The AZ Creative Communities Institute (AZ CCI) offered small teams, made up of diverse members of your community, a unique opportunity to explore the many ways creativity can be put to work for positive community impact. AZ CCI teams were members of an active learning network, with opportunities to learn from and with local and national experts, as well as peers from other Arizona cities/towns and neighborhoods.

In the spring of 2017, the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts (ASU HIDA), with guidance from Southwest Folklife Alliance, issued a call for small teams representing Arizona cities, towns, and neighborhoods to participate in the inaugural AZ Creative Communities Institute. 22 teams applied; nine were selected.

These nine teams, each composed of diverse members of the represented  community received intensive training, one-on-one mentorship, and funding supports as they explored the myriad ways creativity can be put to work for positive community impact.

Diverse teams representing Arizona cities/towns or neighborhoods, were invited to apply. Nine were selected to participate.

AZCCI: Team Yuma

Our project will culminate with 3 "paint by number" murals placed in strategic areas of Yuma County including south county, the foothills and Yuma central. The murals will be created at unique events set up at each site and members of the greater Yuma community will receive "golden ticket" invitations (art summons) to attend the event an paint a portion of the mural.

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AZCCI: Team Tempe

Tempe Playlist: Saturn Sessions is a locally-inspired audio project that will capture and celebrate the talents of local creatives (musicians, poets, spoken word artists, emcees, singers and storytellers) who live, work and/or study within the 85283 and 85284 zip codes. The objective of this project is to highlight the diverse sounds of these artists and connect them to a broader audience.

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AZCCI: Team South Phoenix

Team South Phoenix's project will be an effort to strengthen our community by connecting local Artists with local organization and the demographics they serve in a joint effort to beautify their respective spaces. While doing so providing interested artists an introductory to working with grants and raising awareness to resources said organizations offer. Ten artists will be selected and paired with one of two locations based on their preference.

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AZCCI: Team Globe

Story Collection Project: Globe-Miami is full of interesting stories and exciting people. To help bridge social, racial and generational divides that keep our area from achieving its potential, the Globe Team has decided to launch a video story collection project. The story collection will begin with the painted rocks grassroots project “Globe Rocks” which involves painting and hiding rocks locally. Painted rock story jams will serve as prompts for story collection.

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AZCCI: Team Flagstaff

A Flagstaff Team made up of employees from Coconino County Victim Witness,Coconino County Adult Probation, and Creative Spirits Art Studio is bringing the community beautiful art. Our team desires to obtain a greater understanding of what constitutes a healthy relationship and express that via art with community input.

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AZCCI: Team Eastlake

Sustainable brand creation in and of the historically rich Eastlake area by utilizing various art forms (walking/biking tour, community engagement jazz series, asset mapping and interactive website) to attract residents, Eastlake visitors and new audiences into the Eastlake areas to experience its cultural and historical assets, elevate positive perceptions and contribute to an inclusive and reimagined Eastlake.

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Casa Grande

A community engagement process culminating in a festival of creative experiences located in Historic Downtown's Arts and Culture District. The festival experience will reflect the vision of the Creative Communities Team, artists and residents who participate in this process.

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Ricky Araiza is an Arizona based theatre artist and movement specialist. A graduate from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in theatre in 2004 and an MFA in theatre for youth and communities in 2017, Ricky went on to become an ensemble member of Childsplay Inc., in Tempe, Arizona, from 2004 to today. In 2009 he decided to challenge himself, and enrolled in a year-long study of Physical Ensemble Based Theatre at Dell’Arte International in Blue Lake, California. In 2010, Araiza returned to Phoenix and continued to work as an actor, director and teaching artist throughout the Valley. Araiza has devoted much of his artistic time to working in his native Arizona, including serving as artistic director of Teatro Bravo, a Latino theater company in South Phoenix. He has been the coordinator for the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts for work with the AZ Creative Communities Institute, a program that explores how creativity can make a positive impact on communities.

