Phoenix is brimming with creativity. And every other year, we put the spotlight on 100 of the city's creative forces. Leading up to the release of this year's Best of Phoenix issue, we're profiling 100 more. Welcome to the 2014 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today: 72. Michelle Ponce.
Wake up. Dance.
Those are the first two items on performer Michelle Ponce's daily to-do list. Also waiting to be checked off? Walking her dog through the Garfield Neighborhood, singing, yoga, sun-bathing, deep conversations with strangers, and creative time for dreaming and drawing.
Ponce, who's 33, runs 1 Spot Gallery with Damien Jim, is a member of Mujeres del Sol, and says she's in the process of creating " a persona, a multifaceted character, a deity of my higher self, as a vehicle for dispersion of information for my performances and creative outlets."To fully realize this concept, Ponce is creating everything from a wardrobe "to the very language, soundtrack, and even eye movements she uses."
She's also working on coordinating research of the folkloric Afro-caribbean dances and music of Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Cuba, Panamá, Venezuela, and Colombia, and finding the common threads as well as the individual language of each region.
Though she has plenty left to check off on her to-do list, Jackalope Ranch checked in with Ponce.
I came to Phoenix with my dog Nena. I was a budding flower with lots of growth and potential within my tough outer NYC shell. . . I came with hopes of finding my artistic and spiritual center, and I did!
I make art because it is my birthright. Making art is the quickest, most painless and most useful way for me to heal and to envision healing for my community. I make art to feel human, to feel free, and to practice that freedom. In a flash I see my past, present, and future; I become one with my ancestors. Making art automatically connects me to my humanity, and it connects me to the people around me.
I'm most productive when I have leisure time to follow the little bursts of creativity that come along in my day. Playing, laughing with friends, dancing uncontrollably, daydreaming, allowing that muse to take me to that "other" world, where anything is possible, no one says "that sucks," and I believe in everything I do. I am productive there, every day a little more and more, some good good music always does the trick, too.
My inspiration wall is full of art and lists and past shows and pictures of my loved ones, and pieces of the sea, shells and rocks and stones, flowers and Oshun and Yemaya, books about liberation and black poetry, Nefertiti, the Venus of Willendorf, and my own paintings. . .
I've learned most from healing. Choosing to heal myself physically, emotionally, and spiritually has been the most engaging and propulsive choice towards becoming fulfilled as an artist and a human. It's a journey, always changing, and the strength I build through the process makes my work not only possible, but essential and useful to my community. If I am balanced and at peace inside, whatever art I put out into the world will help others heal, will make sense to others, and will translate and slip into their subconsciousness effortlessly. Humanity translates without force or coercion, when it is pure. courage to make the art I feel I was born to make.
Good work should always be utilitarian. Be useful towards a common goal. Good work should always be the most pure expression of ourselves. Good work should always remind us how amazing and powerful we are as humans on this planet, as beings of this universe. Anything else is just a badly scripted made-for-TV drama.
The Phoenix creative scene could use more inclusion and diversity in the types of art and cultures participating on a public and community level. The lack of different narratives/stories/art/murals/ethnicities in our visibly recognized cityscape is profound and debilitating. Phoenix has no idea (or pretends not to know) how so many different cultures have, and continue to, actively weave the fabric of what is Phoenix. Some of the most prolific art I have witnessed and been a part of doesn't get talked about in the artistic organizations that represent Phoenix's creative scene locally and worldwide. Why is that? Why must I crawl into the sub-cultures of the chicano-mexicano west side to know what it really means to grow up in Phoenix? Why must some of the best theater groups producing ground-breaking work come from latino groups that no one in our creative scene knows about? Why does Phoenix currently house some of the most phenomenally talented group of indigenous artists in this country, making work that would flip any art scene on its head, and you don't even know their names, or will probably never see their work? Years down the road the Phoenix creative scene will look back, and will regret not incorporating these pieces of the puzzle into its own narrative. I am incredibly grateful and blessed to witness the creative tapestry of Phoenix that most people here never get a taste of. The Phoenix I know makes me proud.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
See the 2014 edition of 100 Creatives:
100. Bill Dambrova 99. Niki Blaker 98. Jeff Slim 97. Beth May 96. Doug Bell 95. Daniel Langhans 94. Nanibaa Beck 93. Nicole Royse 92. Ib Andersen 91. Casandra Hernandez 90. Chris Reed 89. Shelby Maticic 88. Olivia Timmons 87. Courtney Price 86. Travis Mills 85. Catrina Kahler 84. Angel Castro 83. Cole Reed 82. Lisa Albinger 81. Larry Madrigal 80. Julieta Felix 79. Lauren Strohacker 78. Levi Christiansen 77. Thomas Porter 76. Carrie Leigh Hobson 75. Cody Carpenter 74. Jon Jenkins 73. Aurelie Flores