Paige Poppe pictured next to her book called Rosa Gets it Right.

Female artists in Arizona

In honor of Women’s History Month this March, check out local, inspiring women right here in Arizona!

Karen Shell

Karen Shell looking at her artwork

Kids in Focus pairs professional photographers with children ages 10 to 14 who come from backgrounds of poverty, homelessness, neglect, or abuse.

Each child is given a camera and, working with a mentor, they find a positive way to deal with the demons of their lives and gain self-worth. The program culminates with an exhibition open to the public as well as a hardbound book.

Hearing from the kids how this program opens their eyes and their hearts to something new and helps them find their authentic selves is inspiring. The mentors also say the challenges of forming a bond with the kids meld with how the camera acts as a conversation starter and a safe space to share feelings that are often too difficult to talk about. Take a closer look at their work at http://www.kidsinfocus.org/.

Silvana Esparza

Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza is known for her award-winning cuisine as well as her advocacy within the Latino community. She is also a fierce supporter of the arts.

Chef Esparza had to close one of her restaurants during the pandemic but turned the space next to her remaining restaurant into a walk-by gallery. She reimagined the space for social distancing so passersby could enjoy the artwork through the windows. She also commissioned several murals by local artists to make sure they still had an income.

Despite closing one of her restaurants, Chef Esparza looks for the positive. Her love for arts is shown through her display in her restaurant. Chef Esparza wants to support artists by showing their artwork and by highlighting the intersection between her love of art, activism, and food. Hear from Chef Esparza herself on “Our Voices.”

Ballet Arizona

Ballet Arizona is the state’s premiere dance company. Jillian Barrell and Nayon Iovino of Ballet Arizona allowed us to follow them for a day to see what their lives are like and how they prepare for a performance.

We started with the couple at home, and then followed them to Ballet Arizona as they practiced. Viewers can get a sense of the demand it has on their life and why they chose this career.

Learn more about Ballet Arizona at www.balletaz.org.

Amalia Hernandez and Ballet Folklorico

Each of the regions in Mexico, the Southwestern U.S., and Central America are known for a handful of locally characteristic dances. The costumes and the music attempt to reflect the living cultures of their regions.

Folklorico Dance or Baile folklórico, literally “folkloric dance” in Spanish, is a collective term for traditional Latin American dances that emphasize local folk culture with ballet characteristics like pointed toes, exaggerated movements, and highly choreographed arrangements.

Baile folklórico owes its inception to Amalia Hernandez who started her dance company in the 1960s with a small group of dedicated dancers.

ErLinda Torres is a folklorico choreographer and ASU professor who is one of the founding members of Arizona Latino Arts Cultural Center (ALAC). Learn more at http://www.bfq-az.org/.

Arizona Opera

In 2019, we had the chance to go behind the scenes as the Arizona Opera prepared for an upcoming opera called “Fellow Travelers.”

The troupe was thrown a curve ball when they found the company they were “renting” the opera from didn’t have costumes. So they decided to make all of the costumes in a very short time frame.

The opera “Fellow Travelers” is set in the 1950s so every piece of clothing was custom-made and costumers prepared quickly for the upcoming performances, facing challenges as they created the visual look from scratch. Learn more about Arizona Opera at https://www.azopera.org/ 

Carla Keaton

Carla Keaton is an extraordinary artist who draws on her family’s rich history to show how we all are connected.

Her exhibition “The Sharecroppers and the Cotton Pickers of the Southwest” showed the same story through different eyes, the sharecroppers of slavery and the cotton pickers here in Arizona.

Keaton recalls seeing her father, himself a sharecropper, bone-weary and spent, climbing the stairs of their house late at night after a long day at work. That image stuck with her and fueled her creativity.

Antionette Cauley

Art is often used to make a statement about current events. Since George Floyd’s homicide, artists have been using their medium to speak out against police brutality and racism and to demand social justice.

A series of Black Lives Matter murals have been featured in downtown Phoenix. Antoinette Cauley has created a mural of author and activist James Baldwin on the side of a skyrise downtown. The building’s owner commissioned Cauley to make a painting of Baldwin, and he turned that into a nine-stories tall decal.

Cauley’s mural of James Baldwin was supposed to reflect a blend of different things to affect multiple communities. Cauley believes it’s an ode to America, facing the systemic racism it has been hiding from. She included a quote from Baldwin that reflects her thoughts on how these times should be handled. Cauley tells her fellow artists to “just keep going.”

Catch an interview with Cauley on this episode of “Arizona Horizon.”

Gloria Martinez-Granados and Joan Baron

Two people holding hands from opposite ends of a fence

Artists Gloria Martinez-Granados and Joan Baron have created an art installation partly inspired by civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis. It’s entitled “Good Trouble Bucket,” a stark yet powerful piece.

Martinez-Granados is Latina and a DACA-recipient, while Baron is Jewish and lost family in the Holocaust. Both use their backgrounds in their deeply personal and thought-provoking work.

The two artists say the performance and why they work like they do is so important in today’s environment.

Paige Poppe

Paige Poppe pictured next to her book called Rosa Gets it Right.

Paige Poppe grew up in the Valley and went away to college to study art. When she returned with her degree, she saw the splendor and beauty of the desert differently. She began to create watercolors of the desert landscape and cacti.

Known for her pastel colors and whimsical paintings, Poppe has also illustrated two children’s books. Her work as an illustrator differs from a traditional artist, often using someone’s words to paint a picture.

Poppe does mostly watercolors, but she loves testing her artistic abilities. Poppe said a friend mentioned she should illustrate children’s books, and she enjoys the collective process in creating the visuals for books.

Don’t forget to visit our website here for more stories this Women’s History Month!

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