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

Carlos Montufar: Flamenco Dancer and Instructor with Flamenco Por La Vida

Carlos Montufar, flamenco dancer and instructor with Flamenco Por La Vida, photographed at the Burton Barr Central Library, by Nicki Escudero

Carlos Montufar, flamenco dancer and instructor with Flamenco Por La Vida, photographed at the Burton Barr Central Library, by Nicki Escudero

Carlos Montufar
FlamencoPorLaVida.com

Carlos Montufar’s passion for flamenco is evident every time he graces a stage, as his turns, claps, stomps and facial expressions are fueled by a fervor he’s had since he was a child, and that has since made him one of the most prominent flamenco dancers in the Valley. The 31-year-old Phoenix resident studied the classic Spanish dance in New Mexico before bringing his talent back to the Valley, and now you can see him on stage with local flamenco company Flamenco Por La Vida (FPLV) Wednesday nights at Gallo Blanco and Saturday nights at Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix.

Montufar works as a teacher’s assistant for Madison Rose Lane Elementary during the day, working for the special education department, converting print to braille. He also works as an instructor with FPLV, teaching flamenco Monday nights at 5th Row Dance Studios in Phoenix — find more information here. Read on for why Montufar loves flamenco, and to 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 Monterey Park, California and moved to El Paso, Texas when I was 6. I came to Phoenix when I was 17 to study drafting at High-Tech Institute. I wasn’t a fan of the school, so I transferred to Glendale Community College to get my associate degree in arts and humanities. Continue reading

Hugo Medina: Phoenix Muralist and ASU Art Faculty

Hugo Medina, Phoenix artist, in front of his acrylic and aerosol on canvas, 'The Westward Ho,' at MonOrchid in Phoenix, photographed by Nicki Escudero

Hugo Medina, Phoenix artist, photographed in front of his acrylic and aerosol on canvas, ‘The Westward Ho,’ at MonOrchid in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Hugo Medina
twitter.com/Hugos_Art

Hugo Medina‘s art is seen all over the Valley, as the painter and custom metal fabricator has more than 30 murals up throughout the Phoenix area, from a 300-foot-long mural at Fountain Hill’s Fountain Park, to more than five in the downtown Phoenix area.

The 41-year-old Bolivia-born Phoenix resident is heavily involved in the Phoenix arts community, serving as an adjunct art faculty member at ASU teaching a community mural course, as co-founder for the Calle 16 mural project, and as board member for Artlink, Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission and Arizona Artists Coalition. He won the Phoenix Public Art award in 2012 and is currently planning for the Phoenix Festival for the Arts and Art Detour. He’s also working on a new installation for Cycle 5 of IN FLUX, a public art installation program.

Medina works as a custom metal fabricator and on his own paintings, the latest of which can be seen at his Home exhibit at MonOrchid in Phoenix through Friday, November 28. Join him this Friday, November 21, for the free artist reception at the gallery, from 6-10 p.m. Medina will talk about his collection at 7:45 p.m.

Medina talked about where his passion for art comes from, and you can hear him name his five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley in a video below.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was chasing my heart. My sophomore year, I taught at a vacation Bible school at a Native American reservation in San Diego and fell in love with the Southwest. I moved to Arizona in 1998 after I graduated college.

I was born in Bolivia and moved to New York with my family when I was 7. We were chasing the American dream. Continue reading

Tracy Perkins: Founder of Strawberry Hedgehog

Tracy Perkins, owner of Strawberry Hedgehog vegan soaps and beauty products, photographed at her headquarters in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Tracy Perkins, owner of Strawberry Hedgehog vegan soaps and beauty products, photographed at her headquarters in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

Tracy Perkins
facebook.com/StrawberryHedgehog

Tracy Perkins was sick — literally — of the beauty products she was used to. The longtime vegetarian-turned-vegan turned her frustration for animal testing and health issues caused by mainstream brands into creating her own soaps in 2003. After popular demand for her soaps from friends and family, she launched her business Strawberry Hedgehog in 2007, while balancing life as an adjunct geology professor.

The 32-year-old Phoenix resident has seen her business take off, now selling her products around the world and in Whole Foods across Arizona. She’s still an adjunct professor at Phoenix College but is looking to expand her business from a one-woman show to a bigger operation. Read about some of her products here, and meet her for a distilling workshop Thursday, July 17, from 6-9 p.m. at her Phoenix headquarters.

Learn how she crafts her handmade wares below, and keep scrolling to watch her name her five favorite reasons for loving living in the Valley, too.

What brought you to Arizona?

I was a Navy brat, and my dad got stationed in Yuma around ’90. I came up to Phoenix to go to ASU in ’99. I got my undergrad degree in women’s studies and religious studies, and my Master’s is in geological science.

I was born in Virginia Beach, Virginia, then lived in Key West, Florida before moving here. Continue reading

Steph Carrico: Co-Owner of The Trunk Space

Steph Carrico, co-owner of The Trunk Space in Phoenix, photographed at The Trunk Space, by Nicki Escudero

Steph Carrico, co-owner of The Trunk Space in Phoenix, photographed at The Trunk Space, by Nicki Escudero

Steph Carrico
twitter.com/TheTrunkSpace

The Trunk Space has hosted rowdy punk shows, moving poetry readings, sexy burlesque, and life-drawing sessions. For the past 10 years, it’s been a haven for all ages to come express themselves through art and music, featuring monthly art exhibits, touring and local bands and sideshow acts that inject a quirky feel into the Downtown Phoenix Grand Avenue space.

Thank Steph Carrico, who along with co-owner JRC, strives to cultivate a diverse line-up of entertaining acts. The 38-year-old Phoenix resident is a photography and 2D/3D design teacher at Metropolitan Arts Institute and a freelance photographer when she’s not running the space.

Get excited for new Trunk Space developments. The venue, which also features an artist-made gift shop and vintage photo booth, is getting an air conditioning unit this summer, and Carrico and JRC plan to expand their coffee bar hours to all day by summer, too. Carrico talked about her motivation for running the space, and keep reading to see a video of her talk about her favorite reasons for living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents brought me to Arizona when I was 9. My dad was a contractor, and we were living in northern Utah where it’s snowy. There’s no snow here, so they decided to move here because it was safer for him to work year-round.

I was born in Salt Lake City. Here, I went to Coronado High School and graduated Arizona State University with a degree in fine art photography. Continue reading

Michelle Donovan: Nile Theater Concert Promoter and The Mantooth Group Founder

Michelle Donovan, concert promoter for Nile Theater and The Mantooth Group, photographed at Nile Theater in Mesa, by Nicki Escudero

Michelle Donovan, concert promoter for Nile Theater and The Mantooth Group founder, photographed at Nile Theater in Mesa, by Nicki Escudero


Michelle Donovan
twitter.com/NileTheater

Michelle Donovan is one of the strongest female presences in the local music scene. At only 31, the Tempe resident has been promoting local shows with the concert promotion company she helped found, The Mantooth Group, for nearly 10 years. The Mantooth Group has been leasing out the Nile Theater in Mesa for shows since 2010, giving people of all ages a venue to share in their passion for music. Donovan books hundreds of shows a year at not only the Nile, but also at local spots such as Yucca Tap Room and Pub Rock Live, while substitute teaching on the side. She’s currently working on renovations to the 100-year-old Nile basement, where shows also take place, and talked about where her love for rocking bands comes from, as well as five of her favorite things about living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

My parents got a job transfer when I was in junior high. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio. I went to Highland High School and got a history degree from Arizona State University. Continue reading

CJ Cornell: Founder of Propel Arizona, Entrepreneur

CJ Cornell, founder of Propel Arizona, photographed at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

CJ Cornell, founder of Propel Arizona, photographed at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, by Nicki Escudero

CJ Cornell
twitter.com/CJCornell

The Valley is lucky to have CJ Cornell. The New York-born entrepreneur made his way from Silicon Valley to Phoenix to help build up Arizona State University‘s entrepreneurship program by helping to establish the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship. After mentoring hundreds of young entrepreneurs-in-training, he founded Propel Arizona, a local crowdfunding site for new local businesses, which helps solicit donations from locals for new ventures. Read on for what stimulates Cornell’s entrepreneurial passion, and scroll down to hear five reasons why he loves living in the Valley.

What brought you to Arizona?

ASU. They were starting an extensive entrepreneur program, and I had already had a career as a serial entrepreneur and then started teaching in the Silicon Valley area. They brought me down here to help start their now number one entrepreneurship program in the country. Continue reading