"She said, 'I've been waiting for you to ask. I see a dance major in you,'" he says.

Pourzal, who graduates next month from ASU with a master's in dance, recently participated in the Dance Graduate Choreographic Presentations with a group of dance students from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. A hybrid of modern dance and theatrics, the pieces are similar to one Pourzal choreographed and performed in November 2013. Clocking in at an impressive — and exhaustive — 55 minutes, "I'll Go to the End of Time for You (And You Don't Even Know My Name)" was a nine-month endeavor, an exercise in multi-faceted post-modern contemporary expression.

"The nature of my work [has] this experimental sort of avant-garde component," he says. "It doesn't cleanly fit into dance. It doesn't cleanly fit into theater or music."

Charleen Badman
Lauren Saria
Charleen Badman
Mike Kennedy, Performing Art
Katie Johnson
Mike Kennedy, Performing Art

Lately, he's introduced a vocal component to his pieces, a nod to his early interest in music and an experiment with what he calls full-body-based performance, akin to the types of pieces produced in CONDER/dance's contemporary Breaking Ground show, in which Pourzal has participated.

For the first 10 days of May, he'll partake in a mass performance piece in New York City titled Topologie, in which a group of five dancers will enact an elaborate, citywide score organized by French choreographers Annie Vigier and Franck Apertet. This summer, Pourzal, who will turn 25 in July, is moving to Brooklyn, where everything, except the sublet he'll be staying in, is up in the air. The prospect is exciting in a professional sense, but he says the sense of freedom he's discovered in the Southwest will be missed.

"I moved to Arizona for ASU and — this is a little bit esoteric but I also very literally mean it — I've gotten space," he says. "It was actually jarring. 'Nobody's going to tell me what to do. Nobody's going to tell me what my work is supposed to look like.' I'm so grateful for that space to get lost and find my voice.

"I have been so nourished by how much sky I'm able to see here. I bike everywhere; I don't have a car here. And every day I'm in awe by how much sky is above me. And I think that's really important." — Janessa Hilliard

Scott Biersack | Design
Scott Biersack's unbridled enthusiasm is contagious. He says his work is a reflection of himself, and with the gushing positivity inherent in the painted and chalked phrases that adorn the walls of his small apartment in South Phoenix, we are inclined to believe him.

"I would never paint anything negative, because positivity literally makes the world go 'round. Nothing is out of reach when you are positive," Biersack says. "Seriously, if you're not positive, what is there?"

The 20-year-old is finishing his third year in ASU's graphic design program, but he has already begun making his mark in a slightly different field: Biersack is a hand-letterer. Though you may be hard-pressed to find others practicing this traditional art form in the Phoenix area, the Internet is fit to burst with the rise of hand-drawn or hand-painted inspirational quotes (hello, Pinterest).

But Biersack is no amateur. Though he is self-taught in terms of hand-lettering, he explains, not just anyone can take it up as a hobby. "You start with design because you have to understand the basics of how each letter is structured, but then you can take that design sense and use illustration to make the letter forms come alive," he says. "Design is very structured, but lettering allows for creativity within that structure."

He says his own lettering really took off after "Project 365," a self-assigned exercise that had him creating a new piece of lettering every day for a full year. He posted the project on Instagram and ended up getting lettering work from State Bicycle Co., T.G.I. Fridays, and others as a result. With over 9,500 followers on Instagram (www.instagram.com/youbringfire) and accounts on Dribble, Behance, Tumblr, and Facebook (www.facebook.com/scott.biersack), Biersack says social media has been the key to getting paid for doing what he loves.

Still, the young designer and illustrator keeps a foot planted firmly in the tangible world, inhabiting the unlikely intersection of old-school methods and new-school technology. "I have to start on paper," he says. "The computer is just a tool to provide the client with what they want, but the idea and the concept and everything is all in my head and I can produce it with my hands."

Biersack has a reverence for the past; he collects antique packaging labels because he admires the time and effort that used to go into designing and producing such seemingly inconsequential objects.

It comes as no surprise, then, that Biersack thinks of hard work as one of the most important values. And work hard he does: Currently, he's juggling school, freelance work, a job at design firm Zion & Zion, and his own personal projects.

Still, he gets up early every Saturday morning to create a new piece on the public chalkboard outside the Coor Building at ASU. When asked about the impermanence of his chalk work, Biersack smiles. "I know I'm going to keep creating for the rest of my life," he says. "So it's not such a big deal to me." — Katrina Montgomery

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I'm going to bookmark this article to send to people who think Phoenix is nothing but tired retirees, soulless suburban sprawl, and right-wing politicians.  Lots of innovation going on in America's sixth-largest and fastest-growing city. 

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