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2020 Stories in Review: Here are our editor’s top 3 story picks for the year

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Basic Elements 1985
ATC_005 Georgia Large
Arizona Art Alliance leadership
Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles

Throughout 2020, we have endeavored to bring our readers stories of perseverance, creativity, generosity and connection. The stories below are some of my favorites from the year and I wanted to share them with you again, along with an update to the story. 

1. The Performing Arts vs. the Pandemic: A Story in Three Acts

For our September issue, we talked to Sean Daniels, artistic director at Arizona Theatre Company (ATC), and Abbey Messmer, programming director at Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, about the state of Arizona’s performing arts at what would traditionally be the start of the season. Read the story.

An Update to the Story:

ATC announced Dec. 7 that the surging COVID-19 numbers combined with restrictions imposed by national theatre unions prompted the company to make the difficult decision to again postpone its 54th season until later in 2021, stating that “ATC will return to live stage productions only when it is safe to do so.”

While Daniels said that ATC will not be presenting live or streamed theatre right now, he reiterated that the work of the theatre continues for creative and artistic teams.

“Our creative team has been busy with a series of premiere works in development that will help set the stage for our return to the live stage and have made this a very exciting time for new works coming from the amazing talent here in Arizona.”

In its December newsletter, Scottsdale Arts noted that Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts invested in the future by rolling out a new studio-quality livestream environment in the Virginia G. Piper Theater that allowed main performance space to be used for live, socially distanced performances, which can be simulcast to viewers watching online at home. The Center presented Live & Local musicians performing remotely during the Summer Streams and major national acts like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy from the Piper stage. Events are planned to continue through January.

2. Basic Elements Go Back to 1985: Band with North Phoenix roots returns with new single

We caught up with Jonathan Goldman and William Preston Bowling the founding members of the Phoenix 80s band Basic Elements, for our October issue. The band, which was formed with Matt Barton on drums, Bowling on bass, John Denis on vocals, Goldman on synth and David Youssefi on guitar, reunited to release their first single this year, which is a re-recording of their 1985 song, “Hide.” Read the story.

An Update to the Story:

Basic Elements New You

"New You" by Basic Elements is set to drop Jan. 8.

“For a bunch of unknown 50-somethings breaking into the music scene after a 30-year hiatus, we couldn’t be happier with the reception of ‘Hide,’” said Goldman.  “The song cracked the Top 15 at 93.9 KWSS and was played regularly on the SiruisXM show hosted by legendary KROQ DJ, Rodney Bingenheimer. The band also made a recent appearance on Mike Watt’s “Watt From Pedro” podcast and people seem to have taken to our music and our story.”

Basic Elements will release a second single (“New You”) Jan. 8 and are collaborating on the release with local record store Zia Records.

“We are making a limited run of ‘cassingles’ that features the studio recording of ‘New You’ on Side-A and an archival Side-B recording of the same song from my parent’s garage back in 1985,” added Goldman.

Zia Records opened in Phoenix in 1980, and Basic Elements paid homage to this local music mainstay by incorporating the old Zia logo into the cover art.

3. Making Connections and Finding ‘Creative Distractions’: Art Alliance offers programs for veterans, survivors of suicide and others

For our November issue, we spoke with David L. Bradley, the new president of Arizona Art Alliance, who was joined by Tess Mosko Scherer to form the nonprofit’s new leadership team. The goal of the newly reorganized organization: focusing energy on its outreach programs and community building through the member leagues, arts organizations and artists in Arizona. A primary focus of the Alliance is the veteran’s art program. Read the story.

An Update to the Story:

Arizona Artists Guild and Paradise Valley Community College will offer an in-person Ceramic Art Program for Veterans. This two-year program is scheduled to begin Jan. 9. During this program Veterans will make pottery and sculpture using clay.

The program is part of an NEA funded research study to describe and interpret the thinking, mood and perception of connectedness that Veterans associate with their participation in a leisure arts program.

“Those of us involved in the Veterans Art Programs have witnessed the positive effects on mental health and wellbeing of the participants,” said Bradley in a December newsletter.

Learn more about the program here.

BONUS PICK: Three Thousand and Counting — Area Students Unite to Donate Masks During Pandemic

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, local students led the charge in the battle to slow the spread of the coronavirus and making a big difference in the community.

Established in March by Cactus Shadows High School junior Angelique Cort, the AZ Mask Project focuses on harnessing the energy of a corps of volunteers to mass produce masks and provide them at no charge to critical care workers and compromised populations in the Phoenix area. Read the story.

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