Theater artist Ricky Araiza has devoted much of his artistic time to working in his native Arizona, from studying his craft at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, to entertaining audiences as an ensemble member of Childsplay theater company in Tempe, to serving as artistic director of Teatro Bravo — a Latino theater company in South Phoenix. He hopes to contribute even more by taking a new position with the Herberger Institute, where he will work with the AZ Creative Communities Institute, a new program that explores how creativity can make a positive impact on communities.
“What drew me to this position was the opportunity to engage with various communities all over the state of Arizona,” Araiza said. “I wanted to expand my understanding of the place that I call my home state.”
The AZ Creative Communities Institute is a partnership between ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts, with guidance from Southwest Folklife Alliance. Small teams representing nine Arizona communities were selected for the inaugural AZ CCI. Team members, including community and business leaders as well as local elected officials, will receive intensive training over the next year from local and national experts in creative engagement as they look for creative solutions to address needs, challenges and opportunities within their communities. In the latter half of the year, each community will host an embedded artist residency to put what they have learned into practice.
The Herberger Institute was awarded a $250,000 Surdna grant to help fund the program, and Araiza was recently named coordinator senior.
“It felt like a great opportunity to work with communities who want to make a long-lasting positive impact through arts engagement,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of that conversation.”
Araiza will be responsible for coordinating activities and functions of the program, including gathering data, managing events and ensuring that program goals are accomplished.
"Ricky has been deeply embedded and engaged in the Arizona community as an artist and community changemaker for a long time — his whole life, in fact,” said Jake Pinholster, associate dean of policy and initiatives for the Herberger Institute. “With his training and expertise — in addition to that personal connection — he is the ideal person to coordinate and drive this program forward."
Araiza has already started work on the program and is excited about its potential.
“There is so much possibility when you are at the birth of a new idea,” he said. “We can make this one of the most important collaborations in the state of Arizona, and I believe that we all see that. And that concept alone demands that we treat this with the greatest care.”