Kris Rhymes: Artist, aka ChocKolate-Man

Kris Rhymes, artist also known as ChocKolate-Man, photographed in downtown Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Kris Rhymes, artist also known as ChocKolate-Man, photographed in downtown Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Kris Rhymes
www.krisrhymes.com

Art by Kris Rhymes is literally drool-worthy, as the 23-year-old Phoenix resident uses chocolate syrup to create realistic portraiture and creative works. Known as ChocKolate-Man in the art community, Rhymes is featuring 13 Valley kids in his Sweet Kids exhibition this Saturday, May 23, at {9} Gallery in Phoenix from 5:30-8:30 p.m. His subjects entered a competition to be featured, and the ones chosen made it into Rhyme’s second solo exhibition based on their achievements and aspirations.

Besides reaching people with his canvas art, Rhymes is also a professional barber who creates unique styles in his salon work. He also is a motivational speaker as part of the ACT-SO program, sponsored by NAACP, and works with high school students as a mentor of visual arts.

Rhymes talked about his unique medium, why he’s passionate about helping youth, and what people can expect from this weekend’s exhibition, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born in south Phoenix and moved to west Phoenix. I went to Central High School and took classes at South Mountain Community College before leaving to pursue my art career. Continue reading

April Howland: Painter and Founder of Howland Studios

and founder of Howland Studios, photographed at Thunderbird Park in Glendale, by Nicki Escudero

April Howland, painter and founder of Howland Studios, photographed at Thunderbird Park in Glendale, by Nicki Escudero

April Howland
www.howlandstudios.com

April Howland brings joy to the Valley with her gorgeous nature- and wildlife-inspired paintings, as well as the pet portraits and commissions she creates that perfectly display the essence of those depicted. Howland has been artistic all her life and turned to painting full time around five years ago. The 41-year-old Peoria resident is represented in Idaho at Gallery Five18 and by Beals & Co., which is putting on her Friday, June 26 exhibition at Hyatt Tamaya Resort & Spa in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico.

Howland shared where she garners inspiration and why she’s passionate about creating art, and you can hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born and raised in Sedona and moved down here to go to college at Collins College. I got my degree in graphic design and never left. I love it here. Continue reading

Michael Rumpeltin: Founder of Brick & West Design

Michael Rumpeltin, founder of Brick & West Design, photographed at Postino Annex in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Michael Rumpeltin, founder of Brick & West Design, photographed at Postino Annex in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Michael Rumpeltin
www.brickandwest.com

If you’re a foodie, you’ve probably enjoyed a tasty meal in a project Michael Rumpeltin has designed. As founder of Brick & West Design in 2013, Rumpeltin has helped create welcoming social spaces in the Valley including Postino Annex, Joyride Taco House Central, Taco Guild, Culinary Dropout, The Yard, Dakota, Comoncy, and Little Cleo’s. The 44-year-old Phoenix resident has more than a dozen projects currently in the works, including The Crown on 7th, a 20,000-square foot mixed-use space including three major local restaurants, set to open in September at 7th Street and Palo Verde Drive in Phoenix.

Read on for more of what he’s working on, as well as to learn advice he has for aspiring designers, and to hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I didn’t really have a plan; I was sort of picking it out on a map. I went to school for architecture for a year at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. One day after about a semester-and-a-half there, I got tired of the weather. It was very rainy, and I wanted a place with sunshine.

ASU had a great architecture program, so I got on a plane sight unseen, and moved here. My cousin is an archaeologist here and loves Arizona, and I thought it’d be great. I’ve been here ever since.

I’m originally from Ramsey, New Jersey. Continue reading

Kathleen Berger: Singer, Musical Theater Actor and Teacher

Kathleen Berger, singer, musical theater actor and teacher, photographed at her home in Litchfield Park, Arizona, by Nicki Escudero

Kathleen Berger, singer, musical theater actor and teacher, photographed at her home in Litchfield Park, Arizona, by Nicki Escudero

Kathleen Berger
www.kathleenberger.com

Kathleen Berger knows how to hit the high notes. The classically trained singer, who has had extensive experience singing opera in Europe, can be seen often on local theater stages as a musical theater performer. The 43-year-old Litchfield Park resident comes from a musical family and continues to carry on the legacy, as a performer, teacher and artist manager.

Catch her playing the Queen in Southwest Shakespeare Company‘s SpellBound! beginning May 7, and see her in The Joy of Sextets at Desert Foothills Theater beginning May 29.

Berger shares what fuels her passion for singing, as well as shares some tips, and you can watch her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I grew up here. I was born at Maryvale Hospital and grew up in Litchfield Park. I went to Agua Fria High School, then to ASU, where I majored in vocal performance and minored in French. I finished my degree at University of Missouri—Kansas City.

