Natalie Diaz defies the stereotype of poets as isolated souls. As the founding director for the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands at ASU, she forges community through conversation and collaboration. Diaz identifies as Mohave, Akimel O'odham, and Latinx, as well as queer. She has a wide range of talents, from linguistics to basketball, which also inform her work. The breadth and depth of both her journeys infuse her work with insights and emotions that call into question assumptions about identity, place, and relationship. Through her powerful, poetic voice, Diaz calls others to create new landscapes and futures together.

Men shouldn't be afraid to attend a performance of The Bro Show. The comedy sketch show, produced and performed by local comedians Courtney Wahlstrom and Dana Whissen, takes hilarious and much-needed jabs at male stereotypes (like that guy on your corporate softball team who picked 69 for his jersey number). The duo perform as C-Dog and Angus, respectively, two bruhs who met at an open mic night, and guest comedians join them onstage playing a variety of characters. But the skewering of toxic masculinity, chauvinism, and sexual double standards is for the sake of the joke as opposed to making a political statement, so fellas, leave your fear (and ego) at the door and enjoy this high-quality roasting of your gender.

Sometimes, we think about all the times we watched a comedy show in a packed room, elbow to elbow, mouths hanging open in laughter — and we shiver. It'll likely be awhile before those up-close-and-personal days return, but that doesn't mean the end of laughing with strangers in a two-drink minimum room. Stand Up Live is our go-to for live comedy; some of the best comics of the modern era, like Bill Burr and Ali Wong, have graced its downtown Phoenix stage. There's not a bad seat in the house, and there's a full food and drink menu (we like the soft pretzels with white cheddar beer cheese dip) to satisfy your stomach as well as your funny bone.

Inside the Burton Barr Central Library, you can marvel at architectural elements designed by Will Bruder, stare at art installed throughout the five floors, and get creative inside the maker space. The enormous library, which is the flagship location of the Phoenix Public Library system, also houses a teen area, college planning center, entrepreneur space, children's area, gift shop, and a room filled with Arizona history resources. Central Gallery hosts rotating exhibitions of works by local artists, and the library presents a robust lineup of community programming. The rare book room is filled with treasures you didn't know existed in Phoenix, like cuneiform tablets and a page from a Gutenberg Bible. Best of all, the library is located within walking distance of the galleries and other cultural amenities located along Roosevelt Row, making it a hub for learning that spans far beyond bookshelves.

At Wasted Ink Zine Distro, founder Charissa Lucille has created a welcoming space where you can explore hundreds of zines by authors and illustrators based in Arizona and beyond. The charming DIY hub is filled with literature and art that reflects the creative pulse of Phoenix. Wasted Ink hosts dozens of community events, presents workshops for new and experienced zine creatives, and has an online store offering more than 100 titles. Walking into Wasted Zine is like setting foot on a path that branches off in myriad directions. Sometimes, it takes you places you never expected to go, with companions you wouldn't have encountered in other spaces, fueling the curiosity and connections that make for a vibrant literary scene and city.

Located in an old warehouse that was fixed up last year and outfitted with shabby-chic and modern furnishings, the McKinley Club is a little piece of Brooklyn in downtown Phoenix. The break room of this co-working space has taps with cold-brew coffee, wine, and beer. The big windows look out on Grand Avenue's gritty mix of industry and (now-struggling) art galleries, specialty stores, and restaurants. True, the virus has changed things. The club requires masks and gloves in common areas. The cozy private offices, well, you may need to get on a waiting list. Private desks in shared spaces, and fully shared workspaces are more readily available here (as they are at other co-working spaces around town). But give this place a look when it's time to get out of the damned house and focus on work. It sure beats the hell out of a gray cubicle.

You won't find big blockbuster exhibitions at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum. Instead, you'll find smaller-scale exhibits by artists, many of them local to Arizona, that nevertheless pack a powerful punch. Recent exhibits featured fine art pinatas with a medieval twist made by Roberto Benavidez, and Kazuma Sambe's ceramic pieces exploring the intersection of advertising with the international food industry. The museum holds season openings that draw a diverse crowd for music, art, small bites, and lively conversation. And it's part of the vibrant Mesa Arts Center campus, where people can expand their art horizons via its busy schedule of performances, festivals, classes, and art demonstrations.

Andrew Pielage

In her subterranean gallery space, Lisa Sette represents more than three dozen artists. Many — including Angela Ellsworth and Carrie Marill — are based in Phoenix. Often, Sette's curatorial choices reflect challenges facing contemporary society, such as white supremacy, clergy abuse of children, and climate change. The gallery also presents artist talks, sponsors film series at Phoenix Art Museum, and takes work to national and international art fairs. Both casual art lovers and experienced collectors are welcome in the space, which consistently presents work that challenges viewers to see self and society in new ways.

A strip of McDowell Road called Miracle Mile became significantly brighter following the addition of a new mural that blended the talents of established artist Jeff Slim and emerging artist Edgar Fernandez. The two men drew inspiration from the diversity of the neighborhoods surrounding the mural in creating their 14-foot high and 60-foot long piece, anchored by a figure holding soil that symbolizes the region's Indigenous roots. Elaborate line work flanking the central images draws on symbolism used in O'odham pottery, and includes the word "Unity" written in several languages used by people living in the community. The mural, which is on the side of the Lionetti Hair Clipper Service building, is distinguished by its mix of narrative and abstract elements and the ways it mirrors the cultural richness of its setting. Although the artists have very different styles, they're beautifully blended to create this work celebrating life, culture, and creativity.

The rich complexity of Indigenous cultures filled 13,000 square feet of gallery space when the Heard Museum opened "Larger Than Memory: Contemporary Art From Indigenous North America" on September 4. Featuring more than 40 works by 24 artists and collaborators — participating artists include Mike Patten (Zagime Anishinabek), Cara Romero (Chemehuevi), Marie Watt (Seneca), and Steven J. Yazzie (Diné/Laguna Pueblo/Anglo); thoughtful curation by Diana Pardue and Erin Joyce — this visually stunning ensemble of artworks challenges viewer perspectives on Indigenous symbols and ordinary objects. Here, red stickers, a baseball bat, a batch of fry bread, and an asthma inhaler take on new connotations. Every artwork has layers of meaning. The more time you spend with this exhibit, the more powerful it becomes.

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