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State theater awards recognize ASU excellence

October 3, 2016

The AriZoni Theatre Awards, which some consider the Tony Awards of Arizona, recognized ASU Herberger Institute productions, students, faculty and alumni during its 26th annual awards ceremony.

The ASU School of Music’s Lyric Opera Theatre program took home six AriZoni awards for three of its 2015-2016 productions: “The Drowsy Chaperone,” “Guadalupe: The Opera” and “Company.” Lyric Opera Theatre’s production of The Drowsy Chaperone The ASU Lyric Opera Theatre’s production of "The Drowsy Chaperone" was recognized at the 26th annual AriZoni Awards. Photo by Tim Trumble Download Full Image

“The ASU musical theatre program is a special place, and I'm excited to see it get the recognition it deserves,” said Brian DeMaris, artistic director of Lyric Opera Theatre and associate professor in the School of Music.

DeMaris, in his second year as the program artistic director, won for music direction for “Company.”

DeMaris said he was thrilled to receive an award for the first production he conducted at ASU, but the “icing on the cake” was when his own student, Brent Mauldin, also won in that category for his work on “The Drowsy Chaperone.”

“Brent did excellent work not only on ‘Drowsy Chaperone,’ but also during his two years as a teaching assistant in our Master of Music in musical direction degree,” DeMaris said.

Brittany Howk, a musical theatre student who graduated in May, nabbed the best actress in a musical award for her role in “The Drowsy Chaperone,” and Robert Kolby Harper, a faculty associate in the School of Music, won the director award for the same production.

Professor James DeMars won for original musical composition for “Guadalupe,” a world premiere. “Guadalupe” also received the award for original script, recognizing DeMars again, as well as collaborators Robert Estevan Doyle, owner and producer of Canyon Records, and Graham Whitehead, who directed the production and has been a guest director with the Lyric Opera Theatre program in the past.

“Our numerous nominations and awards speak to the fervor with which the ASU musical theatre students, faculty and staff have thrown themselves into the many opportunities for positive change that our department is working toward right now,” DeMaris said. “We want the program to be a national model for musical theatre training and innovation, and it is evident that all the students want to help make it happen.”

In addition to the Lyric Opera Theatre, the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre also received numerous AriZoni nominations for its productions last year. Alum and guest artist David Kenton won the award for sound design in theatre for the school’s MainStage season production, “Brooklyn Bridge.”

Other alumni and current students from both the School of Music and the School of Film, Dance and Theatre also won awards for productions they participated in at local theatre companies.

“I always hear from other theatre directors how valued the ASU students and alumni are in productions throughout the region,” DeMaris said. “We are happy to continue to allow our students to participate in off-campus productions and to engage in the community, and we are thrilled by the work of all of our peer theatres.”

Those winners include:

• Charity Johansen, supporting actress in a musical for the Hale Center’s “Me and My Girl”

• Dallas Nichols, lighting design in theatre for Mesa Community College’s “Three Sisters”

• Daniel Fine, artistic specialization (media design) in theatre for Mesa Community College’s “Alice in Wonderland”

• Vinny Chavez, actor in a major role in a musical for the Hale Center’s “Me and My Girl”

• Michael Margetis, supporting actor in theatre for All Puppet Players’ “Jurassic Puppets”

• D. Scott Withers, director in musical forTheater Works' “Man of La Mancha”

Sarah A. McCarty

Communications and marketing coordinator, School and Film, Dance and Theatre, Herberger Institute


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ASU experts: Art and politics have always gone hand in hand.
October 3, 2016

ASU experts on how the arts can elevate the political conversation, and make more citizens part of the dialogue

From Bob Dylan’s 1964 folk rock anthem “The Times They Are a-Changin’” to Shepard Fairey’s iconic Obama “hope” poster to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway smash “Hamilton” to Allen Ginsberg’s anguished protest of a poem “Howl” — there are innumerable examples of art that is politically charged.

“There is no such thing as art that is not political,” said Herberger Institute professor Michael Rohd. “Period. Purely by expressing something and choosing who has access to it … that by itself is political act.”

Professor Michael Rohd

ASU professor Michael Rohd will be hosting a civic theater event from 3 to 10 p.m. on Election Day at the Galvin Theater on ASU’s Tempe campus. Photo courtesy of Michael Rohd

This Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 8, Rohd and a group of 24 Herberger Institute graduate students will be hosting a civic theater event from 3 to 10 p.m. at the Galvin Theater on ASU’s Tempe campus.

They have invited students, faculty and community members to submit five-minute responses to the question: “What does America want in a leader?” Responses could be in the form of a performance, lecture, presentation, concert, etc. Those pre-submitted pieces will be part of the event, which will also include live performances and a live CNN feed.

“I’m excited at the prospect of being part of conversations that lead to change around a more just community,” said Rohd.

That’s what art is supposed to do, agreed associate professor of English Sally Ball.

“The arts are meant to make connections and to communicate, and to reckon with things that are painful and difficult and frightening,” she said.

Ball recently gave a talk titled “Art, Citizenship, and the ‘Goals’ of Creative Work” as part of the Institute for Humanities' Research Faculty Seminar Series.

Professor Sally Ball

ASU English professor and poet Sally Ball talks art and politics at her home in Phoenix. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“Fundamentally, the choice to make a work of art is a choice to connect and communicate,” she said.

