Meet Phoenix's 2014 Big Brain Award Finalists

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The Big Brains are here.

We've profiled the 15 up-and-coming creatives who are finalists in the categories of performing art, culinary art, visual art, design, and urban vision.

We'll announce the five winners (one in each category) at Artopia, an evening of food, drink, and art, at Bentley Projects on Friday, April 25. Tickets are available now

In the meantime, meet your 2014 Big Brain Award finalists.

See also: Big Brain Awards 2014 - Meet the Finalists and Our First Urban Legend Winners

Daniel Mills | Urban Vision

Daniel Mills spends his time thinking about the big concepts: identity, sustainability, and place, to name a few. The 22-year-old ASU English department grad got his start as a blogger, covering the local art beat at www.phxtaco.com, but last fall he decided it was time to take his passion for telling stories to a new level. Thus, Sprawlr was born. Read more. -- Katrina Montgomery

Mary Stephens | Urban Vision

For Mary Stephens, it's all about intersections.

Walking through the ever-changing courtyard of Phoenix Hostel & Cultural Center in the Garfield District, she meets a Peruvian jeweler staying the night. He's on his way to Los Angeles to sell his wares. "Mucho gusto," she says, as he wheels his suitcase around the incense-scented historic bungalow to get settled in his room. Read more. -- Becky Bartkowski

Phoenix Spokes People | Urban Vision

Anna Allebach-Warble started Phoenix Spokes People thanks to a car accident.

After totaling her car in fall 2011, she decided to use her two perfectly good bicycles to get around town. And she hasn't looked back since. She quickly found that poor cycling conditions made her commute tough. Almost every day, she arrived at work angry about the state of biking in Phoenix. That is, until one day she decided to "stop complaining and start talking to like-minded people about how to make it better." Read more. -- Heather Hoch

Kristopher Pourzal | Performing Art

Kristopher Pourzal has an expressive personality. He talks with his hands, deliberate motions to illustrate his stories while gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the Nelson Fine Arts Center. The large practice room is empty, save for a grand piano and a handful of chairs lined against the wall where Pourzal sits, barefoot, dressed in light layers for optimal movement. Read more. -- Janessa Hilliard

Orange Theatre | Performing Art

Describing Orange Theatre is a bit difficult.

"It's cross-disciplinary," says artistic director Matt Watkins. "It's multimedia. It incorporates film and TV. It incorporates computers, technology, the Internet, dance, visual art . . ." Read more. -- Katie Johnson

Mike Kennedy | Performing Art

Mike Kennedy is too pretty for Tent City. At least, that's how sells it on stage, in between telling tales of ecstasy-fueled orgies in Reno, getting a DUI on national television, and relating to his half-Hispanic teenage daughter. Read more. -- Katie Johnson

Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. | Culinary Art

Arizonans are pretty accustomed to the seasonal beer trends: hefeweizens in the summer, pumpkin ales in autumn, and the occasional holiday cider.

But thanks to an up-and-coming brewery, Arizona is finally experiencing a trend that's truly fresh. Read more. -- Katie Johnson

Aisha Tedros | Culinary Art

"Anyone can do it," Aisha Tedros says as she prepares a cup of strong coffee flavored with ground ginger, a specialty from her hometown in Africa. "I was always told that about America, and it's true."

Tedros moved the United States 12 years ago from Keren, the second largest city in Eritrea, a small eastern African country that's just north of Ethiopia. Back then, she spoke no English and could neither read nor write. Like so many others, she came in search of the American Dream, having grown up being told that in America anyone can be anything they want. Read more. -- Lauren Saria

Stephanie Teslar | Culinary Art

Stephanie Teslar has really outdone herself.

While curating the cocktail menu at Blue Hound Kitchen and Cocktails, she created one of the Valley's most unique and instantly alluring mixed drinks: the Lawless. The show-stopping drink combines whiskey, wormwood liqueur, demerara sugar, and Teslar's handmade "truck stop" bitters, which contain "everything you'd buy at a truck stop," like chocolate, coffee, and tobacco. With that smoky, sweet, and dark combination of flavors stirred and chilled, she smokes a glass with vanilla caramel pipe tobacco and pours in the concoction. Read more. -- Heather Hoch

Alexandra Bowers | Visual Art

Alexandra Bowers stands on the back balcony of the north Scottsdale house she grew up in, a house that she moved back into after graduating from Arizona State University with an art degree in 2012. The house now serves as her studio and command station for her clothing and art brand Iron Root. She points out to the neighboring housing development behind the yard's fence.

"This all used to be expansive desert land when I was growing up and it's been paved over," she says. "It's kind of sad." Read more. -- Heather Hoch

El Peezo | Visual Art

For a guy who craves anonymity, El Peezo certainly is on a lot of street corners.

And walls of abandoned buildings, as well as occupied ones. And in parking lots and alongside bustling restaurants. Read more. -- Janessa Hilliard

Becky Nahom | Visual Art

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. Read more. -- Katrina Montgomery

Scott Biersack | Design

Scott Biersack's unbridled enthusiasm for the world is contagious. He says his work is a reflection of himself, and with the gushing positivity inherent in the painted and chalked phrases that adorn the walls of his small apartment in South Phoenix, we are inclined to believe him. Read more. -- Katrina Montgomery

Manny Mares | Design

The one-story house is on the corner of a suburban neighborhood of south Mesa. The window is open slightly to let in a spring breeze, carrying with it the voices of neighborhood children playing outside. He has a radio on -- top 40 hits -- but the room is thick with concentration, and no one is really listening.

"Can you --," He gestures to a brightly lit stool in front of a white backdrop. The small room, otherwise barren, is bright with Christmas bulbs strung on the ceiling. "I want to test the light." Read more. -- Janessa Hilliard

Ashley Weber | Design

Disembodied dragonfly wings, gemstones by the handful, teeth, and a variety of flora top the tables and fill the many tiny drawers in designer Ashley Weber's home studio.

The small space is jam-packed with baubles in various stages of completion and tools including dowels and a variety of colorful pliers that would look at home next to a dentist chair. Read more. -- Becky Bartkowski

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/artopia/2014.

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