Sophie May Hook: 2015 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Visual Art

You submitted nominations for the best and brightest emerging Valley creatives, and the results are in. Presenting the 2015 BigBrain finalists.

Leading up to the announcement of winners at Artopia on May 9, Jackalope Ranch, Chow Bella, and Up on the Sun will introduce the finalists. Up today is Sophie May Hook.

Sophie May Hook is the kind of person who makes lemonade when life hands her lemons. Literally.

After finding that someone had vandalized a half-built installation piece designed to be part of Scottsdale Public Art's Canal Convergence 2014 event, Hook got some lemons and sugar, borrowed a friend's hand juicer, and got to work lifting the spirits of volunteers who had worked to meticulously build the piece.

For the Phoenix-based independent events and projects manager, it's as much about the people behind the scenes as it is about the art and artists being presented.

See also: Announcing the 2015 Big Brain Finalists

Raised in Great Britain, Hook was about 9 when she first fell in love with the arts. She says her father would take her into the heart of London to visit the theater and wander through museums on her days off school.

"I knew I needed to be in the arts," Hook says, closing her eyes. She dreamed of being an actress as a kid.

But while the prospect of being on stage initially drew Hook to the theater, it was the operations backstage and the opportunity to "help make someone's vision come to life" with which she fell in love.

Not long after graduating from London South Bank University with a bachelor's in arts management, Hook began working on proposing and managing the Canada Water Culture Space in London, an innovative combination of theater, library, and office space.

Ten months after Canada Water opened, Donna Isaac from Scottsdale Public Art called to offer Hook, who had interned for SPA in 2010, the position as events manager.

"I couldn't turn it down," Hook says. "They had hunted me."

A month later, Hook was landing at Sky Harbor, facing her first day at SPA in four days and the inaugural Canal Convergence in November 2012, a few months away.

"You can't be afraid," Hook says. "As a human, I don't know everything, and there's nothing wrong with that."

Hook quickly learned to ask for help and to ask frankly for what she wanted from her bosses, from artists, from volunteers, and from representatives at Salt River Project, which sponsors the annual Canal Convergence and Spring Equinox events.

During her time at SPA, Hook met and worked with countless talented artists but discovered a space that needed filling in the Phoenix arts community. These artists could create beautiful pieces but needed help with things like writing contracts, finding studio space, and marketing themselves.

In October 2014, she left SPA to provide freelance professional support to everyone from artists to those working for nonprofits. She says she plans to call her new business Cake, partly paying homage to her British love of tea and cake.

Hook says she may accept out-of-state clients, partly in hopes of satisfying her desire to travel, but plans to remain based in Phoenix for the time being.

"As long as I can make it work, I can stay," Hook says.

The 2015 Big Brain Award winners will be announced onSaturday, May 9, during New Times' Artopia, an evening of food, drink, art, and music at Monarch Theatre. For details and tickets, $25, visit www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bigbrainawards.

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