Erik Cole is the director of the Design Studio for Community Solutions at Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, where he partners with community organizers and grassroots organizations to bring resources, tools and research of ASU into the community based on the community led priorities. Cole is the former chief resilience officer of the City of Nashville/Davidson County (Tennessee) and the inaugural director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Empowerment and Inclusion. Cole was elected as city councilor for two terms between 2003-2011 where he served as both vice mayor pro tem and budget chair. He has held a variety of positions in public policy and advocacy and is a recognized expert in strategic planning, coalition building, program management and public policy with pragmatic expertise in community development; housing; financial inclusion; health care; public budgets; homelessness and poverty; local and state government; designing and improving anti-poverty programs.

Danielle Foushée is an artist/designer and assistant professor of visual communication design at Arizona State University. She received her first MFA in design at Cranbrook Academy of Art, and recently completed an MFA in visual studies at Pacific Northwest College of Art. Foushée’s current work involves public art, placemaking and biophilia. Public projects include commissions from Storefronts Seattle at Amazon HQ, Seattle City Parks, and the City of Bellevue, Washington. Foushée recently undertook a 12,000-mile road trip to survey and experience firsthand public/outdoor art throughout the western United States. Visit her field notes at
After moving to Arizona in 2016, she was appointed to the Phoenix Arts & Culture Commission, advising on public art projects, developing programming, building partnerships and advocating for community participation in the arts. Previously she was a member of the Snohomish County Arts Commission in Washington State. Design clients have included MOCA L.A., The Boston Conservatory, Chronicle Books, The U.S. Forest Service, University of Colorado Extension, GameWorks, FIDM and Myriad Pictures. Her work has been recognized by How magazine, Communication Arts, American Center for Design, University & College Designers Association, Graphic Design USA and Graphis, among others. Her students have been honored by Graphis, Creative Action Network and Type Directors’ Club.

Yvonne Montoya is a mother, dancemaker and consultant and founding director of Safos Dance Theatre based in Tucson, Arizona. Originally from Alburquerque, New Mexico, Montoya is a process-based dance maker who creates low tech site specific and site adaptive pieces for non-traditional dance spaces. Her work is grounded in and inspired by the landscapes, languages, cultures and aesthetics of the U.S. Southwest. She is currently working on two solo projects: “Motherhood and the Performing Arts,” a multidisciplinary project that explores the challenges and joys of juggling of motherhood with a career in the performing arts, and “Stories from Home,” a series of movement vignettes based on her family’s oral histories. Montoya’s choreography has been staged throughout the Southwest and her dance films have been screened in Arizona, North Carolina, and at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. Montoya was a 2017-18 Post-Graduate Fellow in Dance at ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts in the Projecting All Voices Initiative, where she organized the inaugural Dance in the Desert: A Gathering of Latinx Dancemakers. In 2019 she and colleagues organized and presented Dance in the Desert 2019.

Thameenah “Ty” Muhammad is an Apprentice Artist at Rising Youth Theatre, a Teaching Artist at Create Academy and Glenview College Prep High School, and a co-founder of RE:FRAME Youth Arts Center.

Milta Ortiz is a Bay Area playwright currently residing in Tucson, with an MFA from Northwestern University’s Writing for the Screen and Stage program and a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from San Francisco State University.

Her play “Judge Torres” had its world premiere at Milagro Theater Group in January 2019 and continued on to a national tour. She received NEA and NALAC grants to develop/produce her play “Sanctuary,” which premiered at Borderlands Theater in September 2018. She devised/wrote/directed “Solving for X for the Working Classroom” (2016-17). Her play “Más” was produced at Su Teatro (March 2017) and co-produced by Laney College (March 2016) and Ubuntu Theater Project (May 2016). “Más” premiered at Borderlands Theater in September 2015, thanks to NEA and NALAC grants, was nominated for a Steinberg-ATCA Award, toured Arizona universities in 2016/17 and was produced at San Diego State University in November 2018. Other produced plays include the 21st, 20th, 19th and 18th Annual “A Tucson Pastorela,” “Sonoran Shadows,” “Disengaged,” “Fleeing Blue” and solo play “Scatter My Red Underwear.” Ortiz teaches theater at Pima Community College. Currently she is working with StoryWorks and the Arizona Daily Star on “Cycles,” a play about two friends in the Arizona foster care system. She is associate artistic director at Borderlands Theater, where she was a National New Play Network playwright in residence in 2013, and mom to a creative kindergartener.

