Photo projections on a historic building in Barrio Anita.

New podcast series showcases creativity at work in Arizona

What happens when artists are invited to contribute to community improvement efforts? This question is at the heart of a new podcast series called AZ Creative Voices.

The series is a chronicle of work supported by the Arizona Creative Communities Institute (AZ CCI). In the spring of 2017, the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts — with guidance from Southwest Folklife Alliance and support from the Surdna Foundation and the Arizona Community Foundation — issued a call for small teams representing Arizona cities, towns and neighborhoods to participate in the inaugural Arizona Creative Communities Institute.

Twenty-two teams applied; nine were selected, from Barrio Anita in Tucson, Casa Grande, Douglas, Eastlake, Flagstaff, Globe, Phoenix, Tempe and Yuma. The teams, each composed of diverse members of the represented community, received intensive training, one-on-one mentorship and funding support as they explored the myriad ways creativity can be put to work for positive community impact. Team members were part of an active learning network, with opportunities to learn from and with local and national experts, as well as peers from other Arizona cities and neighborhoods.

Podcast producer Regina Revazova introduces listeners to the teams and the communities they’re working in; she also interviews the institutional partners supporting the effort. Along the way, Revazova explores the challenges and successes of this creative partnership; the potential of community-engaged work; and the many discoveries made as participants strengthened their collaborative skills.

“We believe that Arizona thrives when it has a healthy and equitable arts ecology,” said Jen Cole, director of ASU’s National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation. “This means that artists have the resources and support to do their work. It means residents and elected officials recognize that this activity is vital to thriving towns, and it means that institutional partners like ASU can listen and leverage their resources in service to community creativity. We are so thrilled that this collaboration was full of learning, un-learning and challenge, because together we created a deep conversation about what a vibrant arts ecology can be statewide.”

“This podcast series is a beautiful and fitting outgrowth of the AZ CCI initiative," said Jaime Dempsey, executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts. "For two-plus years we learned together — artists and community leaders, educators, dedicated residents, business owners and service providers — all sharing expertise in an evolving creative collaboration. It has been an honor to partner with the communities represented in the AZ CCI and this podcast series, and we can’t wait for listeners to engage with these layered, inspiring community stories.”

Revazova earned her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno and is the founder of Open Conversation, a podcast production network. She has produced stories for numerous private clients and radio stations, including Phoenix’s NPR affiliate, KJZZ.

“I traveled to many towns, cities and neighborhoods, and all these places I visited opened their doors wide for me, told me their precious stories and invited me to witness the unfolding magic of a powerful, collaborative creativity,” Revazova said of the experience of making AZ Creative Voices. “It takes a village to produce episodes like this, and we've gotten the best ‘village’ to accomplish this goal.”

Listen to podcast at herbergerinstitute.asu.edu/podcasts/az-creative-voices. The podcast is also available on Spotify and Google Podcast, and will be available on Apple Podcast and iHeart Radio soon.