Connecting communities

Growing, engaging and mirroring the region we serve

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With more than 6,000 artists, designers and scholars working, teaching and learning together across five schools and a first-class art museum, the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is a creative city within Arizona State University – and that creativity reaches beyond the borders of ASU’s Tempe campus. The Herberger Institute is connecting to places across the region through its partnerships, programming and physical presence at sites throughout Arizona and California. 

“In the next three years, we are expanding our regional growth – adding a learning space and creative micro-retail in downtown Phoenix, co-designing a creative futures innovation center with the city of Mesa, Arizona, continuing to develop our partnership with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art around diversity and museum leadership and designing a presence in the Los Angeles region, and working with artist James Turrell to imagine a new cultural and learning endeavor connected to his Roden Crater project in rural, northern Arizona,” said Herberger Institute Dean Steven J. Tepper. “Each of these geographic expansions provides an opportunity to engage with and mirror the diverse communities we are reaching to serve.”

“Each of these geographic expansions provides an opportunity to engage with and mirror the diverse communities we are reaching to serve.”

Steven J. Tepper, dean and director, Herberger Institute

Building rendering of ASU Mesa location

A hub for digital innovation in the East Valley 

Early spring semester, ASU announced construction of a new location that aims to be a world-class hub for digital innovation in downtown Mesa, Arizona. ASU at Mesa City Center will house the ASU Creative Futures initiative, including academic programs offered by the Herberger Institute related to digital and sensory technology, experiential design, gaming, media arts, film production and entrepreneurial development and support. 

“This will be the place with everything digital you can possibly imagine, every level of creativity, every level of new company idea and spinout in science and technology and the arts,” ASU President Michael Crow said in February at the Mesa “State of the City” breakfast, sponsored by the Mesa Chamber of Commerce. “What we’re looking to do is have a creative center. High school kids, college students attending ASU, businesses in the community — everyone will be a part of this.”

The Creative Futures initiative will be a joint venture between ASU and the City of Mesa to train students in the transdisciplinary digital expertise that technology companies are now demanding and give them invaluable experience with augmented reality, virtual reality, immersive and interactive media spaces. 

“We are so excited about this collaboration with the City of Mesa and the opportunity for community, students, faculty and industry to work together and inspire one another,” said Tiffany Ana López, director of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in ASU’s Herberger Institute. “Diversity of vision and voice in media, digital technology and film is needed now more than ever. The access to cutting edge technology, the incredible range of cultures in Mesa and work with mentors from multiple levels and generations, along with the proximity to the Mesa Arts Center, make this a most extraordinary venture.”

The Creative Futures initiative is an example of radical inclusion via transdisciplinary thinking: Mesa’s demographics mirror Arizona’s — and the country’s. Piloting the program there rather than in a more established “city center” ensures digital literacy and leadership for all going forward. 

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Downtown Phoenix

In the fall of 2021, ASU will open the 16-story residential tower currently referred to as the Creative City Center. The first three floors of the tower will house new and growing Herberger Institute degree programs, with the remaining 13 floors dedicated for student residential living.

The centerpiece of the building will be space for the popular fashion program, which has grown to more than 250 majors within its first three years. The Design School and the School of Music will also be present in the new building, where they will offer courses and programs that connect music and design with industry and the community.    

“It will be a creative hive in the middle of downtown Phoenix, adjacent to Civic Park and to other ASU buildings and colleges,” Tepper said. “Ever since we moved our graduate MFA program in art into the Grant Street Studios, we have been looking for ways to expand the presence of our creative students in Phoenix.” 

Grant Street Studios, a renovated former cotton factory in the Warehouse District in downtown Phoenix, connects the Herberger Institute’s graduate studio artists with the downtown arts scene. Each month, student exhibitions at the space are part of the city’s First Fridays Art Walk lineup, and the studios offer events that are open to the public throughout the year. 

This new facility will ultimately welcome an additional 1,000 Herberger Institute students a year to downtown Phoenix in a live-work space that will also include a restaurant, performance space, a makerspace, business incubation space and more. Design and arts students, along with other ASU students, will have access to retail space to test product ideas, clothing Iines and other small business start ups. Many of the students who are creating together in the studio will be able to extend their collaboration and creative conversations into their residential living quarters. It will be a seamless live-work space that will optimize the creativity and enterprise of ASU students in the heart of a revitalized downtown.

