man and three women hold Art Tank flier

ASU Herberger Institute dives into Arizona Art Tank, comes up big winner

By

Deborah Sussman Susser

Entrepreneurial ventures led by Herberger Institute students, faculty and alumni swept the top prizes at both Art Tank East and Art Tank West last month, taking home a substantial chunk of the more than $120,000 in seed money distributed by the Arizona Commission on the Arts during the event, and demonstrating the wide-reaching and positive effect that the Herberger Institute has on Arizona arts and culture.

Arizona Art Tank is a funding initiative of the Arizona Commission on the Arts that makes “strategic investments” in Arizona’s best arts-based entrepreneurial ventures. Funding for the initiative is part of a one-time, $1 million appropriation by the Arizona Legislature last spring for the commission.

At live events held in four Arizona communities over the course of four nights, top applicants had just six minutes to pitch their innovative ventures to a panel of judges and a live audience. At the end of each evening, the panels awarded top-scoring applicants with funding that ranged from $4,000 to $10,000. An additional $500 Audience Award was determined by popular vote at each event.

At the Jan. 28 Art Tank West event in Peoria, the big $10,000 prize went to Rising Youth Theatre, which is run by three alums of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, for “Light Rail Plays.” The project will pair professional artists with young people to develop short works about the way people move around the city and to perform them on and around the light rail.

And the $10,000 top prize at Art Tank East, which took place the following night at the Chandler Center for the Arts, was awarded to Art Xchange, a proposal by the School of Art to build an online portal that will connect campus units, ASU-affiliated business and community organizations with Herberger Institute School of Art students, faculty and alumni to support rotating displays of original art.

The second largest prize at Art Tank East, for $7,500, went to the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship to fund its proposed Arizona Arts Entrepreneur Toolkit. Pave is directed by School of Film, Dance and Theatre faculty member Linda Essig.

In addition, the audience awards both nights went to organizations with roots in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre: The Art Tank West audience award winner, Orange Theatre, is entirely composed of ASU theater alums, current staff (who are also alums) and students; and Actors Youth Theatre, which won the audience award the second night for its "The Black Mustache Olde Fashioned Melodrama Co.," was founded by Marcus Ellsworth, who received a master's in theater from the school in 2012.

And finally, School of Film, Dance and Theatre student and staff member Tomas Stanton was part of the "Mesa Up @ Night" proposal presented by the City of Mesa Department of Arts and Culture and the Neighborhood Economic Development Corp., which took home $5,000 for an effort to place performance and art activities in downtown Mesa retailers and restaurants.

“The opportunity the Art Tank offered us – to offer up innovative, entrepreneurial arts initiatives – aligns with what we are asked to do each day at ASU,” said Adriene Jenik, ASU School of Art director. “I’m so pleased that the ASU Art Xchange, initiated by myself and local businesswoman and intermedia graduate student Kara Roschi, won the top award.”

Jenik said that in addition to the funding, the feedback she and Roschi got from both the judges and the audience “gave the project a big boost.”

Jake Pinholster, director of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, said he was "absolutely thrilled by the support and interest that our students, faculty and alums generated in this competition.

"The fact that projects and organizations connected to our school took home almost half of all the Art Tank Awards given in the Valley is a testament to the impact we are having on the community," he said.