Big Brain Awards

Downtown Phoenix Hostel Announces New Residency Program

Fresh off her Big Brain award for Urban Vision, Mary Stephens and the Phoenix Youth Hostel and Cultural Center have already put their prize to good use.

Using its Big Brain winnings as a foundation, the Garfield Neighborhood hostel last week announced its newest initiative, an artist residency program offering housing, production assistance, and monetary support to artists in all media looking to visit Arizona from across the world.

Following the Hostel's addition of "Cultural Center" to its name a year-and-a-half ago, the converted historic home has become a hub for cultural events incorporating theater, poetry, live music, and more, all tied back to the idea of creating a substantive dialogue about politics and social justice in Phoenix.

See also: Vital Voices: ASU's Project Humanities and Phoenix Youth Hostel to Host Monthly Literary Discussions

"Phoenix doesn't have a very robust production or presenting [infrastructure]," Stephens says. "There's no one to call to get your [art] presented. . . Most of the time these people end up being directed to me. Why don't we operationalize this?"

In doing this, the Hostel hopes to offer what resources it has to the performing and attending public, by providing a space for traveling artists in any media to stay, along with coverage of expenses for the production of their work, and a portion of collected payment from the resultant art piece.

Previously, the Hostel has presented spoken word, theater, live music, and performance art, and is open to hosting these media again with the residency. Artists whose work does not fit those molds have no need to fret though, for Stephens expressed excitement in working with other venues in the area to present visual art, or other larger-scale work that the Hostel cannot accommodate.

Stephens continues, "[This is] a gesture toward allowing Phoenix to be more accessible to artists that are traveling through, or that desire to come here and need a place to stay, a modest stipend to do their work, but who also need help with production."

Though the program has only been public for a week, proposals have already begun to arrive, with the first artists aiming to be placed by August. Proposals are to be specifically for new, unfinished work meant to be presented in Phoenix, as part of the Hostel's dedication to presenting new and unheard voices.

Stephens says the goal is to host four to five residents per year, equaling out to one such residency every two months.

"The hope is that people will come for one to two weeks, and to produce a really quality event you need four weeks."

Over that time, the artists will produce an entire work, from construction to presentation, based on their submitted proposal.

While these residencies may initially appear to be external in focus, for Stephens everything comes to back to local artists, and ensuring that every program incorporates, supports, and even educates the local performers and artists who take part in the Hostel's programming. In fact, it's part of the foundation on which this new residency program was built.

Stephens states emphatically, "There's no point in doing this if local artists aren't growing from it. That's my point. That's how I feel about everything. If we're just focusing on people that are visiting, then we aren't doing justice to our local cultural and arts scene."

And so, the Hostel's residency program comes as the latest in a series of ventures from Stephens to elevate the cultural practice of the city and state. While attracting national and international visual and performance artists to the neighborhood space, the Hostel will continue to incorporate the work of local artists seeking to improve their own practice.

The Phoenix Youth Hostel & Cultural Center is currently accepting submissions for its first wave of residencies. More information is available, and proposals are being accepted by e-mailing [email protected]

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Connor Descheemaker