You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives, and the results are in. Introducing our 2014 Big Brain finalists.
Daniel Mills spends his time thinking about the big concepts: identity, sustainability, and place, to name a few. The 22-year-old ASU English department grad got his start as a blogger, covering the local art beat at www.phxtaco.com, but last fall he decided it was time to take his passion for telling stories to a new level. Thus, Sprawlr was born.
"Whenever you talk to people here who are trying to do something a little bit innovative or outside-of-the-box, the focus is not just that they are doing something ambitious, it's that they're doing something ambitious under the weight of living in Arizona," Mills says. "We constantly see ourselves as struggling against the hostile desert environment and the hostile cultural environment, but I see this as very retroactive."
With Sprawlr, Mills hopes to combat this corrosive mentality, offering up an alternative way of envisioning our desert home.
"A physical place is a living entity in itself and it is constantly changing. Instead of seeing ourselves as the subjects of this place that are constantly being affected by it, we should think about how we can also affect and change it."
The project is still in its beginning stages, but after spending four months in the evening program at Seed Spot, Mills feels like everything is falling into place. Sprawlr will be structured as a nonprofit so Mills will have the opportunity branch out in the future. "My overall goal is to have something that doesn't limit me to one thing, but opens me up to a lot of different projects," he says.
Video by Evie Carpenter.
In the future, Mills wants to get involved with things like limited print releases and public art projects, but Spawlr's first major undertaking is Sprawlr Magazine, a digital publication with stories that redefine and reimagine Arizona.
"Sprawlr Magazine is a commitment to long-form journalism and trying to find a viable format for that in the digital space. There are a lot of experiments going on with how to carry journalism on into the 21st century, and I want to be a part of that," Mills explains. "There's this perception that people just want little bits and pieces of media, that they just want quick photos they can power through, but I don't think that's true."
Mills has already assembled a small team of writers and photographers who are interested in covering a wide array of topics, but personally, he's excited to write about the issues surrounding new development projects and construction on the outskirts of metro Phoenix.
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The name "Sprawlr" really couldn't be more fitting, but the implications are what really make it interesting: "It's the idea of taking a name that is levied against us and using it as our own -- rebranding it for a new identity," says Mills. "It all comes back to this idea of identity. If we're living in this place that's the poster child for sprawl, then we are spralwers and our stories of what it's like to live in this place will be the stories of Sprawlr Magazine."
Artopia will take place from 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, April 25, at Bentley Projects in downtown Phoenix. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 the day of the event. See more at www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bigbrainawards.