Marc David Pinate is a theatre artist, musician and educator. His acting career includes work with Teatro Visión, Shadowlight Productions, Su Teatro, Campo Santo and the Magic Theatre, where he played the role of Tiresias in the world premiere of Luis Alfaro’s award winning play “Oedipus El Rey.” As a director he has worked with El Teatro Campesino and Stanford University in California; Steppenwolf and American Theatre Company in Chicago; and Arizona Theatre Company, to name a few. His directorial aesthetic merges performance and the sacred to create liminal spaces where experiments with form and physicality engender affective moments of beauty and healing. Pinate was the recipient of a three-year directing residency funded by the Doris Duke Foundation at La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley, California. During his residency he founded the Hybrid Performance Experiment (The HyPE), known for their guerrilla theatre performances on Bay Area Rapid Transit trains and mall food courts. Pinate was a member of the spoken word troupe Chicano Messengers of Spoken Word, for which received a National Performance Network commission in 2004 to co-author “Fear of a Brown Planet.” He is a National Slam Poetry Champion and fronted the band Grito Serpentino, a spoken word and music ensemble that toured throughout the country and produced two albums. Pinate was a program director at Movimiento de Arte y Cultura Latino Americana, a Latino arts center in San Jose, California, and at the historic Galería de la Raza, in San Francisco. He’s taught acting at San Jose State University’s department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre. In June 2013, he completed an MFA in directing from The Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, where he directed Terell Alvin McCraney’s “In The Red and Brown Water” as his thesis project.

Quinn Purcell is an Apprentice Artist at Rising Youth Theatre.

Michael Rohd is the founding artistic director of 17-year-old ensemble-based Sojourn Theatre. He is author of the widely translated book Theatre for Community, Conflict, and Dialogue. He leads the Center for Performance and Civic Practice, where current projects include The Catalyst Initiative, a national program supported by The Andrew Mellon Foundation, and Local Landscapes, through which he is currently collaborating with arts councils at the state and local level around the U.S. In 2015, he received an Otto Rene Castillo award for Political Theater and The Robert Gard Foundation Award for Excellence. Recent/current projects include leading a two-year Sojourn Artist-in-Residence collaboration with Catholic Charities USA poverty reduction sites around the U.S; a Sojourn partnership with planning commissions around the country utilizing civic practice in public engagement settings to help communities deal with difficult conversations and resource allotment; and collaborating with theaters and universities around the country to mount locally specific projects.

Xanthia Walker is a director and facilitator. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in theatre for youth from Arizona State University. Walker is co-founding artistic director of Rising Youth Theatre (RYT), which creates youth-driven original works through partnerships between young people, professional artists and communities. RYT received the 2014 Outstanding New Children’s Theatre Company Award from the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, and the 2012 inaugural Phoenix Mayor’s Arts Award in Theatre. Recent projects include directing the world premiere of “Haboob,” by Marvin Gonzalez de León, on the Arizona State University Mainstage (2017); co-curating The Soul Justice Project at the Mesa Arts Center (2015, 2017); and co-curating the Light Rail Plays, a site-specific performance on Phoenix’s public transit system (2014-2017). Walker is the winner of the 2015 Phoenix New Times Big Brain Award in Performing Art and was the 2009 Winifred Ward Scholar.

AZ Creative Communities Institute is a program of the Arizona Commission on the Arts and ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, with guidance from Southwest Folklife Alliance

AZ Creative Communities is funded in part by a grant from the Surdna Foundation, awarded to the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University as part of its Thriving Cultures grant program.

Additional support for AZ Creative Communities Institute learning sessions provided by Arizona Community Foundation


The National Endowment for the Arts announced Literature Fellowship grant recipients for creative writing and literary translation. Among the list of FY 2020 Creative Writing Fellowships in prose are two Tempe writers Tara Ison and Sarah Viren. Congratulations! ... See MoreSee Less

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