[nueBOX] Leaves Phoenix Center for the Arts for Mesa Arts Center

Julie Akerly announced on Friday, July 1, that [nueBOX] is moving from Phoenix Center for the Arts to Mesa Arts Center. It’s a significant step for the group, which Akerly co-founded with Matthew Mosher in December 2014.

During its short history, [nueBOX] has had 24 visual, performance, and multi-disciplinary artists-in-residence – including Jasmine Nunn, Jordan Daniels, Anna Garner, and Grey Box Collective. It has presented 61 events, making it a key player in the Phoenix arts scene.

But now, Akerly says, it’s time to take it to a new level.

Moving to Mesa Arts Center will mean several changes for [nueBOX] and the artists it works with.

The company will have more studio and performance space, including outdoor spaces on the seven-acre Mesa Arts Center campus that’s become a regional hub for edgy visual and performance art.

Resident artists will continue being selected through an application process, but now these artists will receive stipends, typically for $250, rather than having to pay to participate in the resident artist program, Akerly says.

Currently, [nueBOX] has two open calls for artists – one for its new openAIR Residency in which artists will create works to activate an open Mesa Arts Center courtyard, and the other for a Breaking Ground Residency being offered in partnership with CONDER/dance.

CONDER/dance first worked with [nueBOX] as a resident artist from October 2015 to January 2016, collaborating with filmmaker Perry Allen to create a multi-disciplinary piece for the 2016 Breaking Ground dance and film festival held at Tempe Center for the Arts.

The new Breaking Ground residency will involve creating “a new interdisciplinary, collaborative, and/or research-based contemporary dance” work.

“We’re moving towards collaborative residencies and multi-disciplinary work,” Akerly says. “There really isn’t the space to support that at Phoenix Center for the Arts.”

[nueBOX] isn’t paying to use Mesa Arts Center facilities, Akerly says. Instead, they'll provide education and community engagement experiences for Mesa Arts Center patrons and the greater community in exchange for resources such as rehearsal space.

Currently, the company operates on a small budget of $11,000 or so a year, Akerly says, and not paying for space is a significant benefit of the Mesa Arts Center partnership. So, too, is the fact the Mesa Arts Center plans to hire the company to present various performances.

Clearly, [nueBOX] has evolved significantly since it was founded.

Both Akerly, who also heads a dance company called JAMovement, and Mosher, now assistant professor of digital media at the University of Central Florida, were graduate students at ASU when they started brainstorming about ways to make an impact on the local arts scene.

At the time, Akerly says, they had two main concerns. They weren’t satisfied with the quality of art being made in the Valley, and they noticed that many art students were leaving the area after they graduated in search of more support and opportunities.

They applied to the Arts Venture Incubator program at ASU’s Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship, which provides guidance and seed funding to select student ventures – and were one of five programs launched through that competitive grant process during the 2014-15 academic year.

By then, Akerly had already approached Phoenix Center for the Arts – where she got free rehearsal space in exchange for [nueBOX] helping with dance facility improvements such as upgrading dance floors and ballet barres.

When Akerly first approached Mesa Arts Center earlier this year, she wasn’t looking for a new space. Instead, Akerly approached the center about co-presenting a gathering for diverse dance artists eager to collaborate on ways to improve the local dance scene.

Turned out, Mesa Arts Center was looking for new education and community outreach partners, and decided [nueBOX] would be a good fit.

“We want to focus on bringing in companies and artists that bring new energy to campus, expose artists to new audiences, and deepen the work we do,” says Mandy Tripoli, director of engagement at Mesa Arts Center.

[nueBOX] is part of a new model for Mesa Arts Center.

Mesa Arts Center already has several resident companies, including Mesa Encore Theatre and Symphony of the Southwest, which focus on performance. By contrast, education companies in residence such as [nueBOX] will focus on education and community experiences.

Future [nueBOX] programming, which includes an X-perimental Art Night taking place during Mesa Arts Center’s season kick-off event on Friday, September 9, looks robust. Popular programs including Works-in-Progress showings of works in development will continue, and new offerings will get added to the mix.

Currently, Akerly is finessing dates and other details for two fall events. One involves partnering with Arizona Commission on the Arts to train artists in dance legend Liz Lerman’s Critical Response Process. The other will engage members of the Arizona dance community in asset mapping and dialogue about future directions through the World Café Method.

Those looking for an earlier opportunity to see [nueBOX] in action can head to the Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art shipping container galleries in Roosevelt Row on Friday, July 15, from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. – when it partners with Rhetorical Galleries to present Sizzle Series featuring performance created by 12 local artists including Felix Cruz, Liliana Gomez, Jessica Rajko, and Katharine Leigh Simpson.
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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble