Scott Neff: Co-Owner of As You Wish Pottery

Scott Neff, co-owner of As You Wish Pottery, photographed at the Tempe Marketplace location in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Scott Neff, co-owner of As You Wish Pottery, photographed at the Tempe Marketplace location in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Scott Neff
www.asyouwishpottery.com

Scott Neff is thrilled to have left the corporate world to have a more personal touch in his business, as he has co-owned As You Wish pottery painting studios with his wife, Lori, for the past eight years. As You Wish has seven locations throughout the Valley, where patrons may choose items such as mugs and vases, paint them, and have them fired and glazed for home use.

Neff, a 50-year-old Chandler resident, is excited for the business to celebrate its 20th anniversary this September, with various specials leading up to the anniversary weekend September 18 to 20, when the studios offer $2 studio fees (usually $6-$8) and gift card raffles. Learn more about the special deals throughout the month on the As You Wish Facebook page here. In August, visitors to As You Wish can get half-off all glass fusing projects, including bowls, vases, nightlights and jewelry that are fired in the studio kilns.

Neff shared his advice for aspiring business owners and why he’s passionate about As You Wish, 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 here. I grew up in the Arcadia area and was part of the last graduating class of Scottsdale High School in 1983.

Growing up, I was involved with all old-school Valley of the Sun things. When I was a Cub Scout, I went to The Wallace and Ladmo Show and won a Ladmo bag. When I was a teenager, I worked in the ice cream parlor at Legend City, and I sold T-shirts at Compton Terrace. Continue reading

Audrey Thacker: Founder and President of Artisan Markets

Audrey Thacker, founder and president of Artisan Markets, photographed at the Scottsdale Waterfront, by Nicki Escudero

Audrey Thacker, founder and president of Artisan Markets, photographed at the Scottsdale Waterfront, by Nicki Escudero

Audrey Thacker
www.artisanmarketsaz.com

Audrey Thacker was a jewelry maker who saw a need for an artist market community in the Valley. She founded Artisan Markets in 2009, which has grown to a twice-weekly Scottsdale market featuring items ranging from metal sculptures to glass art for purchase. The markets are every Thursday from 5 to 10 p.m. and every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Scottsdale Waterfront, complete with live music to listen to as you peruse the artist offerings.

The 37-year-old Phoenix resident talked more about what goes into organizing the Artisan Markets, and you can hear Thacker name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was attracted to the prospect of good weather, opportunity and affordability. I am originally from Connecticut, but moved to Arizona after living in Hawaii, because I wanted a place where I could embark on my career as an artist. Arizona had everything I was looking for. Continue reading

Elena Thornton: Founder of Arizona Consortium for the Arts

Elena Thornton, founder of Arizona Consortium for the Arts, photographed at Dog-Eared Pages Used Books in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Elena Thornton, founder of Arizona Consortium for the Arts, photographed at Dog-Eared Pages Used Books in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Elena Thornton
www.artizona.org

Elena Thornton believes the arts are instrumental in the advancement of humanity. In an effort to help support and foster arts and culture here in the Valley, she founded the Arizona Consortium for the Arts in 2007, which puts on free art events and festivals throughout the Phoenix area and sponsors literary and poetry magazines. The nonprofit’s monthly open mics, spanning all disciplines and genres, take place at the Dog-Eared Pages Used Books in Phoenix every last Thursday of the month from 5 to 7 p.m., including this Thursday, May 28.

Thornton’s ultimate goal for the Arizona Consortium for the Arts is to use it as a vehicle to open a multicultural center that will be free for local arts groups to use, as rehearsal, performing and recording space and more. The 53-year-old Phoenix resident talked more about her goals for the Arizona Consortium for the Arts and for Valley arts, 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 a Russian teacher in upstate New York, and the weather was depressing, with rain and snow all the time. We — my husband Jim and our son Jeremy — came here on vacation during spring break in April of 1994, and we moved in July.

I was born in Moldova, and my family moved to Albany, New York, in 1976. After graduating from Albany High School, I went to the University at Albany (SUNY) and earned my bachelor’s and master’s degrees in education. Continue reading

Kirstin Van Cleef: Founder of IN FLUX

Kirstin Van Cleef, founder of IN FLUX and outreach and temporary projects manager at Scottsdale Public Art, photographed at her home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Kirstin Van Cleef, founder of IN FLUX and outreach and temporary projects manager at Scottsdale Public Art, photographed at her home in Tempe, by Nicki Escudero

Kirstin Van Cleef
facebook.com/INFLUXAZ

Vacant Valley storefronts get new life thanks to IN FLUX, a public art initiative founded by Kirstin Van Cleef, outreach and temporary projects manager at Scottsdale Public Art. Van Cleef founded the program in 2010, and it gives artists the opportunity to take over a vacant space and fill it (or cover it) with innovative visual and performance art. The 34-year-old Tempe resident started IN FLUX in Downtown Scottsdale, and she now works with public art programs all over the Valley to bring creative works to otherwise desolate spaces. IN FLUX completed its latest annual month-long call to artists in August, which garnered a new roster of impressive artists to show off their work.

Van Cleef is involved with Scottsdale Public Art programming this weekend, as artist and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art muralist James Marshall, aslo known as Dalek, comes to town for a Meet the Artist party Friday, November 7 at 7 p.m. at the Museum — find more info here. Saturday, November 8, Dalek hosts a Community Mural Project at 10 a.m. — find more info here.

Keep reading to learn how IN FLUX works, and to watch a video of Van Cleef naming her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents brought my sister and me here when I was 10. I was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, then we moved to Colorado and New Mexico, then here for my dad’s work. I went to Cactus Shadows High School and ASU, where I got a degree in photography. Continue reading

Maggie McGrath: Founder of Pineapple Triangle Artist Market

Maggie McGrath, founder of Pineapple Triangle, photographed at Phoenix Public Market, by Nicki Escudero

Maggie McGrath, founder of Pineapple Triangle, photographed at Phoenix Public Market, by Nicki Escudero

Maggie McGrath
twitter.com/pineappletri

If you’re into local fashion and art, and love to support charity, Pineapple Triangle‘s AZ Share That You Care event provides the opportunity to get your fashionable art fix while supporting worthy causes. Founder Maggie McGrath, a wholesale sales rep for local clothing line Angie, started Pineapple Triangle to give local vendors more opportunities for exposure, while helping those in need, as each vendor donates at least 20 percent of their sales to the cause of their choice. The June event raised more than $1,300 for charities.

The next event, even larger than June’s with more than 50 vendors, takes place Saturday, October 18 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at The Icehouse in downtown Phoenix, with apparel, jewelry, beauty and home décor products from vendors including Be You Jewelry and Phoenix People features Strawberry Hedgehog and State Forty Eight. Admission is $5 cash, and visitors will be able to enjoy food from Buzznbeez food truck and music by 76th Street. Artists interested in participating can email hellopineappletriangle@gmail.com.

McGrath, a 29-year-old Ahwatukee resident, talked about her passion for fashion and for helping those in need, as well as named her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley, in a video below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I’ve pretty much lived here all my life, since I was 3 when my family moved here. I was born in Akron, Ohio. I went to Desert Vista High School and ASU, and got a B.A.S. degree in operations management and technology. I also have an Associate’s degree in fashion merchandising from Mesa Community College.

The main reason that keeps me here is all my siblings are here. I’m the youngest of four, so I really like being close to them. Continue reading

Shawna Franks: Founder and Artistic Director of Space 55 Theatre

Shawna Franks, founder and artistic director of Space 55 Theatre, photographed at Space 55, by Nicki Escudero

Shawna Franks, founder and artistic director of Space 55 Theatre, photographed at Space 55, by Nicki Escudero

Shawna Franks
twitter.com/Space55

Shawna Franks has helped the downtown Phoenix theater writers’ community grow immensely, as founder and artistic director at Space 55 Theatre, which hosts theater performances, as well as writing classes and workshops. The Phoenix resident and her team opened the theater in 2006, and since it’s become a haven for new, cutting-edge works that have never been seen in Arizona. Franks, a veteran stage and film actress, also teaches acting at the Arizona School for the Arts. She helped create the hilarious character of Blanche in the current holiday musical A Bloody Mary Christmas, playing through Saturday, December 21. Read on for what drives Franks’ desire to boost the local theater community, as well as to hear her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was born in Santa Cruz, California and moved to Chicago at the age of 17. Chicago is where I went to school and started acting. I also performed in Europe, then I moved to Los Angeles for a little while. After my two sons were born, I moved to Phoenix because of a job opportunity for my husband. Continue reading