Ball, a poet, testifies to the ways in which literary artists have been part of the political conversation for ages — from 18th-century romantic Percy Bysshe Shelley, who called poets “the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” to contemporary poets like Claudia Rankine, whose 2014 collection “Citizen” contained a page listing the names of people of color who had been killed by police since she started working on it.

She’s quick to point out, though, that it’s “not just the literary arts,” but rather, “all arts cultivate empathy in people, and that’s something we sorely need in public discourse.”

Assistant professor of art Rogelio Gutierrez specializes in lithography, his work focusing on issues such as immigration, identity, education and history.

A first-generation Mexican-American, Gutierrez’s “Invisible Frontier” project addressed the topic of anti-immigration legislation through an installation of 40 “street signs” designed to simulate an invisible frontier shared by the United States and Mexico.

Assistant professor Rogelio Gutierrez

ASU art professor Rogelio Gutierrez with art from his “Invisible Frontier” exhibit. Photo courtesy of Rogelio Gutierrez 

“Exploring one's citizenship through art is like sharing something personal that can resonate and perhaps create some type of change in another individual, regardless of race, gender, nationality, etc.,” said Gutierrez. “It can create bridges.”

Throughout the latter half of the last century, popular music has helped create bridges between people of different cultural backgrounds, said Christopher Wells, an assistant professor of musicology who teaches a course on popular music and race.

“Mainstream music is increasingly becoming a far more culturally diverse space,” said Wells. “And one thing music often does is it draws people into the conversation who might otherwise feel excluded.”

Assistant professor Christopher Wells

ASU professor of musicology Christopher Wells says popular music helps “draw people into” conversations they might otherwise feel excluded from.

 The internet has helped open up that conversation even further. Works that run the artistic gamut have all “gone viral.” Maggie Smith's poem “Good Bones,” about a mother struggling to give her children an optimistic view of the world, was shared thousands of times on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Tumblr this past June. Images and videos of Ana Teresa Fernandez’s "Borrando La Frontera" ("Erasing the Border") surfaced on newsfeeds and websites all over the world.

“The way these works get shared and flood the internet is a perfect formula to distribute a political message,” said Gutierrez, whose own work has been widely shared online.

“When I was a college student, poets were considered sort of esoteric,” said Ball. “Now Buzzfeed publishes poems.”

And that’s a good thing, she asserts; the more people engaged, the better: “All kinds of people offer something different, and the more of us who are engaged, the richer that conversation is going to be.”

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ASU's Herberger Institute fosters creative community

Creative Fellows live in Arcadia Residential Community on ASU Tempe campus.
ASU students learn to become inspirational and emotionally intelligent leaders.
September 30, 2016

10 upper-level art and design students enter residence hall, plan events and programs to create inspiration incubator

There’s something transformative that comes from a concentration of talent, especially when it comes to the arts. It's not tough to find examples: the Harlem Renaissance, the Beat Generation, Motown, the British Invasion, the Chicano art movement, the pop art movement and graffiti culture.

In its own way, ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is seeking to leverage the power of concentration by plugging 10 upper-level undergraduate artists, designers and musicians into a residence hall to create an incubator where art begets art and inspiration is everywhere.

“The Herberger Institute is all about the crazy, wild, innovative and cool ideas that really help our students,” said Megan Workmon, student engagement coordinator for Herberger.

The institute’s Creative Fellows reside within the Arcadia Residential Community on the ASU Tempe campus, where they work to foster creative programming directly related to arts and design while also serving as inspirational, creative mentors.

ASU as a university seeks to put students with similar academic interests together. Journalism students live in the same dorm on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Sustainability students live together in Tempe, and future teachers live together on the Polytechnic campus.

But the Herberger Creative Fellows model takes it a step further, functioning almost like an academic cohort. The fellows will come up with their own programming model, including themes they would like to address through programs they coordinate as a team. They aim to host about a dozen events and activities to cultivate community spirit among Herberger students and create a greater understanding of how their particular academic pursuit fits into a larger world of arts and design.  

“The hope is students who attend these events will be inspired, feel that spark, and take that moment to put it back into their academic and creative work,” said Workmon, who based the Creative Fellows model on her ongoing doctoral work around inspiration.

ASU fellow Zachary Porterfield

Arts, media and engineering major Zachary Porterfield. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now



She enlisted upper-division Herberger undergraduate students ranging from sophomores to seniors, majoring in photography, museum studies, music, film, art education and digital culture media processing.

They take a one-unit course with Workmon in the fall and the spring, which is centered around creating communities of practice as well as learning how to become inspirational and emotionally intelligent leaders.

“I think we were selected because all 10 of us had shown leadership skills and a passion for the arts and creativity,” said Emily Johnston, a 20-year-old junior and Photography and Museum Studies Fellow (pictured above).

Workmon has teamed the Creative Fellows with artist-entrepreneur Daniel Bernard Roumain, who was named a Herberger Institute professor in May and is the Arcadia Residential Community’s Faculty in Residence. He’ll work with them to act as inspirational guides and role models for other Herberger students, and help them develop a season of offerings for the academic year.

Roumain is an Emmy-nominated composer and violinist who has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Library of Congress. He is considered a national leader and often mentors students on how an enterprising musician works in the 21st century.

“Daniel is awesome because he is teaching all of us to think on a wider scope beyond Herberger students,” said Zachary Porterfield, an Arts, Media and Engineering Fellow. “He wants us to reach out to other ASU students, graduate students, the homeless, firefighters, police and the general public.”