After that, I moved to New York for 10 years, and in 2006, I got an offer to sing on a tour of La Traviata in Madrid, Spain. I took it, I learned the role in two weeks, got on a plane, and went to Spain without speaking a word of Spanish. I spent seven weeks on the tour and decided I wasn’t going back to the United States, so I deliberately missed my plane and stayed in Spain for seven years.

I met my husband there, and when the economy collapsed in 2013, we decided to try moving to Arizona so my family could meet my husband, and so we could make a living instead of being in a country with 25 percent unemployment. We’ve been back ever since. Continue reading

Jennifer Boonlorn: Founder of Soul Carrier

Jennifer Boonlorn, founder of Soul Carrier handbags and accessories, photographed at Sip Coffee and Beer House in Scottsdale, holding one of her products, by Nicki Escudero

Jennifer Boonlorn, founder of Soul Carrier handbags and accessories, photographed at Sip Coffee and Beer House in Scottsdale, holding one of her products, by Nicki Escudero

Jennifer Boonlorn
www.SoulCarrier.com

A tragedy inspired Jennifer Boonlorn to pursue her true passion: fashion. After losing both her parents in a car accident she was also in, Boonlorn has created Soul Carrier, a line of handbags and accessories in upliftingly named collections, such as her upcoming Conscious Intentions collection. Items from that collection will be available exclusively through a Kickstarter campaign this month — check the Facebook page for details — while current offerings are found at www.soulcarrier.com and at Chestnut Fine Foods and Provisions in Phoenix.

Learn more about the 36-year-old Phoenix resident’s goals with Soul Carrier, and keep reading to hear Boonlorn name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born and raised here and was home-schooled before studying marketing at ASU. I spent four years in New York City going to fashion school for design and marketing at Parsons The New School for Design. I interned for Oscar de la Renta, got to go to Marc Jacob’s Christmas party, Kate Spade and Tory Burch spoke to our class — it was a wonderful experience.

It was really my little niece who was born who brought me back to Phoenix. I loved New York, but I really love the sunshine and having a car, and was craving home. Continue reading

Jacque Arend: Improviser and Instructor with The Torch Theatre

Jacque Arend, founder of, performer with, and instructor at The Torch Theatre in Phoenix, photographed at Federal Pizza in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Jacque Arend, founder of, performer with, and instructor at The Torch Theatre in Phoenix, photographed at Federal Pizza in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Jacque Arend
www.thetorchtheatre.com

No matter who she is playing on stage, Jacque Arend has a talent for engaging audiences, making viewers feel like they’re a part of her world, no matter how absurd it might be. Arend has been making improv lovers laugh for 10 years in the Valley, and the 35-year-old Phoenix resident is a founder of and instructor at longform improv theater The Torch Theatre.

Besides also doing corporate workshop training through The Torch Theatre, Arend can be seen playing on stage often, as she’s a member of improv troupes Light Rail Pirates, Mail Order Bride, JaxN Reed, MuChuChu, The Foundation, and Hickory Dickory Dock, and performs in regular shows such as The Wedding Party, The Skewed News Hour, and Birds and Broads. You can catch Arend on stage this week as part of the 14th Annual Phoenix Improv Festival at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. She’ll be with Light Rail Pirates Thursday, April 16, and Mail Order Bride Saturday, April 18. For more information and tickets, head to www.phoeniximprovfestival.com.

Read on for what makes Arend so passionate about longform improv, and to hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

When I was in my freshman year in college, I was going to Grand Valley State University for film and video in Michigan. I was on winter break, and my parents came home from a vacation, sat me down, and said, “We have something to tell you.” They told me my dad was taking a job in Arizona and that they were moving within the next couple months.

My mom grew up here, her siblings and parents lived here, and my parents had always wanted to retire here. I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was, because I cried and was like, “What, we’re leaving Michigan?”

They asked me what I wanted to do. At the time, I wanted to stay and go to my sophomore year at college, but I made a deal I would move down after that, because I thought, as the youngest, that’s what I needed to do, is be with my parents. I moved out here in 1999 and took classes at Scottsdale Community College, where I had an acting/directing focus and took acting classes through the theater program.

I was born in Harbert, Michigan. Continue reading

Meghan Pearce: Founder of Pearce Family Foundation

Meghan Pearce, founder of Pearce Family Foundation, photographed at El Chorro in Paradise Valley, by Nicki Escudero

Meghan Pearce, founder of Pearce Family Foundation, photographed at El Chorro in Paradise Valley, by Nicki Escudero

Meghan Pearce
www.pearcefamilyfoundation.com

Meghan Pearce is a fifth-generation Arizona resident who wanted to make a difference in her community and keep her family legacy alive by helping others. In 2013, she founded the Pearce Family Foundation, an organization that donates to families with children suffering from a chronic or life-threatening illnesses. With her foundation, the 30-year-old Scottsdale resident raised more than $60,000 through events in year one alone and has granted out another $13,000 to families in need, helping them with everything from paying grocery and electric bills, to getting service dogs.

