Herberger Institute wins one of state's largest NEA grants

The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University was awarded one of the largest National Endowment for the Arts 2012 grants given in Arizona.

The $32,000 grant – one of eight NEA grants awarded to organizations in the state – will finance a series of innovative programs that include area Girl Scout troops, high school and grade school students in underserved areas and members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix.

The project, called At Home in the Desert: Youth Engagement and Place, was designed to help Phoenix area youth create a series of original, meaningful, multi-disciplinary performance works to be presented at area locations including the ASU Art Museum’s Desert One Festival this fall.

Collaborating with nationally known professional artists and ASU faculty, an estimated 100 Valley students will experience and examine their desert home through dance, music and storytelling, according to Elizabeth Johnson, coordinator of Public Practice, a program within the Herberger Institute that will help oversee the project.

The three related projects include Cassie Meador of the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange in Washington, D.C., associate professor Mary Fitzgerald and Johnson along with 30 apprentice dancers from South Mountain High School in Phoenix. These dancers will collaborate with middle school girls from area Arizona Cactus-Pine Council Girl Scout troops to create a “moving field guide’’ of the desert’s ecosystem.

Information they collect about the desert ecosystem will be incorporated into movement compositions to be shared with Girl Scouts in Hawaii and Washington D.C. via an online platform.

The music expression of this project will combine pop master Fabel from New York City, D.J. Radar from Phoenix, Rick Mook, assistant professor in the ASU School of Music, and Melissa Britt, faculty associate from the ASU School of Dance, working with members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Metropolitan Phoenix in exploring the connections between desert life and the hip hop culture. Students will create original music inspired by survival in a harsh environment.

The Arizona Historical Society and the Center for Digital Storytelling in Berkeley, Calif., will work with Associate Professor Stephani Woodson from the ASU School of Theatre and Film, local public school teachers and students and members of the Arizona Centennial Museum to capitalize on the popular treasure hunting game called geocaching to relate Arizona history. This partnership among historians, teachers, students, digital storytellers and ASU Theatre and Film faculty will create digital stories that explore Arizona’s cultural history through oral histories and historical research. Using GPS technology, Smartphones and YouTube, participants will create histories of specific Sonoran desert locations that will be linked and accessible.

The Institute for Humanities Research at ASU provided the initial seed money for the NEA grant application, according to Kathleen Holladay, IHR assistant director.

These projects will give many of the participating Valley youth their first opportunity to work with professional artists and faculty as mentors, Johnson said.