Activities are starting to roll out. The fellows recently hosted the “Creative Family Dinner,” where fellows and students shared a meal to introduce themselves, develop camaraderie and spell out their mission.

Anna Dong

Design management major Anna Dong. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now


On Oct. 15, they’ll host “CreateFest,” an event aimed at teaching students about time and stress management, artistic confidence, and tapping into their inspirations and creation. Design Management Fellow Anna Dong called it a “stepping-stones program that will allow design and arts students to explore various options to enhance their college experience.”

In November, they’ll unveil “STEAM Stories,” an interdisciplinary program geared toward exploring STEM fields with the addition of arts. Creative Fellows are working to bring together students from across academic schools in order to collaborate on this event. 

The artistic vibe in the complex has already been magnified by these events, said Latavia Young, a 19-year-old Film Creative Fellow in her sophomore year. 

“I love walking past the design studio and seeing people using the light tables, or hearing music from the dance room, or singing from the music room,” she said.

“It makes me feel as if art has a place in this world.”


Top photo: Museum studies and photography major Emily Johnston. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


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‘Faithful Forest’: ASU poet pens ode to national park

ASU professor and poet laureate pens #NPS100 poem on Petrified Forest.
September 29, 2016

Work by Alberto Ríos, Arizona’s official poet laureate, is part of initiative marking park agency's centennial

The striking landscapes that make up our national parks can inspire profound exclamations in even the most ineloquent of visitors. But for an occasion such as the National Park Service's centennial, a creative initiative is bringing out the pros: poets lending their words to the nation. 

On Thursday, the first fiveFirst to be featured are writers from Arizona, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. of 50 commissioned poems — one for each state — were released by the Academy of American Poets for the “Imagine Our Parks with Poems” initiative. Arizona's entry was written by Alberto Ríos, an Arizona State University Regents’ Professor and the state’s official poet laureate

Ríos was asked to write a contribution on an Arizona national park of his choice. His poem, “Faithful Forest,” lauds the state’s quieter natural wonder — Petrified Forest National Park (pictured above).

Alberto Rios

Alberto Ríos

“The Grand Canyon, of course, speaks for itself,” said Ríos. “The Petrified Forest is a place with a wonderful name but something of a baffling first impression. This was something I could do: help us to understand where we are and how important the greater conversation of the world around us truly is.”

Petrified Forest National Park is in northeastern Arizona, about 50 miles from the New Mexico boundary on Interstate 40. It is known for the large number of fossilized trees and other Late Triassic flora and fauna, as well as for its colorful landscapes.

Engaging people with such memorable places is the goal of the larger “Imagine Your Parks” grant initiative from the National Endowment for the Arts, created in partnership with the National Park Service, an initiative of which the Academy of American Poets project is a part.

Ríos was the natural choice for an Arizona poet. He has described much of his work as written “for public purpose,” since he is often called on to create poems commemorating occasions and events. He has written poems for the visit of Mexico’s President Vicente Fox to Arizona in 2003, for the inaugurations of Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano in 2003 and 2007, for a permanent installation on the U.S.-Mexico border at Nogales, and, most recently, upon the death of former Arizona Gov. Raul Castro in 2015.

“I have come to see the value of paying attention,” Ríos said, “and the wisdom of paying attention not simply to oneself. Paying attention to and for others, and to the things of this world as well — this has given me a new work, a next level of public as well as personal consideration.”

The U.S. National Park Service turned 100 on Aug. 25. According to the park service website, “The centennial kicks off a second century of stewardship of America's national parks and engaging communities through recreation, conservation, and historic preservation programs.”

Ríos’ poetic statement follows his poem below. 


Faithful Forest
Alberto Ríos


I will wait, said wood, and it did.
Ten years, a hundred, a thousand, a million —

It did not matter. Time was not its measure,
Not its keeper, nor its master.

Wood was trees in those first days.
And when wood sang, it was leaves,

Which took flight and became birds.



It is still forest here, the forest of used-to-be.
Its trees are the trees of memory.

Their branches — so many tongues, so many hands —
They still speak a story to those who will listen.

By only looking without listening, you will not hear the trees.
You will see only hard stone and flattened landscape,

But if you’re quiet, you will hear it.



The leaves liked the wind, and went with it.
The trees grew more leaves, but wind took them all.

And then the bare trees were branches, which in their frenzy
Made people think of so many ideas —

Branches were lines on the paper of sky,
Drawing shapes on the shifting clouds

Until everyone agreed that they saw horses.



Wood was also the keeper of fires.
So many people lived from what wood gave them.

The cousins of wood went so many places
Until almost nobody was left — that is the way

Of so many families. But wood was steadfast
Even though it was hard from loneliness. Still,

I will wait, said wood, and it did.


About this poem

I remember first coming to the Petrified Forest as a very young man and wondering what all the fuss was about. There didn’t seem to be much there. Petrified wood lay everywhere, in greater and lesser amounts, but it just seemed like curious rock. In driving through the area, which is large, however, the more the place began to change before me. It was a drive through time.

The great expanses of northern Arizona are geologic in their scope — human measures are not adequate to understanding them. The Grand Canyon we can “see” — but to see the Petrified Forest, you must use a different set of eyes.