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Rendering of ASU phoenix building

The L.A. connection 

This year, ASU also announced a new site in Los Angeles. The university has acquired space in the Herald Examiner building in downtown Los Angeles in an effort to expand its offerings in L.A., including bringing in more Herberger Institute programs and initiatives. 

“Not only does the building illuminate the city’s rich history dating back more than a century, we look forward to our presence there to play an important role in adding to the downtown’s intellectual, cultural and economic vibrancy,” Crow said in a press release. 

Connecting students to Los Angeles, one of the world’s most important hubs for cultural and creative industries, allows the Herberger Institute to meet the needs of students while also contributing to the communities and industry in California. 

The success of Herberger Institute’s Film Spark initiative, based in Santa Monica, California, proves the value of this regional relationship. Film Spark has been offering support and programming for ASU students and Los Angeles-based alumni for several years. Services include courses, workshops, film screenings with guest speakers and more at its headquarters at the ASU California Center in Santa Monica and at ASU in Tempe. In addition to serving ASU students and alumni, Film Spark works with area community college students and with high school students. Through a recent collaboration between Film Spark and Film2Future, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit dedicated to educating underserved youth in the film and creative industries, Film Spark helped facilitate a two-week summer program designed by Film2Future to introduce L.A.-area high school students to the art of virtual reality production.

ASU’s partnership, which involves both the ASU Art Museum and the School of Art, with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the largest encyclopedic art museum in the western United States, also connects the Herberger Institute to L.A. The partnership established the LACMA-ASU Master’s Fellowship in Art History to offer students academic training as well as museum work experience in an effort to advance the careers of a new generation of curators, directors and other museum professionals who are committed to disrupting and diversifying the field. 

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Arizona partnerships and programming

Another unprecedented partnership connects the Herberger Institute to the edge of the Painted Desert – to the site of Roden Crater, a dormant volcano that famed artist James Turrell is turning into a work of light and perception. This year, several students in Herberger Institute field labs visited the Roden Crater masterwork outside of Flagstaff, Arizona, as part of a new partnership between ASU and the artist. In addition to developing academic work around Roden Crater, the partnership also calls for ASU to help Turrell complete his work, including building infrastructure at the site and ensuring conservation of the site. 

The Herberger Institute also has a presence in other cities throughout the state as part of AZ Creative Communities Institute, a program launched by the Herberger Institute and the Arizona Commission on the Arts, with guidance from Southwest Folklife Alliance.

In 2018-19, nine Arizona community teams made up of local leaders, elected officials and resident artists continued their participation in the second year of AZCCI — a program that explores how creativity can make a positive impact on communities. The partners entered into this statewide work with the goal of supporting the practice of artist-driven community change and understanding the tools, resources and policies necessary to continue and advance this work. They are now in long-term discussions to continue collaborating beyond their participation in AZCCI to support a healthy cultural ecology in Arizona. 

The Herberger Institute also enriches the already thriving arts and culture scenes beyond campus by hosting concerts, productions, film screenings, lectures and other events in surrounding cities, from local movie theatres and bookstores to community parks and downtown Phoenix spots such as the nationally-recognized jazz venue The Nash (named after musician and Herberger Institute Professor Lewis Nash). 

Leveraging place

The Herberger Institute’s initiatives and programs, and work by its students, faculty, researchers, fellows and visiting artists and scholars, play a role in national and international conversations. But the Institute also values its surrounding region and its role in supporting the vibrant cultural ecology of the Southwest. 

Embracing the region means collaborating with its residents, from Institute Professor Wanda Dalla Costa and her students working closely with the Gila River Indian Community to co-design energy efficient, culturally relevant housing to School of Art Professor Angela Ellsworth’s Museum of Walking leading a silent walk through the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, from music students partnering with a local senior center and middle school as part of an intergenerational community music project to bringing together more than 80 local artists who created murals across Phoenix for a festival and fundraiser hosted by the Phoenix Mural Project, which is led by The Design School Assistant Professor Danielle Foushée.

All this activity, along with Herberger Institute’s regional sites, brings students, faculty and community together to imagine how creative practices makes our region stronger economically, socially and artistically.