Phoenix is the Home of Big Brains and Big Hearts

The Heart of Art by qthomasbower on Flickr

We’re still floating on clouds since being told that we were finalists for the Phoenix New Times’ Big Brain award two weeks ago. The Big Brain award recognizes people using their creativity to make the valley a better and more interesting place.

We’re beyond honored to be mentioned alongside so many fantastic folks from so many different fields and backgrounds. One of our city’s greatest strengths is having a diverse spectrum of people, some of whom are natives and some of whom came here from somewhere else. You can check out this New Times article to read profiles on every Big Brain finalist.

Our fellow Big Brain finalists in the category of performing art are actor, performer, and activist Dulce Juarez, and Cyphers: The Center for Urban Arts in West Phoenix. They are amazing and represent really great examples of using art to bring together a community. Dulce uses her performances to engage and educate on the issues of human rights especially in the face of anti-immigrant hostility (a definite hot button issue in Arizona). As an accomplished actor, she gives a face to the humanity of undocumented residents that transcends any notion of borders.

The driving force behind Cyphers is Danny “Scooby” Morales and Jorge “House” Magaña. Both Morales and Magaña are members of the Furious Styles Crew, a hip-hop, dance, and bboying crew that started back in 1993. Over nearly 30 years, FSC has represented Phoenix in bboy battles all around the country and across the globe. Their extended family included graf artists like Dumperfoo and a roster of DJs that includes mixmasters like Element, Radar, and Z-Trip. Their annual anniversary bashes are weekend-long celebrations of every aspect of hip-hop and bring together attendees from all over the southwest and the rest of the nation. Cyphers now gives kids and teens a home to learn about hip-hop culture as a positive force that brings people together and improves lives.

Even before The Torch Theatre had its own space or even existed, we had really great folks like Scott Sanders and The Paper Heart (RIP), Steph Carrico and JRC of The Trunk Space, and the whole crew at Space 55 who were generous in their support of our efforts in improv comedy & theatre. Our ties and friendships continue with them and now, with our own space, our community has grown to be connected with great organizations like Gangplank, Ignite Phoenix, Local First Arizona, and our own uptown neighborhood. So many wonderful things have happened in the nine months since we’ve been open as a performance venue and this is only the beginning and the tip of the iceberg for how improv can stir up the creativity within a community and everyone it reaches.

The common thread in the Big Brain performing art category is the growth and development of creative, artistic voices that connect communities to make Phoenix a better place. It is the same feeling we have when we step up on stage: we are stronger together than we are alone. We’re excited and proud to be amongst this year’s finalists alongside Dulce Juarez and Cyphers; we would gladly step out in their company any chance we might get. While all the finalists are being honored for their Big Brains, we have to say that we admire everyone’s big heart for having the courage to truly follow their passions and to make them count in so many different ways. Hooray!

Posted in In the community, instructors, Torch bearers

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