Arizona is a place in which the human imagination is called upon to be complicit in understanding that this desert once was — so magically in this arid place, this very specific place — a forest. 

The openness of this region lends itself to myth, to big story, to the engaged imagination hard at work for centuries in the act of understanding and in trying to see what is profoundly in front of us. In this effort, the desert is full of mirages, which may not be mirages at all but living acts of memory held in common with the Earth.

—Alberto Ríos


Ríos was named inaugural poet laureate for the state of Arizona in 2013, and a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2014. He is the author of 10 books and chapbooks of poetry, three collections of short stories, and a memoir. His books of poems include, most recently, “The Dangerous Shirt,” preceded by “The Theater of Night,” winner of the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award. His memoir about growing up on the Mexico-Arizona border — “Capirotada” — won the Latino Literary Hall of Fame Award and was designated as the One Book Arizona choice for 2009. His work is regularly taught and translated, and has been adapted to dance and both classical and popular music. He has taught at ASU for more than 30 years and also holds the Katharine C. Turner Endowed Chair in English.

Kristen LaRue

communications specialist , Department of English


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Q&A: 'Artivist' says creative expression makes communities healthier

Musician Martha Gonzalez is the 2016-2017 ASU Gammage guest residency artist.
Gonzalez says grassroots art movements help build communities.
September 27, 2016

Martha Gonzalez — Grammy winner, activist and ASU Gammage guest resident — discusses whirlwind tour through Arizona

For Martha Gonzalez, this is the eye of the hurricane. 

The Grammy winner, activist, scholar, community builder and mentor has been working to inspire creative growth and imaginative expression around the Phoenix area as the 2016-2017 ASU Gammage guest residency artist. She’s on a short break, but starting next month her whirlwind tour of Arizona will resume.  

Since Sept. 12, Gonzalez has been involved in a series of events that included a youth workshop, a jam session, songwriting workshops, MFA-level grad student discussions and the kickoff of the current “Performance in the Borderlands” series. Next month, she’ll discuss art in the context of women in U.S. history, pop music and race, Chicana activism, and immigration and ethnicity.

The tour will take her all over the state, but the current calm provides an opportunity for Gonzalez — "the artivist" — to discuss, in a Q&A with ASU Now, the role of women in art, the connection between arts and activism, and the scope of her work.

Question: Have women always been a vital part of performing arts and activism?

Answer: Women have always been at the front of social movement, social justice, the arts and beyond.

I’m not in any way attributing this to feminism or Western feminism when we think about the empowerment of women. Before the enterprise of feminism, there were always women in our families — in Mexico, other part of Latin America, Africa — who have resisted in particular ways in history.

We’ve always been resisting. We’ve always been building. We care for our families. We care for our communities. And we find different ways to accomplish things.

We’ve been using music, art, dance and other forms of creative expression to do this as a way of communicating with others, raising concerns and bringing communities together in different ways.

It’s great when an institution like ASU is paying attention. It’s a good thing for the students. It’s a good thing for the community. And it’s a good thing to get us all together so that we can all build the future in a collaborative manner.

Q: Is the idea of artists bringing attention to social injustice a relatively new phenomenon? Or is it now just getting traction? 

A: Art has always been meant to document and instigate critical thought and bring communities together.

It was always, I believe, more participatory.

With the advent and creation of the industrialization of music, with hyper-capitalism as the way we understand it, we always think of art as something separate from community: something we buy or we sell.

That was really never the case before capitalism took a hold of all of our minds and our creativity and imagination.

Art has always been a way of bringing the community together to instigate critical thought.

Capitalism has led us to believe that it’s something we have to major in and has been Westernized how we think about art — that it’s a product. But music isn’t a product.

A lot of artists are coming back to the idea that participation in art and music is a way of being in communication with the community. My work personally revolves around bringing people back to this idea.

Performance art is also an important way to impart knowledge and inspire people.

How many times have you been to a concert that just blew your mind? That’s really important.

I can speak to both. I love to perform. I’ve worked on my craft for many years, but I’ve also spent a great deal of time and energy in participatory music and dance practices, which I feel are important ways of using our skills as artists to reconnect communities.

Participation in art and music is a human right, and we need to reconnect to those ways. They lead to our greater consciousness. It makes communities healthier.

Q: The 1960s was a time of great social activism, and it seems like we’re getting back to that. What are the issues we as a society need to focus on and address today?

A: The result of the 1960s social era movement is that the biggest strides were made in terms of representation.

Having people that politically represent you that look like you in terms of race, gender, at times, sexuality. Also the implementation of the institutionalization of the movement, those are important things.

It’s important to study these movements to see where the new critical thought is coming from and to keep that as a way of deconstructing power.

In addition to that institutionalization comes pacification as well.

We need to look at the change in what’s happening on the ground and find ways to keep it alive on the ground. Not rely on federal money because along with these things come those parameters. With the non-profits come these ways of how you can and can’t spend money, and the efforts become institutionalized.

When that happens, it shuts down and doesn’t allow for new ways of exploring. Keeping it grassroots as much as possible is the way to instill the purest way of doing things.

We originally wanted to be a part of the system, and now we realize the system is corrupt in general. It doesn’t matter who you have in the White House, sometimes they just have to play by the rules. So for me, it’s more about what happens on the ground and with people who are there on a daily basis.

There’s less trust in the system now than ever before. The thought before was, “If we could just get in there we could change things,” and now we’re slowing finding that’s not the case. We need to stay close to the grassroots because many people are thinking upward mobility.

Q: I’ve heard that your music has brought about social change in your community. Can you give me an example?

A: In our music, we really try and instigate critical thought as they listen to our lyrics, and have discussions around it.

On an academic level, there is discussion on our music, lyrics and methods as a way of writing about it. Often they teach about our music.

But in terms of grassroots, we do a lot of community work around Fandango, which is a participatory dance and music practice that we’ve helped disseminate here in the U.S.

There are Fandango communities everywhere.

They aren’t performances but music and community dance practices. There’s a whole bunch of protocols, and they’re quite extensive.

This is work we’ve been doing for the past 12 years, and what’s come out of this is a lot of critical thought that extends into other communities. It’s a way of building community with others.

We’ve also done collective songwriting workshops where we engage communities around whatever issues, and we write songs together. But we do it in a way where there’s a real discussion, and we collectively write a song.

We’ve done this to discuss propositions all over, and that’s how we utilize our artist skills to instigate dialogue so we can do other things. We don’t predict what those other things will be, but ultimately it’s about promoting community and what’s important to them.

Q: What are you hoping community members will get out of your visits to some of the smaller towns in Arizona?

A: I feel like we’re going there to share what we do as artists.

There will be a lot of Phoenix-based artists on these trips, and when we leave, the goal is: If it makes sense, to keep it going, and it outlives my presence and stays relevant to their lives and the issues in their communities.

The issues in my community could be very different than the issues in the communities we’ll visit.

My goal is not to tell them what to do as much as to have a dialogue with them so they can figure it out for themselves, but in these very fun ways.

Through art, through music, through lyrics, these creative ways communities should engage in.

It’s also about tapping into the resources that are already there and having us look at our communities not from the deficits they have. It’s how we look at it and how we harness the energy that’s really important.

The arts are a way of talking about these issues and looking at the beauty that’s already there. Highlighting these things, building on that strength and extending into other things.

About Martha Gonzalez

Performances: Gonzalez has performed at the Kennedy Center for the Arts as well as the Smithsonian and worked with musical artists Jackson Browne, Los Lobos, Tom Waits, Susana Baca and many more.

Community work: Through her Mexican folk band, Quetzal, Gonzalez has engaged communities in critical thought through music. At the same time, she has increased access to health care and educational programs for underserved populations in the Los Angeles area.

Academic work: Gonzalez is an assistant professor in Chicano and Latino studies at Scripps College, a liberal arts school for women in Claremont, California.

Next event: ASU West Campus will host “An Evening with Martha Gonzalez” at 6 p.m. Oct. 20 in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. The event is free and open to the public, but space is limited. Go here to RSVP

Top photo: Singer and "artivist" Martha Gonzalez talks about community in her work during the opening event of "Performance in the Borderlands" on Sept. 13 at the Phoenix Center for the Arts. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU spots geniuses who later win MacArthur Fellowships

September 27, 2016

Arizona State University knows how to spot talent, as the latest round of “genius grants” helps prove.

Lauren Redniss and Josh Kun have each been selected as 2016 MacArthur Foundation fellows, an honor that comes with a $625,000 award that winners can spend however they like. woman working in studio Lauren Redniss at work in her studio. Photo courtesy MacArthur Foundation Download Full Image

But before they were honored by MacArthur, they were recognized by ASU as having unique and valuable visions of the Southwest.

Redniss, a National Book Award finalist, was selected over the summer as one of two inaugural New Arizona fellows. The New Arizona fellowship is a joint venture between the Center for the Future of Arizona, ASU and New America, a D.C. based think tank that partners with ASU on issues including defense and cybersecurity.

“Our Center for the Future of Arizona is pleased, but not surprised, that Lauren has been selected as a MacArthur Fellow,” said Lattie F. Coor, the group’s chairman and CEO and former president of ASU, in a statement. “We are well aware of her many talents in her role as an inaugural New America/New Arizona Fellow in residence at our center. 

Kun, a professor at the University of Southern California, has been involved in a partnership between Celebracion Artistica de las Americas Alliance and ASU Art Museum, helping launch a performance art and conversation series called Crossfade LAB, which highlights Latino and Latina artists from Arizona and the Americas.

“Kun unearths and brings to life forgotten historical narratives through finely grained analyses of material and sonic manifestations of popular culture,” the MacArthur Foundation said in a statement announcing the award.

Josh Kun MacArthur Grant Winner

Josh Kun talks to the crowd at an ASU-CALA Alliance Crossfade LAB event in April 2016.


The genius grants, the foundation says, are investments in the future of particularly creative and driven people.

Redniss’ book “Radioactive,” told the story of Marie and Pierre Curie, who shared a Nobel Prize in 1903 for work on radio activity. It was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her most recent work, “Thunder and Lightning,” focuses on how weather affects everything from small, daily decisions to global issues such as war and famine.  

Redniss integrates text, art and design into her work and the MacArthur Foundation said in a statement that her “unique approach to visual storytelling enriches the ways in which stories can be conveyed, experienced and understood.” 

She said her current project with the Center for the Future of Arizona will focus on environmental stewardship and the struggle of indigenous communities in the modern Southwest.

“I’m fortunate to be in such good company, and it’s inspiring to be around people doing such important work,” said Redniss of her Fellowship with New America and the Center on the Future of Arizona.

