nationally and internationally renowned and respected theatre company. His artistic direction and leadership, professional standards, meticulous attention to detail and supremely high artistic production values are what earned VYT professional status and acceptance as a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the leading organization for professional theatre. He’s been integral in establishing VYT’s sustainability and far-reaching impact. Hundreds of thousands of Phoenix youth have benefited from being part of his productions, education programs, and community outreach efforts.
In addition to the hundreds of children that participate in VYT shows completely fee-free, Bobb has created community outreach programs that provide accessibility to live theatre that Valley children may not otherwise have. Last season, Sponsor-a-Seat allowed 1,001 disadvantaged children from dozens of social service organizations to attend a free VYT performance and enjoy a complimentary lunch with the cast and crew. 3,308 students from Title 1 schools received a free page-to-stage experience through his Literacy and the Arts program. And 546 HopeKids and their families were treated to a free performance, before opening night, while 550 veterans, first-responders, and their families received complimentary tickets to a VYT performance.
Bobb believe youth theatre deserves the same support, resources, and respect as a professional theatre company. He proves every day there’s nothing young performers can’t achieve with the right inspiration and direction. He has taken the perception of youth theatre in Phoenix from a stereotypical community or school play to jaw-dropping, breathtaking productions that receive standing ovations and flawless reviews. The quality of performers, designers, guest artists and production crews he had brought together for 23 years has earned the respect and support of local arts patrons, politicians, media, philanthropists, businesses, and other non-profit organizations, raising the bar for what’s expected of youth theatres throughout the country.
Visual Artist: Maggie Keane
The Melrose Pharmacy mural took an old building and put a new building on it in celebration of downtown Phoenix’s mid century modern architecture against the timeless beauty of the Sonoran desert. The existing organic foreground landscape morphs into its painted counterparts leading the viewer on a trip past dynamic iconic Phoenix architecture up a pathway into the serenity of the mountains.
The Prince Tribute Mural celebrates a few of the ever changing varieties of styles that Prince embodied during his unparalleled reign as world’s most prolific and gifted musical genius. The personification of the phrase “Big things come in small packages,” Prince was a quiet man who made a huge noise. His painted eyes see through real mirrored shades.
The Melrose Pharmacy mural edges Lyceum park where people can rest in the shade set back from the 7th Avenue traffic. The environment provides a peaceful respite and pays tribute to the many neighbors and organizations involved in its creation.
Humanity itself felt an impact from Prince’s life and death. Viewers worldwide have reacted to this mural. People from all walks of life visit, photograph and talk about his influence on their lives. Phoenix has been added to the map as a destination for Prince fans who make pilgrimages to Paisley Park and other locations of Prince interest. I am humbled by the love shown to me and the work itself. 3 major streets meet here providing opportunities for interaction with art and reflection (literally).
Innovative Organization: Girls Rock! Phoenix
While in many parts of society girls are taught to be quiet and make themselves smaller, Girls Rock! Phoenix believes in teaching girls, trans, and gender nonconforming youth to be loud, take up space, and that they dont need anyones permission to play music and form a band. We are completely volunteer run and draw on our own experiences being excluded and marginalized in the music world, while following in the footsteps of other girls rock camps to create a new kind of safe space. We lead by example, showing campers that girls are collaborators, not competitors. Our programs encourage experimentation in art and life, and enable kids to find their voice. The important thing is that they know they can do it, and don’t have to do it alone.
Our primary program is a weeklong summer camp that allows participants (girls, trans, and gender nonconforming youth ages 8 17) to learn an instrument, form a band, write an original song, perform a community showcase, and engage in workshops that are both music and non-music specific. We have campers from many different backgrounds, some who are differently-abled, and many whose families would not normally be able to afford this type of program. We have made it part of our mission to maintain a sliding scale for attendance that has a starting point of $0. We want all youth to be able to experience the benefits of learning to play and perform music in a supportive environment, as well as to engage with people from different walks of life.
