Meet Kirsten Ibarra

October 8, 2021
By Kirsten Ibarra, Marketing Communications Fall Intern

portrait of Kirsten IbarraHello, Phoenix Center for the Arts! I am beyond excited to be the fall intern in the marketing department. My name is Kirsten Ibarra and I am an Arizona native. Although I was born right here in Arizona, I grew up overseas. I have lived in Uruguay, Russia, and Germany.

I was a competitive fencer for many years (yes, swords!) and as a former athlete, health and fitness are very important to me. I am also a big movie buff—I even went to film school! Before I went to Arizona State University for a degree in Mass Communication and Media Studies, I received an AAS in Film Production from Scottsdale Community College. My love affair with movies drew me into cosplaying.

Cosplaying is a creative outlet for me. I have learned many skills, have had great opportunities, and have met amazing people. One of the most thrilling experiences was when I cosplayed as a character from Disney and Pixar’s Onward at Disney’s D23 fan event—my boyfriend and I were handpicked to meet the creators of the film! Cosplay has allowed me to wear multiple hats, such as costume designer, prop maker, photographer, editor, graphic designer, and artist.

I have always loved technology and I have a passion for coding, graphic design, and web development. Currently, I am completing certificates in Graphic Design and Web Development at South Mountain Community College.

When I am not working or studying, you can find me spoiling my three Pomeranians, playing Dungeons and Dragons with friends, crocheting while watching reruns of Survivor, or attending local theater productions. I have season tickets for ASU Gammage, Hale Centre Theatre, and Don Bluth Front Row Theatre (Musicals are my favorite!).

Life’s Better in Color!

September 9, 2021
By Jessica Valiente, Program Manager

Luisa Leon Ruiz Teaching paintingAt the end of August, the Phoenix arts community lost an amazing advocate of the arts, whose energy, passion, and heart, made an unforgettable impact on so many lives. Luisa Leon Ruiz or AzLotusArt, how her community knew her, will be remembered as an artist, an organizer, a mother, a daughter, and a friend.

I first met Luisa when we were about 20 years old. The first thing I remember about Luisa was her personality. It was HUGE! She had energy as bright as the sun. Always positive, always happy, always strong. Anyone who has met her knows what I’m talking about.

You could tell that from a very young age, Luisa knew who she was and what she wanted. I think it’s because of that confidence and self awareness that she was able to do so much, and get to where she wanted to be. Up until a couple of years ago, Luisa had a full time job, working “the 9-5” as we like to say, but her passion had always been art and creating. She made the courageous decision to quit her job, and make “creating” her full time passion and career.

She began creating full time, and organizing events around Phoenix. Here’s an article with an interview of her talking about it in VoyagePhoenix. In 2018, she became a Teaching Artist at Phoenix Center for the Arts. After so many years had gone by, it was so nice to reconnect with an old friend and work on creating art programming for the community, together. She taught a lot of our one-day workshops and painting events like unWINE’d at Monorchid and Carly’s on Roosevelt Row. She also offered bilingual painting classes at the Center as well.

Always involved in the community, she was a co-founder of Mujeres Mercado. A non-profit organization that brings together women of color who are business owners and artists, to provide a platform for promotion and a place for the public to purchase their art and other amazing products.

Luisa Leon Ruiz with painting studentsShe was always encouraging people to create. Even if they didn’t think they had it in them. When the pandemic started, she began doing an Instagram live “show” where she invited people to paint along with her. Although I never created with her, it was so mesmerizing to just watch her create something out of nothing, night after night.

A Celebration of Life for Luisa will be this Saturday, September 11 at Fair Trade Cafe 1020N 1st Ave, Phoenix AZ 85003 from 7 a.m. to close. All of her work will be on display and the event will also be live streamed on Luisa’s IG page @azlotusart.

The passing of Luisa has been felt all around the community. She continuously inspired people to pursue their passion, follow their heart and find their art. As Luisa would famously say, “Life’s better in color!” And I couldn’t agree more. May she rest in power.

