Big Brain Awards

1Spot: 2013 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Visual Art

You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives and the results are in. Introducing our Big Brain 2013 Finalists.

Leading up to the Big Brain Award awards announcement and celebration on April 27, Chow Bella and Jackalope Ranch will introduce the finalists.

Up today: 1Spot

Local artists Michelle Ponce and Damian Jim have worked on small projects and art pieces together since they met a few years ago, but when they connected over the idea of a contemporary Native art zine, the two knew they were in it for the long haul.

See also: - Announcing the 2013 Big Brain Finalists - Meet New Times' 2013 Big Brain Finalists and Celebrate the Winners at Artopia on April 27

Jim is from the Navajo Nation and Ponce's family is from Puerto Rico, but the two have a shared affinity for Native culture and artwork. They published the first issue of Ziindi, a simple stapled art zine, in early 2012 and hosted a launch party in a pop-up gallery in downtown Phoenix. That's when things really clicked -- not only did they realize there was a real reaction and need for a contemporary Native outlet, but they saw firsthand that the local community was interested in seeing contemporary Native art up close.

Ponce says Ziindi's target audience is Native youth growing up on reservations throughout the Southwest. She and Jim hand-deliver hundreds of zines to schools and community centers in Native communities as soon as they roll off the presses. But as important as arts education and awareness for youth on the reservation is for the two, they also wanted to create a space where Native artists could gather while passing through town, where emerging artists could show their work, and where the community could come see a cultural artform that Jim and Ponce say has been largely misrepresented and commoditized by local institutions.

So between their day jobs and personal art projects, the two continued publishing Ziindi ( and began brainstorming and looking for a spot they could settle into and create a cultural hub for music and art.

In December 2012, Jim found an online ad for a space open on Sixth and Roosevelt streets in downtown Phoenix, and the two jumped on the opportunity. As they moved in, they learned more about the space's history in the Phoenix art scene. It was built from rubble by local art champion Greg Esser back when Roosevelt was in its ghost-town phase. The space became an artist residence and studio for artists including Brian Boner and Mike Lundgren, among others, and has served as Roosevelt Row headquarters and, later, Regular Gallery, which Esser opened in 2011.

And so the life cycle continues. Jim and Ponce named the gallery 1Spot because it's the "one spot" you'll always be able to find contemporary artwork by emerging and established Native artists. And though they're both careful to acknowledge the presence of the Heard Museum, they also note that emerging artists in their community need a space to showcase modern art -- beyond the traditional work that's generally on display at the museum.

The two happily admit that 1Spot is a bit off the beaten First Friday path, but they agree it's fairly easy to find. The front of the gallery was given a fresh (and fitting) paint job long before they moved in by Native artist Thomas "Breeze" Marcus. As part of Jackalope Ranch's exhibition of maps by Phoenix artists in 2011, Breeze covered the wall in his own interpretation of an archeological map of the Hohokam canal system and ancient village sites.

Since they opened their doors in late December, Ponce and Jim have showcased work by Jeff Slim, Jaque Fragua, Averian Chee, Eunique Yazzie, and Shamie Encinas. And, lucky us, they have no plans of slowing down.

The two recently were given a chance to curate an exhibition at the Navajo Nation Museum in northern Arizona, which Ponce says pushed the envelope in a community that hasn't fully accepted contemporary artwork. Plans for the next zine (which Ponce says will also include native Latino artists) are in the works, along with a full schedule of exhibitions throughout the year. And if what we've seen is any indication, this year is going to be a busy and exciting one for contemporary Native art.

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Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton