Last month we sent the call out for Arizona residents to share their personal favorite or most memorable AZ Arts experiences of 2017. Here are some of the highlights:

Anonymous, Phoenix

What was your best AZ Arts experience of 2017?

I attended “Invisible Mexico” on the opening night with host Mayor Staton. I was blown away by the exhibit and how proud it made me feel. I was so blown away I brought my sister and dad to see a few days later. By the way my father is from the area the photos come from and when we got there Hakeem Khaaliq and his wife Queen Muhammad Ali and all of us had the most amazing conversations. Hakeem and Queen even asked us to be models and he took our photos. It brought tears to my father’s eyes and mine.


Editors note: “Invisible Mexico” was funded in part by an Artist Research & Development Grant awarded to Hakeem Khaaliq (primary applicant with Queen Muhammad Ali as creative collaborator). Learn more about the artists and their project at

Jared Yazzie, Chandler

What was your best AZ Arts experience of 2017?

I am a local fashion designer and graphic artist for my clothing label OXDX, originally from Northern AZ but now find my home in Chandler. Part of what is great about my line of work is collaborating with unique and beautiful people. This past November our small Diné (Navajo) media team created photos with the cast of “The River Bride”, an all Latino cast with an award winning Latina writer. This proved to be a beautiful brown moment with both our creative energies fusing to create in solidarity of each others work. I attached a few photos, they always make me smile. Our team was able to watch “The River Bride”, a production of the Arizona Theatre Company, and we all cried. It was amazing :)

This photo features 3 actors from the cast of The River Bride, (right to left) Sarita Ocón – as Helena, Hugo Carbajal – as Moises, and Leandro Cano – as Sr. Costa. The mural behind them was in advertisement of The River Bride and was on Roosevelt Street. Our photographer is Hannah Manuelito.

Chuck Hulihan, Phoenix, AZ

What was your best AZ Arts experience of 2017?

My (our) favorite arts experience of 2017 was a joint collaboration across the state and beyond between Glendale Community College, Arizona State University, The Phoenix Chamber Music Society, Tucson Guitar Society, The Grand Canyon Guitar Society, the GRAMMY award winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, and composer Andrew York (also a GRAMMY award winning prior member of the LAGQ). Andrew York composed “By Chants”, a large scale work for guitar quartet and guitar orchestra based on a Havasupai chant that was the basis for a three concert tour with our Arizona Guitar Orchestra (a combined group from all of the mentioned collaborators) the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, and conductor Chuck Hulihan. This project brought together high school, college, and adult performers in concert with some of the top classical guitarists in the world, and was presented in Flagstaff, Tucson, and Phoenix. Mention was made in many national and international media outlets, including a feature article in Acoustic Guitar Magazine, which stated that Arizona was “the unlikely epicenter of the guitar orchestra craze”. Photos and video link provided.

Rachel Mari Kimber, Tempe

What was your best AZ Arts experience of 2017?

Dark Sky Aerial’s performance of TILT in Flagstaff, AZ on August 19th 2017

The most thought provoking and incredible collaboration of talented artists I have ever seen. Full of true grit, connected heart and soul. Both existential and hugely entertaining. I don’t say this lightly, I have been to many performances, including Cirque du soleil in Vegas, Moulin Rouge in Paris. This performance of TILT took creative concept to a completely new level. I was blown away!

Very excited to watch the next unfolding.

Anonymous, Staunton, VA

What was your best AZ Arts experience of 2017?

The Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival puts on amazing programming summer to summer.  I had the privilege of taking in their productions of The Merry Wives of Windsor and Macbeth this summer at the end of July 2017 at the Museum of Northern Arizona.

Todd Barnell, Flagstaff

What was your best AZ Arts experience of 2017?

I attended all three of the performances by the Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival, and I must say it is difficult to pick just one! But I guess I would chose “All’s Well That Ends Well”. Partly this is due to the fact that this play is not performed all that often – and that shows just how talented, and even brave, FlagShakes is! Sure, they will put on the favorites, but they also stretch out and provide our community with the chance to see (and think about) plays they might otherwise not. But I also picked this one because the performance was just spectacular! The setting, the music, the acting – all were just top-notch. I walked away truly inspired, and judging from the looks on other people’s faces I was not alone.

I also want to say that given the year we’ve just experienced, it was also inspiring that FlagShakes chose “Strong Women” as their theme this year. And that is one of the many things I love about them. They connect these wonderful plays to our community – here and now. They vibrate with relevance.

We are so fortunate in Flagstaff to have such a vibrant arts and science community, that provide so many opportunities for learning and enrichment. But no other entity illustrates for me the way our diverse and talented community can come together to produce great art like the Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival. And given all that has happened in 2017, the Bard’s words seem to resonate more than ever – they truly are a balm to my soul. I cannot get over what a small, dedicated, group has achieved right here in Flagstaff – nothing less than some of the most spectacular Shakespeare performances I’ve ever seen. Our home-grown Flagstaff Shakespeare Festival is – in my opinion – THE jewel in our fair city’s crown.

Libby Rooney, Globe

What was your best AZ Arts experience of 2017?

My favorite arts experience in 2017 was the youth theater production of Into the Woods at the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts in Globe Arizona, in September. The Summer Youth Musical Theater Program (SYMTP) has been putting on a show every year since 1989. Being a small, rural community, its surprising the level of talent both musical and theatrical, and the high number of young actors who take part. This year the program is expanding into the elementary schools to try and give more children the opportunity to experience and participate in theater.

Photo: Moon Thomas in Into the Woods.


CJ Walker, Phoenix, AZ

What was your best AZ Arts experience of 2017?

Scottsboro Boys at Phoenix Theatre

Joy Mosley, Cottonwood

What was your best AZ Arts experience of 2017?

Attending a FlagShakes performance of All’s Well That Ends Well outside at the Arboretum in Flagstaff this past September was a great experience. It was produced by Dawn Tucker who also acted in the performance. Noah Brown was outstanding as jester, so in character.

Isabelle Dove-Robinson and Emily Denison, Flagstaff

What was your best AZ Arts experience of 2017?

Viola Award-winning Dark Sky Aerial creates an ambulatory, aerial theatre experience weaving an intertwined story through hotel rooms, rooftops, and the exterior walls of downtown buildings.

In 2016, Dark Sky Aerial created OPIA;  an unforgettable, breath-taking and emotionally-charged production. OPIA received the Viola Award for Excellence in the Performing Arts.

Now, Dark Sky Aerial has set their sights even higher for their 2017 production: TILT.  In the ambitious and powerful ambulatory, theatre experience, aerial dancers will soar off the walls of  downtown buildings, be hoisted-on-high by a construction crane, and weave a tale of truth and perception through the hallways and hotel rooms of The Historic Hotel Monte Vista.

Here is the trailer for TILT!

Kimberly Samuels-Crow, Flagstaff, AZ

What was your best AZ Arts experience of 2017?

Dark Sky Aerial (based on Flagstaff, AZ) put on a stunning performance this summer called “Tilt.” Tilt was unlike anything I had ever seen. The performers guided the audience through a number of scenes that explored themes of identity and personal growth and included breathtaking displays of aerial acrobatics (harness dance, aerial silks, stilt dancers, and a finale that included aerialists on a crane), theatrical monologue, pyrotechnics, and dance. The audience moved through different “stages” during the performance, transforming iconic places in downtown Flagstaff (Sunwest building,  Monte Vista hotel, the alley east of the hotel, hotel rooms, hotel roof) into magical sets for the performance. Some of these stages were visible to people just walking down the street at the right time, inviting the general public to experience the magic. I was blown away by this amazing performance.

Anonymous, Mesa

What was your best AZ Arts experience of 2017?

Scottsboro Boys at Phoenix Theatre. Talk about a gut punch.

Clottee Hammons, Phoenix

What was your best AZ Arts experience of 2017?

Vocalist and guitar player Scotty Spenner performed an inspired and entertaining evening of acoustic music at The Trunk Space on September 29th, 2017. The venue is very intimate and complimented the solo performance of material that ranged from soulful blues to intricate ragtime and original music.

Highlights of the program (not necessarily in order of performance):

  • Original Scotty Spenner compositions:
  • Big Snow Blues
  • Medley: Deja Vu Rag / Slippery Ice Rag
  • I’ve Been On The Road So Long
  • Part Time Fool
  • Walker
  • Insincero
  • Too Cloudy To Swim
  • Hypnagog March
  • Vesperal  Domain
  • If Walls Could Talk (Bobby Miller, 1969)
  • Going Down (Don Nix, 1972)
  • Hilarity Rag (James Scott, 1910)
  • Diddy Wa Diddy (Blind Blake, 1929)
  • Vanessa (Paul Rishell, 1999)
  • Tears/Nuages  (Django Reinhardt, 1937)
  • Trouble In Mind (Richard M. Jones, 1926)
  • Walking My Troubles Away (Blind Boy Fuller, 1935)
  • Flowers of Edinburgh (Irish Traditional, circa 1740)
  • Blue Monk (Thelonious Monk, 1954)

“I could easily do two hours of Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Elmore James songs … and not do anything on this list.”  Scotty

Photo by Jack Evans

Banner photo: Dark Sky Arial. Photo by Rick Meinecke

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