Volunteer Spotlight: Brittany

August 11, 2021
By Mikaila Simmons, Marketing Summer Intern

Our volunteers are just as inspirational as our teachers. Speaking with Brittany, one of our amazing volunteers, she has beautiful advice when it comes to artistic expression. Brittany gets her inspiration to make art from “Everything! We had a wonderful rainy day today, that inspired me to make a lot of art.”

Volunteer BrittanyWe love seeing what our volunteers create and know that they are all talented artists. “The willingness to express creatively and not feel too limited by any idea of what that should look like or should be or what I should be making” is what Brittany says makes her an artist. We are so lucky to have Brittany and her bright energy at the Center. She admitted she was a little nervous about taking classes at the Center at first. But when she received an email from our Patron Services Lead, she said “It just made me feel very warm and welcome.”

Being a volunteer was her “baby-step to taking classes.” Her favorite thing about volunteering at the Center is the people. Specifically, she says she enjoys “Being around people who care about the arts.” We appreciate having volunteers that also care about the arts and enjoy expressing their art as well. The Center could not run so smoothly without these lovely volunteers.

Find out how to become a volunteer at the Center, and see what opportunities are available on our Volunteer page!

Meet Mikaila Simmons

June 10, 2021

Marketing Intern - Mikaila SimmonsI am the Phoenix Center for the Arts Marketing Intern for the summer of 2021. I have been involved in the arts since I could remember and always knew I wanted to work with other creative people and take my passion for art into my career life. I am currently working towards my degrees in; Theatre Performance, Theatre Management, and Business Marketing at Waldorf University.

I started my performing arts experience when I was 7 years old, participating in youth theatre, trying to be involved in as many shows as I possibly could. This continued into high school where I became a theatre honor student through the Thespian Honor Society Troupe 7014. Being involved in Thespian Troupe 7014 paved the way for me to take my love for the performing arts into the collegiate world. Because of this, I was invited to audition for colleges and universities leading me to the university that I am currently attending. At Waldorf University I assistant stage manage, act, and prop design, as well as occasionally running the sound and lighting for my theatre department. Even though my focus is in Theatre Arts I have a passion for all types of art styles and hope that my internship with Phoenix Center for the Arts will lead me to a career in the world of art marketing.

My goal for my career is to work somewhere where I know that the people I am working with value art as a part of education, which is very much true of Phoenix Center for the Arts. During my time here with the Center, I will be working with the staff to launch the Centers’ TikTok account, and I look forward to watching the account grow even after my internship ends. I value everything that I have learned and will learn while being an intern with all of these creative people here at Phoenix Center for the Arts.

Stop the Presses! Celebrating Wendy Willis

May 19, 2021

What advice would Wendy Willis give to all the budding artists out there: “Take classes!”

Wendy Willis with four students

Wendy (seated) with students at T-Bird.

This is just one of the reasons we are celebrating Wendy as she announces her retirement as the Printmaking Department Head at Phoenix Center for the Arts. Wendy began working at the Center in 2010, after almost 15 years of taking classes at the Center.

Wendy shared how she started, “In 1995, I worked for the Street Transportation Department, and we had a meeting at the Center. I saw a flyer for a life drawing class and I signed up. Even though I hadn’t drawn since 1971, I nailed my first gesture drawing. The negative voice I last heard in ‘71 was gone and a new voice said ‘look what you can do’!”

Over the years, Wendy continued taking classes at the Center, and in 2002, she retired from her City job, and became a full-time artist. Her start as a teaching artist with the Center began with a beautiful collaboration. The Center was looking to build its printmaking department, and Wendy was eager to share her skills with others. So Wendy moved her printing press into the Center, and thus began her time inspiring the creativity of others at Phoenix Center for the Arts and Thunderbird Arts Center.

Two students in the printmaking studio

Printmaking students at PCA.

As an artist, what she loves most is “getting lost in the making.” Also, “the reveal of lifting the paper off the plate after running it through the press. It is magical.” In her role as a teacher, Wendy is excited how students can be successful right away. “It makes me so happy to see them learn about the mediums and be proud of what they have accomplished.”