The Pearce Family Foundation sponsors the Runway of Hope fashion show Friday, May 8, with a DJ, nine boutiques (including Pepper) and designers showcasing their fashions, cocktails and an open bar, pop-up shops, a silent auction and hors d’oeuvres. The event takes place in the old Coors warehouse building at 475 E. Lincoln Street in Phoenix, and doors open at 7 p.m. Get tickets here.

Learn more about Pearce and where her passion for helping others comes from here, and keep reading to watch her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’m fifth-generation Arizonan. My family has been here since before it was even a state. I was born at Good Samaritan Hospital, went to high school at Desert Mountain, and went down to U of A and graduated with a degree in family studies. I moved back to the Valley after graduation. Continue reading

Bruce Robert: Co-Owner of MelRuce Salon

Bruce Robert, co-owner of MelRuce makeup and hair salon in Old Town Scottsdale, photographed at his salon, by Nicki Escudero

Bruce Robert, co-owner of MelRuce makeup and hair salon in Old Town Scottsdale, photographed at his salon, by Nicki Escudero

Bruce Robert
Facebook.com/BruceRobertW

Bruce Robert creates magic as a hair stylist and makeup artist for the salon he co-owns in Old Town Scottsdale, MelRuce. Robert not only brings out the best in his clients, he also educates them with home styling tips to keep them looking fabulous. Get to know the 36-year-old Glendale resident, whose services include updos and extensions, as well as special events, better here. Listen to him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was birthed here. I went to Moon Valley High School and took some classes at Glendale Community College, Phoenix College and ASU West in addition to cosmetology school at Artistic in Glendale. Continue reading

Harper Lines: Singer for Harper and the Moths

Harper Lines, singer of Harper and the Moths, photographed at The Perch in Chandler, by Nicki Escudero

Harper Lines, singer of Harper and the Moths, photographed at The Perch in Chandler, by Nicki Escudero

Harper Lines
facebook.com/HarperandtheMoths

Harper Lines fronts one of the Valley’s catchiest bands, the pop rock group Harper and the Moths. With singalong lyrics and melodies that are guaranteed to get crowds dancing, the band amps up their live show with chic attire and lighting effects. Lines takes lyricwriting seriously, as he strives to write songs audiences can relate to and even learn from, and the group is hoping people love their new single and video, “Nighttime Tremors,” which also has a remix version.

When he’s not playing music, the 32-year-old Chandler resident works in marketing for the Apollo Education Group and studies at University of Phoenix. Lines talked about why he’s so passionate about music, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I came back to Arizona for music. I was born in Mesa, raised in Phoenix and went to Corona del Sol High School before attending Mesa, Scottsdale and Chandler-Gilbert Community Colleges. I moved to Seattle for a couple years, and came back because the band I was in, Harper and the Moths, was recording records, and I couldn’t come back every month or so to do a show. We were not generating the traction I wanted to, and I missed my friends and family. Continue reading

Fred Tieken: Painter

Fred Tieken, painter, photographed with his paintings in his Paradise Valley home gallery, by Nicki Escudero

Fred Tieken, painter, photographed with his paintings in his Paradise Valley home gallery, by Nicki Escudero

Fred Tieken
www.facebook.com/ArtistFredTieken

Fred Tieken‘s history as a professional musician, record label owner, music producer and design firm owner gives him plenty of stories to tell, but these days, he’s using paint and canvases to spread deep messages through his colorful, illustrative works. The 79-year-old Paradise Valley resident has only been painting since 2010 after retiring from the design world, but he’s already been a part of more than 40 art shows and has a second home and art studio in Venice, California.

Tieken and his wife and manager, Gail, are currently building a home gallery for his and guest exhibitions, as well as special events such as concerts and poetry readings, which they hope to have open by fall. You can check out his work now at Willo North Gallery in Phoenix through Saturday, March 28, in his solo show For the Birds, and he’ll be present for a reception there this Friday, March 20 from 6-9 p.m. He’s also gearing up for a solo show May 19 through June 9 at Agora Gallery in New York.

Learn more about the artist, who has played in more than 3,500 musical performances as a vocalist and saxophonist, as well as owned IT Records, ATA Studios and Phoenix design firm Tieken Design & Creative Services, better here. You can also watch a video of Tieken naming his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My wife Gail and I got tired of scraping ice off the windshield in Chicago, where we had lived for 10 years. We had visited Phoenix and came back one more time and bought a place. We were among the first people to live downtown in a new development, Renaissance Park. We liked it a lot but kept expanding.

When we first moved here, I brought my business here and worked out of my condo for awhile before going to the New Times building in Phoenix after outgrowing it. After we outgrew that, we moved on to Central Avenue in Phoenix two different times and kept growing and needing more room. The graphic design business was really good to us, and we had some Fortune 500 companies we did a lot of work for.

I was born in Meyer, Illinois. Continue reading