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Ruth Carter

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Public discourse

Ruth Carter probably would never call herself a performance artist. Listening to her discuss her various exploits over drinks at Tempe's Cartel Coffee Lab, that's hard to fathom, especially when you consider how likely it is that someone enjoying their coffee has seen Ms. Carter strutting around in public in her underwear.

A few years ago, Ruth Carter and a group of like-minded chaos enthusiasts who would later form the flash mob group Improv AZ boarded the newly completed light rail. Between stops, when it was impossible to escape, they stripped down to skivvies just to see the reaction. There have been two more No Pants light rail rides since, as well as a host of other wacky events, including a group freeze at First Friday and an Epic Super Hero Battle, complete with costumes and Nerf weapons, in Scottsdale.


Ruth Carter

Carter is more than a mere participant — she's the legal mind that verifies just how far Improv AZ can push the envelope before the group's zany antics turn criminal; or at least indecent.

"The decency law in Arizona says at all times you must cover up your genitals, your anus, and women must have their areolas covered," she says. "So you don't have to wear a whole lot to be legal in public in Arizona."

Her expertise in law extends beyond whether or not one can enjoy a morning commute sans pants. In about a month, Carter will graduate from Arizona State University with a certificate in intellectual property from the center for Law, Science and Innovation. Her specialization is the largely uncharted territory of Internet law.

Given how connected Carter is, through local tweet-ups and social media-minded events such as Ignite Phoenix, her interest in Internet law is less than surprising. It's the experiment she's carrying out via her personal blog that you may find unexpected.

"I've always said, 'If you're willing to do the work, there's a way to get your education paid for whether that's grants or scholarships, or something," she says.

Carter went for the something.

Borrowing a few pages from Jason Sattler's "I Wear Your Shirt" playbook, Carter created Sponsor a Law Kid — an ingenious way to help cover her tuition through blogging and the kindness of Internet strangers.

It breaks down likes this. Carter has solicited sponsors for every day between January 1 of this year and the date she takes the bar exam in May. In return for sponsorship, Carter will write on behalf of her sponsors on the day stipulated. So far, Carter has written about products, re-posted eulogies to honor deceased family members, and even raised awareness for soldiers with post-traumatic stress disorder. Each day increases $1 in value. In other words, January 1 went for a buck, but January 30 went for $30.

For demonstrating this level of creative ingenuity in pursuit of her goals and for helping make Phoenix a better place for improvised comedy in public, we nominate Ruth Carter for the second annual Big Brains Awards.

We only hope she shows up wearing pants. — Jonathan McNamara

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