Meanwhile, Kun, a cultural historian, has explored how the arts and culture create opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue. Many of his books — topics including Jewish music and the culture of food and music in Los Angeles — have accompanying exhibitions. He has also done cultural studies on the U.S.- Mexico border.

“At a time when policed political borders remain a central force of our global climate, the need for artists who examine and transcend those borders is greater than ever before,” Kun said.

Casandra Hernandez Faham, the curator of CALA Initiatives, sees the value in this blended cultural expression and Kun’s vision for Crossfade LAB. Her next event with Kun as a moderator is scheduled for Oct. 3 at the Crescent Ballroom in downtown Phoenix.

“Josh," she said, "is a powerful example of a public intellectual who creates new imagination, connects people and ideas in transformative ways, and animates urgent questions in public space.”

This year’s 23 MacArthur Fellowships were announced Sept. 21.

‘Fall Forward!’ dance showcase kicks off ASU MainStage season

September 27, 2016

The ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre launches into its 2016-2017 MainStage season with the annual dance showcase “Fall Forward!” at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse Sept. 30 through Oct. 2. This year’s “Fall Forward!” features a wide breadth of artists and aesthetics, from musicians playing a structured improvisation to video installations to the featured dance pieces.

“The unique combination of live music, dance, design and media in this program should appeal to a broad audience,” said Mary Fitzgerald, assistant director of dance in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre. “The pieces feature some of our most gifted student performers, who share the stage with local professional artists. The audience will have a full experience of physically charged dance, music, film and visual design. There is something for everyone.” Fall Forward! dance showcase ‘Fall Forward!’ runs from Sept. 30 through Oct. 2 at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse. Photo by Tim Trumble, courtesy of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Download Full Image

The program includes works created by an impressive roster of local artists and ASU faculty. Using a range of dance and media platforms, these artists delve into complex ideas about time, space and our digital existence.

“Me, my quantified self, and I,” a piece choreographed by assistant professor Jessica Rajko, will be performed in three installments throughout the evening. The work explores how our lives are increasingly entangled in digital spaces, yet we struggle to find common understandings of what it means to live digital lives. Dancers are joined by textile artists to create a dynamic, evolving landscape that asks, “How do we perform data, and how does data perform us?” Pushing back against the clean, minimalistic cyborg aesthetics, “Me, my quantified self, and I” reimagines our digital world as the messy, cluttered, complicated ecosystem it is.

Fitzgerald will present a new work entitled “Spaces Between.” The work is an episodic meditation on freedom inspired by Buddhist thought and the writings of Viktor Frankl. Comprised of 11 one to two-minute dance shorts and an atmospheric score composed by Barry Moon and Doug Nottingham, the piece searches for the power and freedom that exists in the open spaces in our bodies, our minds, our relationships and in the physical environment.    

Another faculty member presenting work at “Fall Forward!” will be Melissa Britt, a professor of practice in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre. Britt choreographed the ensemble work “time IS.” The piece explores our relationship to time using a unique movement language that fuses urban forms with postmodern dance.

The program also includes group Thornapple’s “Distensions of Empire,” a piece choreographed by Melissa S. Rex called “now.” and faculty member and local artist Carley Conder performing a new solo piece created by internationally renowned choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen.

Merging together film and dance, Marcus White’s “subMERGE” will also be a part of the program. White, a new faculty member in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, created the dance film in collaboration with Ana Maria Alvarez. The film was commissioned by the Detroit Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts in Spring 2016 and was featured in the American Dance Festival's “Movies by Movers” program this summer.

The first two nights of the show’s run will also feature a lobby installation created by Eileen Standley. The installation is a triptych of video selfies that help articulate and challenge ideas about appropriation, beauty and temporal anxiety and reference Aristotle’s Poetics, Pamela Lee’s Chronophobia and cultural privilege. What roughly ties the three videos together is an interest in the degraded image and disintegration, which belongs to larger themes of ephemerality and our mortality.

“Fall Forward!” will take place at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse, 51 E. 10th St. on ASU’s Tempe campus. The show will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30 and Saturday, Oct. 1 and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2.

Tickets are $16, general; $12, ASU faculty, staff and alumni; $12, senior; $8, student. Purchase tickets online or call the Herberger Institute Box Office at 480-965-6447.

Sarah A. McCarty

Communications and marketing coordinator, School and Film, Dance and Theatre, Herberger Institute


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'Voices of Power' examines role of women of color in arts and social justice.
Poetry, spoken-word piece, mirror installation will be featured at 'Oasis.'
September 22, 2016

ASU's 'Project Borderlands' will present vocal performances, installation in little-known Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area

A group of artists will perform and display their work on top of a former landfill this weekend to encourage dialogue on issues such as displacement, immigration and desert water use.

Phoenix’s Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, a little-known and barely used riparian corridor, will be transformed into a pop-up art installation as part of ASU’s ongoing “Performance in the Borderlands” series.

National artist Ana Teresa Fernandez will unveil her site-specific installation, “Oasis,” on Sept. 24-25 at the habitat, Seventh Avenue and Lower Buckeye in south Phoenix. The free event is open to the public and runs from 5 to 7 p.m. each day.

An initiative of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ School of Film, Dance and Theatre, “Performance in the Borderlands” is an annual art series of plays, installations, workshops and lectures that brings together a collection of local and national artists to focus their talents on borderland issues.

