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9 Arizona Communities selected for Creative Communities Institute

Globe among 9 Arizona Communities Selected for Inaugural AZ Creative Communities Institute

12-month collaborative learning program is guided by leaders in field of creative engagement

Today, the Arizona Commission on the Arts, an agency of the State of Arizona, Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts (HIDA), and Southwest Folklife Alliance (SFA) announced the 9 communities that will participate in the inaugural AZ Creative Communities Institute (AZCCI). As part of the 12-month AZCCI, small teams representing each community will explore the many ways Arizona’s creativity can be put to work for positive community impact. AZCCI Fellows will become part of an active learning network, with opportunities to learn from and with local and national experts, and peers from other Arizona cities, towns, and neighborhoods.

22 teams, composed of local elected officials, civic and business leaders, and community organizers, applied for the opportunity to participate in the expansive training and engagement program—double the expected number of applicants. While all applicants displayed incredible passion, vision, and commitment, only 9 could be selected to participate.

“We knew there was an appetite for putting creativity to work in Arizona communities, but did not know how strong an appetite it was,” said Jaime Dempsey, Deputy Director of the Arts Commission. “While we sincerely wish we could have accepted all of the applicant communities into the program, we could not be more excited by the depth of knowledge, breadth of experience, and diversity of perspective represented in the selected teams.”


Julian Barcelo, Teacher, Davis Elementary School
Luis Mena, Artist
Marc Pinate, Producing Artistic Director, Borderlands Theater Regina Romero, City Councilor, Ward 1, City of Tucson


Erica Herman, Teacher, Casa Grande ESD; Owner, Erica Herman Studios
Gloria Leija, City Clerk, City of Casa Grande
Rina Rien, Executive Director, Casa Grande Main Street
Stacey Seaman, Teacher, Casa Grande ESD; Owner/Director, Blackbox Foundation


David Carranza, Economic/Community Development Director, City of Douglas Arturo Escalante, Director, Sun Magazine
M Jenea Sanchez, Artist; Instructor, Cochise College
Jose Pedro Teran, Owner, El Arteran Designs


Talonya Adams, Business Attorney and Founder, 1700 West Law, PLLC
Jackie Berry, Real Estate Broker, Berry Realty & Associates
Ronn Turner, Artist
Rachel Webster, Assistant Program Officer, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)


Sarah Douthit, Chief Probation Officer, Coconino County Adult Probation
Myra Ferechil, CEO, Victim Witness Services for Coconino County
Michael Olson, Community Restitution Coordinator, Coconino County Adult Probation Keli Openshaw, Senior Service Line Programs Developer, Flagstaff Medical Center


Al Gameros, Mayor, City of Globe
Tiera Guerena, Student, Arizona State University, College of Public Service and Community Solutions Linda Oddonetto, Executive Assistant, City of Globe
Paul Tunis, Executive Director, Cobre Valley Center for the Arts


Maya Blanco, Community Organizer Franco Hernandez, Community Organizer Julio Reyna, CommunityOrganizer
Sharifa Rowe, CEO, SROWE Consulting, LLC


Maja Aurora, Director of Arts Engagement, City of Tempe
Maggie Fountain, Fine Arts Curriculum/Instructional Specialist, Tempe USD Gayle Shanks, Owner, Changing Hands Bookstore
Aaron Thacker, Public Affairs Officer, Arizona National Guard


Lindsay Benacka, Arts and Culture Program Manager, City of Yuma
Maria McKivergan, Licensed Professional Counselor, Desert Counseling and Recovery Services Cari Jean Nelson, Ceramics Instructor, Yuma High School District
Isaac Russell, Research Analyst, US Department of Defense; Co-Director, Littlewood Fine Art Co-op

Representatives of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, Herberger Institute, and Southwest Folklife Alliance will serve as key collaborators, alongside local and national experts in creative engagement.

“Arizona is rapidly becoming a hub for the exploration of creative solutions, with internationally- renowned field leaders and experts converging here and engaging with the rich intellectual, artistic, and cultural capital of our communities,” said Jake Pinholster, ASU HIDA’s Associate Dean of Policy and Initiatives. “One of ASU’s and the Herberger Institute’s fundamental responsibilities is to bring artists, university resources, and community leaders together to help Arizona communities thrive. The AZCCI will provide a powerful opportunity to do just that.”

Speaking on behalf of Southwest Folklife Alliance, a Tucson-based nonprofit affiliated with the University of Arizona, Executive Director Maribel Alvarez said, “We believe in building equity with artists and traditional culture bearers and the power of cross-sector partnerships with organizations and entities of all kinds. In the AZCCI, SFA sees an opportunity to advance our mission, engage in a vital exchange of knowledge with the field’s thought leaders and master practitioners, and serve Arizona communities throughout the state.”


Southwest Folklife Alliance is an affiliate nonprofit organization of the University of Arizona, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and the designated Folk Arts Partner of the Arizona Commission on the Arts with the support of the National Endowment of the Arts. SFA’s mission is to build more equitable and vibrant communities by celebrating the everyday expressions of culture, heritage, and diversity in the Greater Southwest. For more information about Southwest Folklife Alliance, visit https://www.southwestfolklife.org/.

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