Wendy’s favorite memory of the Center? “I took figure painting from Marlys Kubicek, and over the course of a few semesters, we became friends.” She continues, “I told her I was interested in printmaking, she suggested we take David Manje’s classes. We did that for a couple years and I learned that I was a printmaker. So my best memory is of becoming friends with Marlys, one of my best friends to this day. When I became the Printmaking Department Head, it all came full circle.”

Even before the pandemic hit, Wendy says she was ready to retire due to family health issues that took away from the time she could focus on art. The staff, students, and volunteers at BOTH Centers will miss her as part of the team and wish her all the best in her retirement. Her parting words of encouragement?

“I have met the most wonderful people, some of my best friends, in the classes I have taken. It helped to have a buddy, like Marlys, but even alone, I made friends and learned so much. Try a variety of mediums, you never know if making jewelry, printmaking, or painting is your thing. Say yes! Even if you’re unsure.” Wendy has taken arts classes all over the Valley, but says, “I started at Phoenix Center for the Arts, and it will always have my heart.”

Printmaking students at Thunderbird Arts Center holding up with finished pieces.

T-Bird printmaking students holding their completed prints.

Add Your Voice

April 22, 2021

Image of Arizona state with text Add your voice to protect all ArizonansThis month, Phoenix Center for the Arts and Thunderbird Arts Center added their voice in support of inclusivity and protection to two letters, drafted for our Arizona government officials, by the Asian Corporate & Entrepreneur Leaders (ACEL) and ONE Community (ONE).

In each letter, along with over 100 Arizona businesses, we stand in solidarity with our local Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) and LGBTQ+ communities, in these requests for equal protections and opportunities under Arizona law. Phoenix Center for the Arts and Thunderbird Arts Center encourage the community to join together to stop hate, and put an end to inequality.

Read the letter from the ACEL, requesting “to make the prevention and prosecution of hate crimes against AAPI a top priority in your governmental agenda.”

Read the letter from ONE, writing “in support of non-discrimination ordinances that protect all people, including LGBTQ people, from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.”

For resources on how you can add your voice in support of equal rights and protections under the law:
· ACEL recommends visiting for resources on how you can contribute to the movement to stop anti-Asian hate.
· ONE invites you to take the Unity Pledge at to show your commitment to improving the future of Arizona.

Indigenous Peoples Day

October 11, 2020

Phoenix Center for the Arts acknowledges that it resides on the land of the Ancestral Sonoran Desert People. Land that was cultivated for centuries, and is stewarded today by the Akimel O’odham (Pima), Tohono O’odham, as well as the Pee Posh (Maricopa), who are the indigenous peoples of this land. We share our gratitude for the complex canal systems they engineered over 1000 years ago that enable us to live here in the Sonoran Desert today. We acknowledge the sovereignty of all Native Nations within the state of Arizona, and recognize our responsibility to honor Indigenous People, their culture, and their legacy as thriving contemporary communities by advocating for decolonized, inclusive, and diverse practices for all arts and culture institutions. Daniel Ramirez, Saginaw Chippewa Artist at the Phoenix Festival of the Arts

Indigenous Peoples Day recognizes that Native people are the first inhabitants of the Americas, honors their history, and celebrates their culture. Visit the Indigenous Peoples Day Arizona website for more information about #IndigenousPeoplesDay and how to celebrate in Arizona.

Photograph of Daniel Ramirez, artist at the 2017 Phoenix Festival of the Arts. Daniel is a descendant of the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan, and his work has been shown in museums and arts shows throughout the country. Visit his website to learn more about Daniel and his artwork.

Call to Action

June 1, 2020

Phoenix Center for the Arts and Thunderbird Arts Center stand against racism and social injustice. Now is a time to act in support of one another, sharing love, kindness, and compassion. We encourage our friends and neighbors to find ways to speak up and work to change the systems of power that perpetuate inequity, violence, and injustice.

There are so many ways you can help. Our colleagues at Local First Arizona recently shared this list of ways that we can mobilize to support the black community, both with our dollars and our voices.

Speak up. Now is not the time to remain silent. There are so many steps that need to be taken to begin moving in the right direction if we are ever to achieve equity in the country, in the state, and in our local communities. Let’s be a part of the solution, together.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King Jr.