This year’s theme, “Voices of Power,” examines the role of women of color in the arts and social justice. The series kicked off Sept. 13 with a panel of prominent artists discussing their work’s potential to drive social and political change. ASU Now will follow the initiative to document the ways it engages the people and the region. 

“Oasis,” which will also feature original work from local artists Raji Ganesan, Rashaad Thomas, Leah Marche, Liliana Gomez and Eunique Yazzie, hopes to continue the community dialogue.

“The Rio Salado is a place of great complexity, tragedy and hope,” said Mary Stephens, producing director for “Performance in the Borderlands.”

Rio Salado Preserve

Phoenix’s Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area was once part of a dump site. This weekend it will be transformed into a pop-up art installation as part of ASU’s ongoing “Performance in the Borderlands” series. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now


“The river represents the potential for life in the desert, but also holds painful histories of ongoing displacements and environmental degradation. These converging histories and themes continue to play out again and again across the United States.”

Once a dried-up riverbed full of trash that was part of a dump site, the Rio Salado Habitat is now home to more than 200 species of birds and 5 miles of paved and dirt trails dotted with ponds, gardens, bridges, desert grasslands and picnic areas.

Fernandez said she purposely chose the site because of its history and location. She said it was first used by Hohokam Indians as a water resource until it was colonized. In the early 20th century, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation constructed several dams along the Salt and Verde rivers to regulate the river’s flow and created a series of lakes that would provide a reliable year-round water supply for the Valley.

At the turn of the century, demand for water had reduced the Salt River to a barren riverbed, and the area became a dumping ground and homeless camp. In 2001, Phoenix residents approved a $16 million bond issue to fund the cleanup of the riverbed and the habitat restoration. The habitat opened in November 2005, but it’s still a secret to many Phoenix residents.

“This is a place that has value and should be appreciated more, but it’s not because it’s literally on the wrong side of the tracks and has a bad reputation,” Fernandez said.

Her installation of 900 disc-shaped mirrors against a large wall is intended to showcase the 5-mile habitat as an oasis in the desert.

Navajo Nation artist Eunique Yazzie wrote an original poem titled “Time Immoral,” which touches on the history of the site, the duality of living in two worlds and living in a consumer nation.

two people walking in preserve

Performers Leah Marche (right) and Eunique Yazzie survey the Rio Salado Preserve on Sept. 22. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now


“I see this cycle of how people keep their valuables in boxes tucked inside their garage and eventually when they decide to throw it out, it ends up in a landfill,” Yazzie said. “I hope it sparks a conversation about awareness and protection, and why we need to take a stand as a community.”

Poet Leah Marche will perform an untitled spoken-word piece about growing up in south Phoenix. She said the area has suffered from a negative stigma for years but is now experiencing gentrification. 

“We’ve had people knock on our doors asking if we wanted to sell our house,” Marche said. “They don’t understand that is the place where I grew up and lived on the same street as my grandparents. The same place where I received a great education. For me, it’s always been a valuable part of town.”


Top photo: Performers Leah Marche (left) and Eunique Yazzie are reflected in the "Oasis" installation in the Rio Salado Preserve in Phoenix on Sept. 22. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


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1,000 cranes symbolize life, hope — and scope of ASU art program

ASU MFA student's crane sculptures take flight; see them in downtown Tempe.
September 14, 2016

Sculptor John Tuomisto-Bell returns to school for MFA, says Herberger Institute has taught him to think globally

Exactly 1,000 bronzed, origami cranes appear to float in a main corridor of a sprawling, $900 million Tempe office complex, just up the road from where the installation’s creator says he learned to apply a worldwide perspective to his art.  

John Tuomisto-Bell says his latest project symbolizes the fragility of life combined with his permanent wishes for peace, hope and compassion — and that it wouldn’t have come together without Arizona State University.

“Before, I used to think small potatoes and was fairly narrow-minded, but now I am thinking globally and on a much larger scale,” said Tuomisto-Bell, a third-year master of fine arts sculpting student in ASU’s School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

The installation gracing a large building on insurance giant State Farm’s regional campus headquarters comes after the 53-year-old Tuomisto-Bell returned to the classroom after years of professional success — joining countless others in making such a move through ASU.

“In many cases, artists come back to get their master’s because they want a shift in their career, want to explore new technologies,” School of Art director Adriene Jenik said. “Others miss being challenged and getting critical feedback.”

Herberger’s Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program graduates 65 to 75 students a year and accepts two to three sculpting students in each class, she said. 

Veteran sculpting instructor James White, who taught Tuomisto-Bell as an undergraduate 25 years ago, said getting an MFA is a good business move.

“In the art world, there are doors closed that you don’t even know are closed because someone has a master’s degree and the other person does not,” White said. “There is no higher degree for a practicing studio artist than an MFA —  and no greater prestige.”

Jenik said there have been several influential recent graduates, including interdisciplinary artist Kade Twist.

Twist creates interactive media installations with video, sound and text. His work has been exhibited in the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the Chelsea Art Museum in New York City and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.

“Once our students leave here, they’re getting teaching jobs, winning major awards, having exhibits, are shown in major museums, and those are all markers that ASU is having an impact on the world,” Jenik said. 

ASU’s sculpting program has built-in incentives, including a nationally recognized foundry, White said. Tuition can be offset by grants, scholarships and teaching stipends, and students often leave the program with little or no debt, he said. MFA students also receive studio space at Grant Street Studios in Phoenix’s warehouse district, giving their work better visibility and an opportunity to create in an environment with other artists.  

