Best Curator of Border-Inspired Art 2016 | Julio Cesar Morales | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

 When he joined ASU Art Museum as a curator in 2012, Julio César Morales said he was "particularly interested in art's unique ability to engage in a social context." It's something he's brought to life again and again, most recently with the exhibitions "Contemporary Photography in Mexico: Existe lo que tiene nombre" and "Miguel Angel Ríos: Landlocked." The latter, which included new videos commissioned by ASU Art Museum, was the first survey of video work by Ríos, who is based in Mexico City. Both were part of the museum's ongoing "Contact Zone" exhibition series, which explores contemporary migration and "its intricate uncertainties within border culture, destiny and contested histories." As curator for ASU Art Museum, Morales raises awareness of the many ways diversity fosters individual dignity and community strength, thus highlighting the value of cross-cultural experiences and dialogue.

She most certainly isn't the only one, but Erika Andiola is this year's best DREAMer. Andiola has been a prominent Arizona activist for undocumented immigrants for years. In fact, she has been called "the most well-known immigration activist in the country," and was hired by Bernie Sanders' campaign as a Latino outreach strategist late last year. Sanders may have conceded the presidential nomination to Clinton, but Andiola is demonstrating that la lucha sigue (the fight continues). She is now working with the post-election group inspired by Sanders' campaign, Our Revolution. The undocumented Mexican immigrant is renowned for confronting the likes of Russell Pearce and even President Barack Obama. She has earned the respect and admiration of immigration advocacy groups around the nation, and has been an inspiration for other undocumented immigrants living in the shadows.

Carla Chavarria is an undocumented immigrant, but that hasn't stopped her from working legally in the country. She is a thriving artist, activist, and entrepreneur working within the constructs of the law to earn a living. As a 19-year-old photographer and graphic designer, Chavarria founded multicultural millennial marketing agency YCM Marketing and co-founded Ganaz Apparel, a fitness clothing line that mixes fashion and culture, earlier this year. In Spanish, if you're doing something con ganas, it means you're doing it with enthusiasm or wholeheartedly; that's Carla Chavarria.

As a Phoenix-based multimedia journalist, Pita Juarez has covered a range of social issues concerning the local Latino community. She is a regular contributor for both Spanish and English-language publications across the Valley and has worked with grassroots radio stations like Radio Phoenix and KWSS as a host. Regardless of the medium, Juarez has consistently produced content that engages a wide-ranging audience to bring to light issues important to the immigrant community. Her latest efforts have led her to the creation of a "for Latino Millennials, by Latino Millennials" podcast serving the bilingual, immigrant, LGBTQ, and activist community, called Mira Listen.

Sky-high storytelling: That's what a trio of artists in the collective Postcommodity brought to the Arizona-Mexico border in October with a temporary land art installation called Repellent Fence, comprising a row of more than two dozen 10-foot-diameter balloons with scare-eye iconography used by farmers and gardeners to repel unwanted birds from their land. Artists Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martinez, and Kade L. Twist worked with community members in Agua Prieta, Sonora, and Douglas, Arizona, to float the balloons 50 feet above the desert for several days, bisecting the border while prompting conversations about attempts to marginalize, repel, or destroy indigenous people within and beyond the borderlands. Its poignancy was magnified as droves of Syrians sought refuge in Europe, and the number of Central American children seeking refuge in the U.S. rose dramatically. Amid the empty din of ideological rhetoric, Postcommodity's quiet installation spoke volumes.

Between the latter days of MTV music videos and early days of Periscope livestreaming, Mexico-based artist Miguel Angel Ríos picked up a video camera. That was in the late 1990s, and Ríos has incorporated video in his art practice ever since. His "Landlocked" exhibition at ASU Art Museum last fall featured not only four world-premiere video works commissioned by the museum, but also a comprehensive look at his broader art practice comprising social and political narratives addressing power, apathy, and violence. Fascinating research materials, photographs, works on paper, storyboards, production ephemera, and videos documenting the creation of his work filled gallery walls and spaces — taking viewers on a journey through the artist's ideation and its creative realization. Complex yet accessible, the exhibition put a new spin on land art, and used the tools of digital culture to convey the complexity of contemporary border culture.

St. Mary's Basilica, a.k.a. The Church of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is the oldest Catholic church in Phoenix. Its exterior is also an excellent example of Mission Revival architecture.

Though originally an adobe church, the current structure dates back to 1913, when the Mission Revival exterior was built under the direction of W.J. Rifley. Last year, St. Mary's celebrated the 100th anniversary of its 1915 dedication.

The Mission Revival exterior features round arches, curved parapets, deep windows, arched doorways, and four domes that span the length of the building. The dome located over the main altar features a cupola that provides additional interior light.

Mission Revival became popular when the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific railways embraced the style for train depots, resort hotels, and lunch rooms in the early 20th century. The church's interior is Romanesque style, laid out in cruciform. The Monroe Street entrance marks the foot of the cross. Dedicated to St. Mary, the church's upper stained glass windows are graced with scenes depicting her in each one.

A self-guided tour pamphlet can be purchased for $2 from the basilica's Via Assisi Gift Shop next door.

Zarco Guerrero, mask-maker and musician, knows about the power to transform with his ethnographic masks, with his physicality, and with his words.

Catch him at Dia de Los Muertos PHX Festival, a free event held at Steele Indian School Park, using his highly expressive calaca masks to tell stories that mix humor and a zest for life with remembering those who have passed. Or, find him collaborating with Childsplay at their fall event, the El Puente Theatre Festival & Mask Procession, where he performs as Zarco Guerrero and the Dancing Dragons.

The Mesa native is a member of the Cultural Coalition, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary and aims to provide unique cultural programs dedicated to the promotion and development of indigenous arts and artists in Arizona. Guerrero was greatly influenced by Cesar Chavez as a young man, and joined his movement for farm workers. The civil-rights leader inspired Guerrero's practice of using art-making as a tool for social change.

Wherever you catch him, Zarco Guerrero will be drawing the audience in with his compelling human stories.

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