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Samuel Peña, Zach Montana, Cameron Jeong, Milena Santiago: Space to create

A look inside Fusion on First next to Civic Space Park, where students live, work, learn, perform and contribute to the Phoenix arts scene


Man playing guitar
June 22, 2022

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in ASU Thrive’s special photography issue, celebrating a day in the life of inspiring people across the ASU community. 

Fusion on First is a 16-story, 283,000-square-foot tech-driven project that immerses Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts students in the heart of the arts district along the light rail. Designed by the internationally recognized architecture firm, Studio Ma, the building includes sustainability features, and houses studios, classrooms, offices, and exhibition and event space all under the same roof to create a complete focus for creativity.

Learn about some of the talented students who chose to study, practice and live in Fusion on First during this snapshot of a typical day in their lives.

In the photo above, Zach Montana, a junior during the spring semester majoring in popular music, works on a song he wrote. He was invited to appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in February with his dad, Curly Smith, after Montana’s TikTok video of him listening to his dad’s song from the 1970s went viral. Jamming on the pandeiro is Samuel Peña, assistant director in the popular music program. 

Woman singing into microphone

Live feed 

Music students perform while doing a live Instagram feed from their classroom in Fusion on First. From left: Diego Ajca Alejo, Mark Wetzel, Cameron Jeong (at the microphone), Sophia Bavishi and Zach Montana. ​​Watch the video at instagram.com/asupopmusic. 

man playing drums and people walking up and down stairs

Left photo: Mark Wetzel playing the drums. A junior in the popular music program last semester, he likes to write and perform house, hip hop, R&B and alternative music. Right photo: Students and faculty at Fusion on First. 

Woman using sewing machine

Graduating senior Milena Santiago creates one of the looks from her four-piece capsule collection, originally produced using 3D digital software to reduce waste. Santiago used denim scraps for the top. She says the purpose of her brand, Papillon, is to bring new life to old garments.

“Fusion on First provides a great home for the fashion program, as there is space and technology to help students’ ideas become reality,” Santiago says.

Fashion student and dress molds with clothes

Abigail Elizabeth Davis, ’22 BA in fashion, created her fashion line Phenom as part of her senior capstone project. She says that each piece in her line comprises hand-sewn embellished and manipulated fabric techniques with an emphasis on alternative styling including contrasting elements such as bows and leather. Her post-graduation plan is to open the first Phenom store in Anthem to sell custom evening gowns, other custom pieces, and to offer alterations, and other creative works of hers and fellow local artists. At right: Designs by fashion students are presented in a process-oriented format showing drawings and samples.

Woman moving dress mold

Left: Fashion student Katrina Remaley, a junior last semester. Right: Final designs by graduating fashion students, including by Juliana Nguyen, McKenzi Kelly, Shane Yearneau and Allison Carloni. Each senior created their own capstone collection, and the collections were showcased together at Scottsdale Fashion Square in March 2022. 

Photos by Jill Richards

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