When Tuomisto-Bell received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1991, he envisioned himself as a “player in the New York scene, but that success never materialized.”

He did, however, find a place in the Arizona workforce, casting large and small bronze pieces for commercial clients with local foundries. He opened his own shop in 2001 with his wife, Julie, and brother Christian Bell. He said the Tuomisto-Bell Studio Foundry has provided steady income for years, enabling him buy a house and raise a family.

He also developed into an award-wining artist, with works on display across the U.S. and major collections in the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, the Mesa Arts Center and the Shemer Art Center in Phoenix.

"We're thrilled that John decided to pursue graduate work at ASU," Herberger Institute Dean Steven J. Tepper said. "As an established professional artist, he brings a lot to the program, and it's gratifying to watch his progress as an artist in his time here. Most careers these days morph and change and take unexpected directions; John is one of several students, undergraduate and graduate, who have decided to return to a university, and to the Herberger Institute in particular, to forge new pathways. "

Tuomisto said the master’s program has sharpened his skills while expanding his scope.

Last year, he took the 1,000 Cranes project to an elementary school in Hiroshima, Japan, in memory of a young girl who became sick and died after the infamous atomic bomb blast at the end of World War II. She was said to have continuously folded origami cranes, praying that if she made 1,000 her health would improve.

“Some people have told me that you can’t do anything about the violence of mankind, that war has always been a part of our existence and will always be,” Tuomisto-Bell said. “I do not think this is true. I just look at how Hiroshima has transformed from the ashes of war into a beautiful city full of wonderful, loving people, and my hope in mankind is restored.”

Tuomisto-Bell brought back the concept to Tempe in the hopes that “peace can be heard from this generation and future generations.”

See the installation

Address: 450 E. Rio Salado Parkway, Tempe, 85281

Viewers can see 1,000 Cranes from the public sidewalk behind Building 3 on the State Farm at Marina Heights campus. 

Other influential sculptors

• 2015 MFA sculpture grad Cecily Culver won the 2015 Dedalus Foundation Fellowship in Painting and Sculpture, which included a $20,000 grant and a studio to showcase her work in New York.

• 2014 MFA sculpting student Bobby Zokaites has produced artwork for public spaces in Minnesota, New Jersey, Missouri and Arizona.

• Incoming MFA sculpting student Cydnei Mallory is a 2016-17 Autodesk Scholarship winner. It will enable her to travel to Italy to learn the craft of carving stone and marble. Her works have been exhibited in several galleries in Pennsylvania and Arizona.  

Reporter , ASU Now


Calling all nature lovers: ASU student design contest offers scholarship prizes

September 13, 2016

Arizona State University is hosting a design contest for students that will offer more than $4,000 in scholarships for the winners, but access to a Latin dictionary might give entrants a leg up on the competition.

The office of University Sustainability Practices is accepting design proposals for its Biophilia Contest for the Tempe campus Memorial Union and the Sun Devil Fitness Centers across all campuses. nature decoration in office Biophilic design, which aims to incorporate nature into a built environment, has been shown to increase productivity and reduce stress in various studies. Photo courtesy Sonja Bochart Download Full Image

Biophilic design, which aims to incorporate nature into a built environment, has been shown to increase productivity and reduce stress in various studies. The concept is all inclusive, as just adding a plant or an aquarium to a small room can enhance mood and creativity. 

“This is an emerging design field, and the [Memorial Union] and the fitness centers are leaders in a lot of ways, they innovate in a lot of ways, so I think our students are the perfect group to work on it,” said Lesley Forst, program coordinator for the office of University Sustainability Practices.

Biophilia, or “love for humanity and nature,” is a concept first theorized by German psychoanalyst and philosopher Erich Fromm and expanded on in the 1984 book “The Biophilia Hypothesis,” edited by Stephen Kellert and Edward Wilson. The book theorizes that humans have an evolutionary preference to preserve and appreciate nature, exemplified by our general attraction to the facial features of baby mammals and other species, as well as a continued history of care for flora and fauna across the world.

The practice differs from biomimicry, which attempts to emulate and mirror nature in design, but shares some of the same core principles in appreciation of nature and life as a whole.

Design teams made up of current ASU students have until Dec. 1 to submit their proposals to an 11-judge panel of green building design professionals and ASU building and activities administrators. 

Semifinalist proposals will be open for online voting by the entire student body. The first-place team will receive a $3,000 scholarship, with second and third place earning $1,000 and $500, respectively.

The winning proposal has the potential to be installed on campus, and with renovations to the fitness centers and the Memorial Union on the horizon, Forst and the judging panel are hoping to see design teams from different program specialties working together to come up with unique and creative proposals. 

However, the contest is not restricted to the Memorial Union and fitness centers, and design teams are allowed to submit proposals for any building across the ASU campuses.

“I think it’s the first time in design history that [biophilic design’s] had such a broad offering,” said judging panel member Sonja Bochart, a Tempe-based interior designer and Herberger Institute adjunct faculty member. “I am very drawn to the interdisciplinary perspective for biophilic design — you can bring together so many different disciplines and people with different backgrounds in creating solutions for both the human experience in the built environment and also ecological considerations.”

Visit for a complete list of rules and applications.

Reporter, ASU Now