Becky Nahom: 2014 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Visual Art (VIDEO)

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You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives, and the results are in. Introducing our 2014 Big Brain finalists.

Leading up to the Big Brain Award announcement and Artopia on April 25, Jackalope Ranch and Chow Bella will introduce the finalists. Up today: Becky Nahom.

Becky Nahom puts people first. The 23-year-old curator who co-founded Halt Gallery last fall spends her time creating shows that encourage connections between both visitors and artists in hopes of bolstering the art community and bridging the divide between high art and the public at large.

"It would break my heart to see people walk into a gallery and then turn around and walk away because they felt that they didn't belong there," she says.

See also: "Urban Legend" Award Celebrates Creative Phoenix Pioneers in Honor of New Times' Fifth Big Brain Awards

Though Halt Gallery is a relatively new undertaking, Nahom has held a variety of art-related positions in the past; she has either interned or worked (or interned and worked) at nearly all of the major art institutions in metro Phoenix. Currently, Nahom is both a gallery attendant and an assistant preparator at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. She is also an events and exhibitions assistant at Scottsdale Public Art.

It's wonderful to have a day job that relates to her curating, she says. "Obviously my preparator skills transfer to me being a preparator for my own shows, which is awesome, but a lot of what I've learned and what's making me a better curator comes from being a gallery attendant," she explains. "As a gallery attendant, you are seeing how the public interacts with things: their walkways, where they won't go, what they see and what they don't see, what they're more drawn to touch or break the rules with."

Nahom says she particularly likes groups shows, in part, because they offers more chances for viewers to connect with work. During "Rinse and Repeat", her first independent curating endeavor outside of ASU, where she got her start curating student shows, Nahom focused on bringing in lots of different artists. She continued down this path with subsequent shows because it allowed for connections to be made for and between the artists themselves.

"The main thing that gets me inspired is seeing excited artists," Nahom says. "For the curator, it's not just about the art, it's about how the public interacts with it and how the artist is seen. You want to make a great show for them so that they will have more opportunities in the future as well."

Becky Nahom: Inside the Big Brain 2014 Finalist's Creative Space from Voice Media Group on Vimeo. Video by Evie Carpenter.

Working with her business partner, Julia Bruck, under the umbrella of Halt Gallery, Nahom has been able to take her curating to the next level. Halt Gallery does not have a physical location but curates shows in a variety of spaces around the Valley, with work appearing most recently at Eye Lounge and Modified Arts.

And the duo has big plans for the coming year. Nahom says Halt Gallery hopes to expand its horizons, bringing in artists from all over the country for future shows.

But, she stresses, this branching out is not meant as an insult to Phoenix artists. "I'm always just trying to develop new connections between art," she says. "When Julia and I are curating a show [as Halt Gallery], we talk about how each piece or artist connects to one another. Our curatorial style is definitely a little more abstract, but it's always about connections between work."

In the end, Nahom makes these connections, and then steps away, letting the art happen on its own. "Ultimately, the job of the curator is to disappear," she says.

Artopia will take place from 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, April 25, at Bentley Projects in downtown Phoenix. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 the day of the event. See more at www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bigbrainawards.

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