Big Brain Awards

1Spot: 2013 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Visual Art

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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 (ziindi.com) 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.

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Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton