100 Creatives

Phoenix Storyteller Leah Marche on Why Creatives Must Collaborate Outside Their Circles

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 15. Leah Marche.

Leah Marche doesn't mind being called a poet. But "storyteller" might be the more apt title.

"I would describe what I do as storytelling," the native Phoenician says. "My journalism education and experience has taught me how to find a story and how to tell a story. While I don't mind being called a poet, that is a lofty word and goal that I strive to be as best as I can; I refer to myself as an arts entrepreneur, and aim to delve in as many circles as possible."

That aim is true. Marche says her mission is to inspire people to "live out the poetry in their lives" — and to examine what that means exactly. To do that, she hosts a program called Live Poetic on Radio Phoenix, performs on stage, writes, and works behind the scenes producing events around the Valley. 

Marche spends her days divvying up time between various endeavors. After a few rounds with the snooze button, she works as an assistant to renowned choreographer and ASU professor Liz Lerman and as an administrative assistant at Herberger Theater Center. Marche dedicates her remaining hours to prepping for her weekly radio show on RadioPhoenix.org — and browsing social media, too. 

"The day wouldn't be complete without catching an arts show or concert..." Marche says. "Before I sleep, for those times when I do sleep, I have to catch up on a favorite TV series online ... or read some pages from a book I've picked up from Changing Hands."

Such downtime seems increasingly rare, however, as Marche is constantly planning events touching various Phoenix-area communities.

She's the cofounder of BlackPoet Ventures, a "performance arts company that spotlights and showcases the poetic artistry within an African Diaspora perspective and context," and has presented events including tributes to Donny Hathaway and Miles Davis and a 2008 production of for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf  that Ntozake Shange, its creator, said was one of the best she had seen.

Marche credits the enduring support of her mother — even though she admits they don't always agree — and her creative predecessors with arriving at this point in her career. And that support has gone both ways, as Marche helped her mother to launch a popcorn company called Carla's Crazy Corn that's been a fan favorite at Chase Field.

"I'm only where I am because of those before me, those who have admonished me, looked out for me, mentored, and raised me," Marche says. "Additionally, I've made it a point to place myself in situations that allow me to observe, to dream, to grow, to improve."

A glance at her upcoming appearances is evidence of this boundary defiance and versatility. This September alone, she will appear in the Torch Theatre show The Neighborhood on Saturday, September 17, at the F.U.S.E. Festival at Arcosanti on the 24th, and at Oasis at the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration on the 25th.

She's coordinating the launch of FuckUp Nights Phoenix, debuting October 13 at the Grand Central Coffee Company and continuing on second Thursdays. "It is a movement where stories of failed businesses and projects are told, questioned, and celebrated," she explains. "Four entrepreneurs share what went wrong, what they learned, what they would have done differently."

Marche has developed the Radio Phoenix Music Video Awards, for which submissions are being accepted until October 31, with winners announced in December. She's working to develop more poetry showcases through her radio show, too.

"I'm inspired by people, by the artists and cultural leaders with whom I have had the privilege to observe and connect," she says. "By music always. By how I will be remembered."

I came to Phoenix with the spirit of my ancestors in my marrow ... My Daddy Indiana, Momma Louisiana. You mix that twang with that patois make a Southwest swagger. (I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to get to one of Beyoncé's stadium shows; in the meantime I randomly recite lyrics...). Basically, I was already here...

I make art because it keeps me sane, it makes sense, provides an avenue for reflection and discovery, allows me to challenge myself and others. Art is linked to identity and the most rewarding way to make an imprint on the world. I agree with Oscar Wilde's statement: "Art is the most intense mode of individualism that the world has known."

I'm most productive when I have a hectic schedule. I thrive in workaholic and near-panic modes and enjoy working and creating late at night or the wee hours of the morning. I get the most done when I'm alone. Occasionally, I have the need for music as a backdrop, but I'd rather be surrounded by silence.

My inspiration wall is a bookcase full of books.

Growing up my mother made it a point
to surround me with individuals who were two, three times my age or older. I had very few friends that were my age as a preteen. Aside from my parents, I've learned most from my teachers and mentors. My mentors to this day I also call father and mother. Carole Coles Henry has taught me the importance of giving back. Fatimah Halim, the art of storytelling. Dr. Camilla Westenberg, the love for African American history. Rod Ambrose, the importance of theatre. Moreover, I will forever remember Mrs. Thomasina Miller (4-6 grade teacher) and Mrs. Sylvia Dunn (7-8 grade teacher), plus all my journalism teachers: Mrs. Diane Braden, Mr. Larry Bohlender, and Mrs. Sharon Bramlett.

Good work should always be honest, controversial, critical, impactful, and duplicated. It should be infused with humanity and never devoid of mistakes. It must inspire and educate. It needs to be valued and recognized. And then good work should always become better work.

I'm quite impressed with and proud of Phoenix's creative scene. It's vibrant, varied, vocal. It's willing. The Phoenix creative scene could use more collaboration. Creating is about exploring, experimenting, evolving. Creators must also remember that they must be participants. It's important for members of the Phoenix creative scene to accept what our scene offers, to embrace it for what it is rather than be frustrated by what it isn't. Approaching it from a place of acceptance will help to better move toward improvement and progression, and avoiding sayings like: 'Phoenix has no culture'; 'There's nothing to do here'; 'Phoenix has nothing on .'

I hear often how members of the scene yearn to be more diverse and inclusive, which is necessary. Through collaboration, those efforts can exist, as long as the collaboration goes beyond customary circles. Our worlds are inherently segregated, and that can extend into our art. Yet it doesn't always require looking at that as exclusionary. It can be viewed as being appreciative of one's culture, voice, and background; we exist where we are comfortable. At the same time, we must allow ourselves to be uncomfortable, to be aware of opportunities to expand perspectives and to extend audiences. It must always begin with the creators in the scene to become better artists and organizers in order to foster better audiences.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
42. Nayon Iovino
41. Daniel Davisson
40. Andrew King
39. Michelle Moyer
38. Jimmy Nguyen
37. Tiffany Lopez
36. Kristin Bauer
35. Donna Isaac
34. Douglas Miles
33. Sierra Joy
32. Francisco Flores
31. Amy Robinson
30. Julio Cesar Morales
29. Duane Daniels
28. Kelsey Pinckney
27. Ben Smith
26. Rembrandt Quiballo
25. Corinne Geertsen
24. Tess Mosko Scherer
23. Slawomir Wozniak
22. Elly Finzer
21. Josh Brizuela
20. Amy K. Nichols
19. Angela Johnson
18. Grant Vetter
17. Michelle and Melanie Craven
16. Erick Biez
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski