Three metro Phoenix communities were recently selected to participate in the inaugural AZ Creative Communities Institute. The institute is a yearlong collaborative learning program focused on ways creativity can positively affect communities.
The Institute is a partnership between Arizona Commission on the Arts, Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and the Southwest Folklife Alliance. The alliance, which is a nonprofit affiliate of the University of Arizona, promotes community through culture.
Twenty-two communities applied to participate. A total of nine were selected, including Tempe, South Phoenix, and Eastlake. The Eastlake neighborhood is bounded by Washington and Jefferson streets, between 12th and 16th streets.
Additional participants include Barrio Anita in Tucson, Casa Grande, Douglas, Flagstaff, Globe, and Yuma.
Each participating community is being represented by a team of four people. Those team members will work with local and national experts to explore ways creativity can enhance those communities.
“We’re just thrilled for this opportunity,” says Maja Aurora, who serves as director of arts engagement for the City of Tempe. She’s part of the Tempe team, which also includes Gayle Shanks, owner of Changing Hands Bookstore.
“We’re going to focus on South Tempe because we’ve heard from residents that they want more arts and culture in that part of Tempe,” Aurora says. “The institute is a way to focus on our creative assets and challenges in that area, and find ways to bring more arts and cultural experiences to people.”
The nine teams will spend time with several key collaborators, including Maribel Alvarez, executive director for Southwest Folklife Alliance, and three professors from the Herberger Institute — Maria Rosario Jackson, Liz Lerman, and Michael Rohd. Collectively, their expertise includes urban planning, performance art, and civic engagement.
In addition to intensive training, network building, and ongoing consultation, each team will receive cash grants, artist services, and program support totaling between $15,000 and $20,000.
The institute is being funded in part by a $250,000 grant to the Herberger Institute, received from the New York-based Surdna Foundation, which focuses on sustainable communities.
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Recently, Ricky Araiza was named coordinator senior for the AZ Creative Communities Institute. He's responsible for arranging activities, gathering data, and achieving key goals. Araiza also serves as artistic director for Teatro Bravo, a Latino theater company based in South Phoenix.
There’s another component to the AZ Creative Communities Institute.
During the second half of the 12-month period, each community will host an embedded artist residency, with an artist chosen through a forthcoming statewide call. Each team will work with its selected artist to decide on the exact nature of that residency, so it’s tailored to the specific community.
“I’m excited about the artist residency,” Aurora says. “South Tempe doesn’t have a major arts venue, so we’ll need to be more creative about how we get arts and culture into those neighborhoods.”