September 22, 2014

Contact: Steve Wilcox

 Arts Commission Announces Recent Staff Departures and New Hires

PHOENIX (September 22, 2014). The Arizona Commission on the Arts today announced the addition of two new staff members to fill vacancies left by recent departures.

Ben Watters was hired as Grants and Operations Coordinator. In December 2014, Ben is expected to graduate with a BA in the Arts with a focus in social research from Arizona State University. Watters is the co-founder of a Los Angeles studio for which he and other composers produced music for television and media, and where he cultivated an interest in technologies which enhance the creative process. His own creative practice in music composition has provided him with opportunities to perform in locations across the globe. Watters maintains a voracious appetite for social research related to arts participation, and is currently focusing on evaluating the impact of public investments in arts-based initiatives.

Casandra Hernandez was hired as Artist Programs and Career Services Coordinator (Artist Programs Coordinator). Hernandez is a native of Hermosillo, Sonora who has spent her life on both sides of the Sonora-Arizona border. Her interests and work are grounded in the cultural histories and artistic practices of the Sonoran Desert region. Hernandez has worked as an arts producer, educator and artist and has curated performance events, festivals, symposia, educational programs and museum exhibitions. A passionate advocate for Latino and indigenous arts and culture, she is a recipient of the 2014 40 Hispanic Leaders Under 40 Award, and a fellow of the National Association of Latino Arts and Cultures’ Leadership Institute. Hernandez recently worked as Interpretation and Programs Coordinator at ASU Deer Valley Rock Art Center and holds an MA in anthropology from Arizona State University.

“I am pleased to announce two new additions to the Arts Commission team,” said Robert Booker, Executive Director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts. “Ben and Casandra come to us with a wealth of experiences grounded in the arts and years of service in the nonprofit industry. I am certain they will make a significant contribution of their time, talents and skills in service to Arizona’s arts sector.”

These new hires fill vacancies created by the recent departures of former Grants and Operations Coordinator Michael Soto and former Artist Services Coordinator Jessica Rajko.

Michael Soto served in the position of Grants and Operations Coordinator at the Arts Commission for two years. Soto is credited with introducing a number of new information technology efficiencies into the Arts Commission’s daily operations, facilitating comprehensive upgrades to the agency’s grant management systems, and strengthening the agency’s diversity training programs. Soto recently accepted a position in the communications department at Miller Russell Associates in Phoenix.

Jessica Rajko joined the Arts Commission as Artist Services Coordinator in the summer of 2012. During her time with the Arts Commission, Rajko tirelessly advocated for the creative contributions of Arizona artists, worked to restore and expand artist funding opportunities, and deployed productive professional development programs in service to both professional and amateur artists statewide. Rajko recently accepted a tenure-track position as an Assistant Professor of Dance at Arizona State University.

About the Arizona Commission on the Arts

One of 56 state and jurisdictional arts agencies across the United States, the Arizona Commission on the Arts is an agency of the State of Arizona that supports a statewide arts network. The Arizona Commission on the Arts supports access to quality arts and arts education opportunities for all Arizona citizens; the development and retention of statewide jobs in the nonprofit arts, culture and education sectors; and increased economic impact in local communities through arts-based partnerships that develop tax and small business revenue.

For more information about the grants, services and programs of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, visit

We imagine an Arizona where everyone can participate in and experience the arts.

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To request this or any other agency publication in an alternative format, contact the Arts Commission offices at (602) 771-6502.