Big Brain Awards 2014: Meet the Finalists and Our First Urban Legend Winners

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It's wonderful to have a day job that relates to her curating, she says. "Obviously my preparator skills transfer to me being a preparator for my own shows, which is awesome, but a lot of what I've learned and what's making me a better curator comes from being a gallery attendant," she explains. "As a gallery attendant, you are seeing how the public interacts with things: their walkways, where they won't go, what they see and what they don't see, what they're more drawn to touch or break the rules with."

Nahom says she particularly likes group shows, in part because they offer more chances for viewers to connect with work. During "Rinse and Repeat," her first independent curating endeavor outside of ASU (where she got her start curating student shows), Nahom focused on bringing in lots of different artists. She continued down this path with subsequent shows because it allowed for connections to be made for and between the artists themselves.

"The main thing that gets me inspired is seeing excited artists," Nahom says. "For the curator, it's not just about the art, it's about how the public interacts with it and how the artist is seen. You want to make a great show for them so that they will have more opportunities in the future as well."

Working with her business partner, Julia Bruck, under the umbrella of Halt Gallery, Nahom has been able to take her curating to the next level. Halt Gallery does not have a physical location but curates shows in a variety of spaces around the Valley, with work appearing most recently at Eye Lounge and Modified Arts.

And the duo has big plans for the coming year. Nahom says Halt Gallery hopes to expand its horizons, bringing in artists from all over the country for future shows.

But, she stresses, this branching out is not meant as an insult to Phoenix artists. "I'm always just trying to develop new connections between art," she says. "When Julia and I are curating a show [as Halt Gallery], we talk about how each piece or artist connects to one another. Our curatorial style is definitely a little more abstract, but it's always about connections between work."

In the end, Nahom makes these connections and then steps away, letting the art happen on its own. "Ultimately, the job of the curator is to disappear," she says. — Katrina Montgomery

Mike Kennedy | Performing Art
Mike Kennedy is too pretty for Tent City. At least, that's how he sells it on stage, in between telling tales of Ecstasy-fueled orgies in Reno, getting a DUI on national television, and relating to his half-Hispanic teenage daughter.

Kennedy's career path to stand-up comedy hasn't exactly been a straightforward trajectory. The Wisconsin-born 44-year-old funnyman moved to Arizona shortly after college in his 20s. He majored in political science and planned to pursue the next logical step: law school. But, like many aspects of Kennedy's life, things didn't go as expected.

Between working for the man and ultimately working for himself, Kennedy stumbled through as many story-worthy situations as he did substances, ultimately finding a home for all of them in his stand-up performances.

"[The] biggest challenge with stand-up is finding out who I am," Kennedy says. "I think that's a problem outside of comedy, too, though. It's a continuing struggle for me."

That journey of finding himself led Kennedy through decades of various jobs, including working for a repo man in the late


90s, catching shoplifters in department stores, driving a taxicab, and eventually getting licensed as a private investigator, a job that proved Kennedy had a knack for calling other people out on their shit.

"My jokes come from my life," Kennedy says, reflecting on his past experiences and, incidentally, the main source of his comedic material. "I've never really been interested in doing things the way I was told. I have lately been interested in finding out why people do things. Not what they tell other people, but the actual reason they do things. When I meet people, I can sometimes ask too many personal questions. I guess I'll always be a private investigator in that sense."

But it's that interaction with others that gets Kennedy the big laughs. He constantly puts himself in situations that most people only feel comfortable experiencing from a distance. Standing as a perfect example of this is a photo of Kennedy with Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which he uses as the main image for his Facebook fan page.

"A friend of mine asked me if I wanted to roast Sheriff Joe at The Phoenician," Kennedy says. "I had a DUI in 2005. So the idea of meeting him and making fun of him was really appealing to me. I spoke with him for 45 minutes backstage. I talk about it in my act."

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