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Phonetic Spit to Host Spoken Word Workshop at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art

Arguably when one thinks of art, one thinks of the visual and tangible. Paintings, portraits, photographs, and sculpted pieces dominate both museums and immediate word association. But there is something to be said for the power of another art form, one that comes from a deeply personal space: spoken word performances.

Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, ever the modern progressive, hosts an interactive writing workshop courtesy of Phonetic Spit, a local group that has partnered with such organizations as the Arizona State University Young Writers Program, Mesa Arts Center, and the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

During the afternoon of Saturday, July 19, Slammin' in Suburbia encourages creative expression through spoken word, poetry, and hip-hop. The free event is designed for participants of all ages and all comfort levels -- including those apprehensive of public speaking.

See also: Tempe Author Elizabeth Maria Naranjo on Why Young-Adult Books Are for Everyone

"Our workshops are designed to support creative writing and oral expression," says Tomas Stanton, co-founder of Phonetic Spit. "The foundational pillars of our writing workshops are rooted in the art of storytelling where imagination is infinite. We challenge our students to explore abstract ideas using concrete imagery.

"Orally, we focus of the idea that you speak into the world what you want. Public speaking is most people's biggest fears, so if you can face that fear through spoken word, the sky is the limit."

Developed in 2010 by Stanton and Myrlin Hepworth, the group began as a way to promote the Arizona Common Core Standards for Literacy along with three separate ideals: emotional literacy, oral literacy, and cultural literacy. Stanton describes a combination of all three as a way to empower an up-and-coming generation to, naturally, find their voice.

"The vision behind [Slammin' in Suburbia] was to use the platform of spoken word poetry to shift the perception of young voices in an effort to combat illiteracy and the silencing of marginalized stories," says Stanton, who also serves as executive director.

This is the second collaboration between the museum and the group. This week's event is presented in conjunction with SMoCA's ongoing summer show "Bill Owens: Suburbia", which ends Sunday, September 7. Created during the early 1970s, it debuted in 1973 with photographs that depict what middle-class life was like in Northern California homes. The black-and-white, documentary-style images address both the mundane nature and unexpected beauty found in these subjects.

Participation in the writing workshop includes a tour of the collection -- as well as light snacks. A live, open mic presentation will begin at 3 p.m.

"SMoCA is a cutting edge institution that reached out in an effort to build a bridge between our community and theirs," Stanton says.

Phonetic Spit routinely hosts these sessions around the Valley and frequently performs at festivals, like the Brave New Voice International Poetry Festival, and competitions, like the All-City Poetry Slam -- which it assisted in organizing.

The group also holds "residences," an eight- to ten-week course (35 to 40 hours) held at recreational and community centers as well as group homes. The focus of these partnerships is on teens and younger kids and explores a variety of issues. The goal is that they will be able to explore their own narratives and experiences through writing, creating a dialogue with both community and classroom.

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Workshops like these promote freedom of expression and instill confidence. Ultimately, Stanton explains, the hope is that participants will leave with a feeling of empowerment and appreciation for storytelling, fostering love for themselves and the greater community.

The workshop is from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, July 19, in the SMoCA Lounge inside the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 7374 East Second Street. While the all-ages event is free, pre-registration is encouraged. Call 480-874-4642 or email smocarsvp [at] sccarts.org to do so. Visit www.smoca.org or call the museum at 480-874-4666 for details.

Editor's note: This post has been modified from its original version to clarify that Phonetic Spit is a stand-alone organization.

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