Partnership is vital to Girls Rock! Phoenix. We believe not just in DIY (Do It Yourself) but in DIT: Doing It Together. We engage regularly with creative individuals and community organizations to show our campers the benefits of teamwork and collaboration. These alliances allow them to see what can be accomplished through positive communication. It teaches them how to think strategically and critically, as well as creatively. Diverse interactions are also beneficial to our adult, all-volunteer staff, and all together, we learn and grow. We know these multifaceted relationships are also integral to the growth of the greater community. Phoenix Center for the Arts, The Nash, The Newton, and The Trunk Space are among our local colleagues.
Literary Artist: Joel Salcido
Innovation for me has to do with lexicon, form & content. As a working class, Latinx son of immigrants from West Phoenix I’ve tried to create visibility for my communities within my writing. That means incorporating the language, imagery & narratives of my neighborhood & culture. For me creating space within the discourse of the literary community that affirms & gives a platform to where I am from is vital because too often we are relegated to niches, or objectified as people in need of empathy rather than afforded our own embodied license to speak & critique ourselves & the conditions we exist within. As a graduate of the MFA program at ASU I’ve tried to incorporate formal training into leaps & risks to create room for wonder & magic.
My impact with audiences is twofold. Firstly, I want the people who I grew up with & around, the people who share my sense of place, background & community, to see themselves in my work. I want them to feel validated in our shared experiences & the significance of those experiences to be recognized. It is to them that I am most beholden and to whom I want what I write to feel authentic. Secondly, I want to my literary audiences to see this aforementioned, oft neglected world. To feel it. To understand the magic that courses through us and where we come from. To open up the possibilities of what is “literary”, to not ask for recognition or affirmation but to demand it. In both spaces I hope that my audiences will find community together.
I’ve helped organize & volunteered with various literary & charitable programming such as Beat Relief, RISE!, Writer’s For Migrant Justice, No More Deaths & the forthcoming Letters Fest. I was a founding member of the Gutta Collective, whose mission was to share Black and Brown narratives through art & poetry. I’ve lectured for undergraduates at ASU West & AZ school for the arts. As a graduate student, I worked with MFA students to edit Hayden’s Ferry Review, was an assistant to Alberto Rios’ Story Days Poetry Nights project, helped create the Volta mentorship program at the Piper Center, & most importantly I worked to create a sense of family within the program cohort & to facilitate the MFA presence within the Phoenix literary community.
Young Artist: Ruchi Ukhade
I like to experiment and learn new and innovative ways to express my art and ideas. An example of this can be found in my painting titled Iridescent Animals of the World, which is done on Vinyls, CDs, and Cassette tapes (electronic waste). This painting depicts the horrors of electronic waste pollution on the environment and animals.
To reinforce my love for creating new meaningful artwork I constructed the Radiant Wheel which incorporated old bicycle parts and recycled paper, to create a functioning and visually appealing chandelier. Both pieces won awards in the FCCLA State Competition in 2018 and 2019. By developing new meaningful art pieces that express my views, I am able to be an innovative artist.
As a teen artist, I feel it is important to include youths in mainstream art. As elected President of the Teen Artists Guild (TAG), I have launched an initiative to connect with teen artists across high schools in Phoenix. My process involves contacting high schools with limited art related activities and encouraging the students to join TAG, along with coordinating guest artist speakers to provide guidance to teen artists about art-centric career choices. I feel that if passion for art among young children isnt cultivated by teenage years, the spark of creativity may never grow again. By sharing my art experience with teens in school and community events, I encourage them to continue their art journey and pursue their dream career in art.
Recently I have been participating in collaborative mural paintings across the valley. The most memorable mural being a coffee shop roof I painted with local artist, Lalo Cota, and other teen artists. The mural depicted a sunset, further reflected by mirrors on the roof. The piece portrayed the vibrant summer sky and the combined efforts of artists established in the field and artists who intend to pursue the field.
I enjoy collaborating with the community to create art. For example, I coordinated a chalk mural at the Thunderbird Center for the Arts. I planned the activity and assigned tasks to children according to their ages and skill levels. I successfully managed the street mural from start to finish.
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