100 Creatives

63: Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker

63: Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker

Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker's part of the rare breed who grew up in downtown Phoenix, mostly in a little strip of neighborhood between Encanto Park and Phoenix College. And we're thankful he's stayed. He's worked for Southwest Human Development, the Arizona Commission on the Arts and is currently a public art project manager for the City of Phoenix Office of Cultural Affairs.

When he's not busy discovering and promoting other people's work, he's a poet, musician (bass and keys in local indie rock outfit Mondegreen), actor (most recently as the Handsome Prince in Stray Cat Theatre's "Poona the Fuckdog and Other Stories for Children"), curator (mainly at the Writer's Bloc when it was around), sound designer, freelance writer, and a budding public artist (appeared in all-white as part of Transfix at Scottsdale Public Art's Fish Roundup event).

1. List five things on your Inspiration Wall (real or imagined). - Pictures of family, friends - Poster of the world - A fresh maile lei, love the smell of Hawaiian laurel - Copy of This Book is Broken about Toronto band, Broken Social Scene. It's a great story of a creative community that finds success and contains a lesson on how not to lose the creative spark. - Clipping of an image from a Colorado Springs newspaper of an art piece by a Colorado artist that shows a picture of a person wearing a shirt that says, "artist," and a blindfold that says, "Government," with the caption, "Colorado now ranks last in the nation in arts funding." Reminds me to be a good arts administrator in a government position, and that educating the public and elected officials on the value of the arts is vital to the nurturing of creativity as a public value.

2. What's your last big project? "Citrus Tree Tanzaku." My wife was reading, Taisho Chic, a book about the Art Deco period in Japan. In that book I learned of the Japanese tradition of tying slips of paper (tanzaku), sometimes with poetry on them, to the branches of cherry trees in bloom. I decided to tweak the tradition to celebrate the citrus tree blooms (my favorite time of year) in April.

The project also celebrated National Poetry Month, Earth Day and National Arbor Day. Poets from Phoenix and around the country submitted poems related to trees or flowers which I printed on rice paper and tied with raffia to branches of citrus trees in Encanto Park. The intention being that users of the park would discover the poetry by accident or out of curiosity and contemplate trees and the beauty they bring to our lives. I plan on repeating this project next year and expanding to other parks with citrus trees in the Valley,

3. What's your next big project? I have two poetry manuscripts that I need to be better about sending out to publishers. Mondegreen has a slew of new songs we need to rehearse and perform. Would love to get back in the studio and throw down more tracks with the band. Working on a solo performance where it's just me, my bass, my keyboard, some loop pedals, a sampler and my words.

4. What do you think the Phoenix art scene needs more of? Continuity, venues and economic viability. Phoenix needs an infrastructure and support for the arts that allows artists to have lucrative and successful careers while residing in the Valley. The painful truth is that Phoenix is a stepping stone city for the best and brightest artists that it nurtures. Too much talent and skill leaves for greener pastures after emerging in Phoenix.

5. What's something you want Phoenix to know about you? I will be leaving my position with City of Phoenix and will begin working for German-based Derix Glasstudios as their U.S. rep and project manager. The position will require lots of travel around the country meeting with artists, architects, etc. but nothing would thrill me more than to help artists from the Valley of the Sun to realize large-scale glass projects.

(And, if you're game, what's something you really don't want Phoenix to know about you?) Google me. The first listing will be "Kevin Vaughan-Brubaker is one mean little weenie," as declared by the (defunct?) local blog, The Tears of Things. What amuses me is that the statement couldn't be further from the truth (in more ways than one). Despite the ill communication, getting dissed in The Tears of Things blog was a rite of passage for those of us active in the downtown art community in the 2000s.

Brubaker shares one of his poems below:

With Kaibab at Midnight April 8th 2003

In downtown Phoenix, it's a perfect night for a walk with a dog, the orange wedge moon hangs low, the ground about to absorb its gritty sweetness.

Orange blossoms surround me in the neighborhood dark, punctuated by the cries of mockingbirds. Yard dogs sing to my dog, howling positive vibrations, as if Bob Marley were here talking and I can't quite understand him but I know peace is what he is talking about.

My dog is more Creamsicle now than straight orange. She's turning ten and I am turning thirty. Thirty years the world has been without Picasso. Where have the revolutionaries gone? I resolve to leave the world poetry and music, healthy trees and a sturdy house, instead of the broken feet of statues built by the artisans of conquerors.

Time tumbles down through my fingers. I have learned to catch it on the page so this moment is again, and you are turning thirty with me. Our world is growing smaller with each footstep.

It's your hand on the leash, guiding the dog from tree to tree, as she slowly reclaims the park from the night before. It is you who waits patiently when she needs to rest a moment. It's your life that begins again when you get to the end of this poem.

The Creatives, so far:

100. Fausto Fernandez
99. Brian Boner
98. Carol Panaro-Smith
97. Jane Reddin
96. Adam Dumper
95. Mayme Kratz
94. Daniel Tantalean
93. Yuri Artibise
92. Lisa Starry
91. Paul Hoeprich
90. Betsy Schneider
89. Mary Shindell
88: Gabriel Utasi
87: Tiffany Egbert
86. Angela Cazel Jahn
85. Dayvid LeMmon
84. Beatrice Moore
83. Michelle J. Martinez
82. Carrie Bloomston
81. Paul Porter
80. Rachel Bess
79. Karolina Sussland
78. Aaron Abbott
77. Mary Lucking
76. Erin Sotak
75. Greg Esser
74. Matthew Mosher
73. Mark Klett
72. Tony Carrillo
71. Paul Morris
70. Joe Pagac
69. Alison King
68. JJ Horner
67. Kim Porter
66. Marco Rosichelli
65. Heather Hales
64. Amy Lamp

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Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton