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December 13, 2012

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona ArtBeat: Street Gems of Arizona

  |   Video
  • Valley artist Ann Morton talks about Street Gems of Arizona, a program sponsored by ASU’s Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation, that gives homeless people an opportunity to earn money while creating art with found objects and recycled materials.
  • Ann Morton - Artist
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: art, artbeat, street gems, ,

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Ted Simons: On tonight's Arizona Art Beat we look at art as a social enterprise. Street Gems Arizona gives the valley's homeless an opportunity to make money while making jewelry out of found objects and recycled materials. Here to talk about the program is its found other Ann Morton, who recently earned her master's from ASU's Herberger's Institute for Design and the Arts. Welcome to the program, good to have you here.

Amy Mortan: Nice to be here, thank you.

Ted Simons: Street gems. Its pretty established now? Talk to us more about it.

Amy Mortan: It's pretty new. We started in the summer. June. Kind of trained over the summer just to be ready for the holiday season this year. We're pretty fledgling. Pretty new.

Ted Simons: And this is wearable art from what? Things like plastic bottles and tapes?

Amy Mortan: We use plastic bags. We use caution tape, plastic bottles mixed with small seed beads and jeweler's wire.

Ted Simons: And this is stuff that has been discarded. You're not going to the store to buy these bottles.

Amy Mortan: The bottles are discarded. We are buying the caution tape new, but the plastic bags are discarded. Caution tape may not be clean enough to wear, so we do buy that new.

Ted Simons: I understand you're working with the load star -- the LODE star daily special.

Amy Mortan: They are great. We wouldn't be able to do this without them. Early in the summer I went to them and I showed them the designs I had been working on, and they have products already which is another social enterprise. It's soaps, chapstick, lotions. So they are already set up as a small social enterprise. They were very interested in adding street gems to that. That enterprise. Making two enterprise there's. That's what we're working with them on that.

Ted Simons: I notice your necklace. That is -- I think we have another shot. That's caution tape.

Amy Mortan: That is crocheted.

Ted Simons: That's amazing. Who thinks of doing something like this?

Amy Mortan: Well, my history with crochet caution tape is very strong. I did a huge project in my master's thesis where I paid homeless a square foot to crochet caution tape and we made a huge 16 by 16 foot caution field out of that. So caution tape is definitely in my history.

Ted Simons: That's basically just a big old rug made of caution tape?

Amy Mortan: Yes.

Ted Simons: what is it like to walk on? Is it crunchy?

Amy Mortan: Very soft.

Ted Simons: It is? You mentioned you got an idea. How did you really get started with this system what made you think I have to work with some of these folks. I bet they could put together some interesting ideas?

Amy Mortan: Well, I had a studio practice during my graduate career. As much as I enjoyed that, I felt like there was something missing at the heart of that practice. So I started to explore a more social practice combined with my studio practice. My studio practice was I had been picking up discarded items and affecting them to make this giant collection, but those discarded items it was an easy leap to think I'll work with homeless people and maybe get to know a community that I really am pretty naive about. So I did a project called 13 Fridays where I invited gentle knitters to come down and knit on the human services campus on 12th avenue and Madison. 13 different Fridays for four hours an we would knit woolen hats during November and December through the coldest months of the year, and so through that I met a lot of people. I realized that this is a whole community there of people that I'm a native and I had never stepped foot on that campus before. So I learn a lot and just through different associations started working with people that I had met to make things.

Ted Simons: when these people do make things, talk about the impact of creating art on the homeless. What does it do for these folks?

Amy Mortan: Well, many of them just want something to do, and so -- when they finish these pieces can be finished in a relatively short amount of time, so there's some gratification in completing a project. There's also benefits for being involved with street gems. They get an internship eventually. They might get housing. They might get bus passes. We might give an eye exam and new glasses to a participant. They take part in different programs like toastmasters, ballroom dancing, so it's not just doing street gems. It's getting involved in this community and learning how to get back integrated back into the community again.

Ted Simons: I would think just the feeling of accomplishment would be big.

Howard Fischer: Absolutely. And a lot of people like I used to crochet when I was a little 10:04 AMkid. My mother taught me. This unearthed that skill they once had as a child or young person.

Ted Simons: Do you think this can also maybe help educate the public, maybe break down some stereotypes regardless the homeless when they see what they are doing? That's not easy to do. That takes time, takes commitment, takes a lot of things that some folks think the homeless don't have maybe.

Amy Mortan: Right. I hope that happens. I hope there is some barriers that get broken down. Just an awareness. That's why some of the photographs of our makers, I like to put them out there so they can see them making and that these are real people behind these objects.

Ted Simons: where can you buy these things?

Amy Mortan: We're available in retail locations and online. So we're available at may boutique in downtown Phoenix. We're available at the ASU museum store at Scottsdale center for the arts in smoka. They are in both stores there. Schumer center for the arts and in Chandler at their city hall visions gallery. Then we're available online at the BB -- just BB just with just a B, we're street gems Arizona on

Ted Simons: Last question, what is next for you?

Amy Mortan:: Well, I continue to find projects where I can have a broader focus of the homeless, broader community, so I'll be doing a public art project soon with the city of Phoenix that is another big project where it will end up making blankets for the homeless. That will take over the next year's time.

Ted Simons: Very good. Congratulations on street gems. Thank you so much for joining us.

Amy Mortan: Thank you, appreciate it.

Ted Simons: Friday on the journalists roundtable Maricopa County vows to keep fighting the legality of marijuana dispensaries. Why was representative David Schweikert removed from a key house committee by fellow Republicans. Those stories on the journalists roundtable. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Arizona’s School Choice Policy

  |   Video
  • ASU professor David Garcia, director of the Arizona Education Policy Initiative for ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, comments on his research on the effectiveness of Arizona’s school choice policies.
  • David Garcia - Director, Arizona Education Policy Initiative for ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Category: Education   |   Keywords: school, college, choice, policy,

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Ted Simons: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Arizona has long been a leader in school choice. Families have many educational options and Arizona has more charter schools than any state except for California. Still, the vast majority of Arizona families keep their kids in traditional public schools and that, according to ASU professor David Garcia, indicates school choice doesn't work the same as the free Mark. He's been researching the issue and yesterday shared some of his findings at the Arizona school board association's annual meeting. Here to talk more about his research is David Garcia, director of the education policy initiative for ASU's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Good to see you again. Thank you for joining us.

David Garcia: Thank you, appreciate the invitation.
Ted Simons: So Arizona is what, too gung ho you think on school choice?
David Garcia: When I started this question I was looking at a discrepancy. We are one of top states in choice and toward the bottom in education outcomes. I was looking at that question. What I realized is in realty this isn’t really an issue choice policy; it’s really an issue of market policies in Arizona. What we have been following in Arizona is market principles, this idea if you give parents the ability to vote with their feet and they will do so in a rational manner like a parent consumer would that that rising tide is going to lift all boats. That part of education policy simply hasn't played out in the last 20 years.

Ted Simons: Hasn't played out because parents are not rational consumers?

David Garcia: You know, not from a market perspective. You’ve got to remember that, right? So from a market perspective, rational consumers, when they receive a bad product, what they are supposed to do? Let’s say a bad cup of coffee, is to go to a better coffee shop. And as a result what happens is that the coffee shop they left either gets better or closes down. That same analogy is used with schools all the time. The problem is when parents are faced with a declining school, they do something completely unheard of. Most of them stay. We have been finding this for really a long time with regard to research and they stay for a couple reasons. One, high transaction costs to leaving. It costs a lot to go somewhere else. And second, they are not consumers in the traditional sense. Parents and schools are more like members in communities than consumers in businesses. If you look at how members and communities act and how they behave it looks a lot like how parents behave in public schools. Interestingly your more committed members in communities are the last to leave. That is completely irrational and they are the last to leave because they are the most invested in the idea of a community.

Ted Simons: Are you saying, are you finding that parents don't choose schools due to test scores; due to A, B, C, D grades; due to these sorts of things? Obviously some do, but most don't?

David Garcia: We have almost 30 years on how parents choose. Looking at the factors they choose from, what parents choose with regard to schools first and foremost are issues such as safety, student well-being, fit with regard to academics and specialized curriculum and the student body composition. Who else is in the schools. Down the list quite a ways are formal sources of information - like state report cards, like state test scores. And of all of those, the biggest source of information that parents use is actually other parents.

David Garcia: Other parents. Yeah, interesting! But there are waiting lists to get into charter schools and other school options. Are there not?

David Garcia: there are.

Ted Simons: So obviously some parents, many parents are using choice.

David Garcia: And it works very well for those parents. That's where choice is really exciting. When folks see schools of choice in traditional public schools as well as charter schools, by the way, that isn’t the distinction. What choice allows is like minded parents with like-minded students to get into schools with like-minded teachers and administrators around a common core academic mission. That is a very powerful aspect of choice. But, what we expect in Arizona is because there's a school of choice that other schools, the rising tide, remember, are going to get better. That part of education policy really hasn't panned out. That's the reason why despite so much expansive choice policies in Arizona, achievement scores have not risen at the same time.

Ted Simons: So with that in mind, should the state not be so gunning ho on school choice because if that's the case, a lot of kids who are doing really well because they have gone to a school of their parents' choice, will they start being left behind or not achieving as much as they could?

David Garcia: I think the issue is not that we shouldn't be gung ho about school choice. I think we should stop thinking about parents as consumers and relying on them leaving their schools behind as the primary driver for education reform. That I think is where we have gone gung ho. Parents aren't the rational consumers you might think in a private sector.

Ted Simons: Why not encourage parents to be better consumers? To pass those emotional issues and look at the fact Junior could be going to this school and doing a heck lot or being exposed to a lot better than what he's being exposed to now?

David Garcia: Couple of things. Usually when you make this argument, supposed the market isn't working, it can be done more efficiently. Even if you had more information available, let's say -- we did that, by the way. We went from excelling schools to now label grades so it was more transparent to parents. Even though we made that change parents will continue to make choices about schools on things other than that label grade. There pay attention to the schools' well-being, safety, how their student fits in that school and to who else is attending; regardless of the labels that we add to the schools. I'll give you an example. Under ‘No Child Left Behind’, some 65,000 students in 2005-2006 were told they could go someplace else. The principal got in front of them and said you can exit. They go in front of them, said you can go to another school. 0.2% according to this Departmnet of Educations’ own report actually got up and took advantage of that opportunity and left.

Ted Simons: Yeah,yeah. So are you saying that we shouldn't necessarily limit choice because there are parents who simply choose not to choose, you're saying what, we need to elevate some of the failing schools because there are parents who will not leave?

David Garcia: I think that what we need to recognize is that parents are members in communities and that their first inclination is not to leave, their first is to stay and help. We can think about public policies that help parents help their schools. Right now our thought is if you don't like it where you're at, get up and go someplace else. That's not the first inclination that you see. The other thing to think about is to realize there are choosers everywhere. My daughters go to a public school. Analogy that's often put to people in public schools is that they are somehow left behind. There are as many choosers, if not more choosers, in traditional public schools than other options outside of traditional public school system.

Ted Simons: So when you spoke to the Arizona School Board Association at the annual meeting; gave the some of your ideas and showed your research and study results, what kind of response did you get?

David Garcia: Most folks said as a parent that's exactly the reason why I chose their school, and many of them said things like we have our label, whatever that label is, excelling, we lose more students from that school to another specialized school. A school with a special, unique mission. I think the reason they do is because parents are paying more attention to the academic mission of the school and the fit for the student than the label that gets attached to that school. So my message to the School Board Association was think about how you're creating unique, innovative options for parents. That fit is what works best, but it doesn't mean even though you have one that this rising tide is going to improve public education in general.

Ted Simons: Last question, in a world of limited resources and goodness knows we're in that world now, as far as education is concerned. Does it make sense to continue to push for choice, or do you redirect those limited resources in another direction?

David Garcia: I think it makes sense to continue to have choice available, choice is an important part of education policy. We need to find another direction to think about because choice alone, the policy we have been following the last 20 years, isn't enough to push us where we need to go.

Ted Simons: Can you work on public policy in that direction when so many parents are making emotional decisions?

David Garcia: This is where the idea of applying market strategy to education falls in place - that's the Achilles heel in general. That those emotional decisions are actually very rational from a family perspective. The grade that your school has is less important than your student fitting well and looking, feeling like they do well in that school. Most parents understand that and know that.

Ted Simons: Very interesting stuff. Good to have you. Thanks for joining us.

David Garcia: Thanks a lot. Appreciate it.

Bill of Rights Monument

  |   Video
  • The executive director of, Chris Bliss, talks about the nation’s first Bill of Rights monument that is being dedicated on Bill of Rights Day, Saturday, December 15th, 2012 at the Arizona State Capitol.
  • Chris Bliss - Executive Director,
Category: Community   |   Keywords: arizona, state, monument, bill of rights, ,

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Ted Simons: This Saturday, 221 years after the bill of rights was adopted, Arizona will become the first state in the nation with a monument honoring that historic document. Arizona's bill of rights monument will be unveiled and dedicated Saturday at 10:00 a.m. at Wesley Bolin Plaza near the state capitol. Earlier I spoke with a man who led the effort to get the monument built – juggler and comedian Chris bliss, the executive director of Thank you for joining us tonight on "Arizona Horizon."

Chris Bliss: Hi, it's a pleasure to be back with you.

Ted Simons: All right. Before we get into the where force of what nots and where this thing is located and everything, what got you started on all this?

Chris Bliss: Well, I just left Los Angeles. I'm a comedian by trade. And I left LA because I was tired of show business. Moved here to Arizona. And I was also disturbed by how divisive the national conversation was and was looking for a common ground project. I have been doing this material, all these arguments over the 10 commandments, this is back in 2003, 2004, about how instead of taking the displays down why don't we put the bill of rights up next to it so people can comparison shop. Because the bill of right gives you and amazing deal – it tells you speak freely, carry a gun, pursue happiness. And then it actually presumes you to be innocent, which my religion won't. That was the joke around it. One day I was walking around in my office thinking about it. I tried to get a couple of othe rpeiple to do it. I said, this would be good idea, wouldn't it? I Googled bill of rights monument. Saw there wasn't a single one anywhere in the United States and thought, that cannot be. It's a great common ground project, conservatives and liberals love large parts of it even though people would argue they don't all love all of it. I was looking to bring people together when they were badly divided. We are just as badly divided, so six years later, here we are.

Ted Simons: And here we are indeed in Arizona. Was it because you were here you decided to focus on Arizona? Any other reason why Arizona would be the first?

Chris Bliss: It was serendipity you might call it. I was doing some radio shows. I was on a radio program that newly elected a ten time statehouse of representatives Kyrsten Sinema. We had a half an hour thing on a radio show and they said do you want to come in and talk about your project? And I was talking about it on air with Kyrsten and she said I’l take that in front of the legislature, you don’t need any appropriations. And I went to her office in January and she said, “Chris, if you haven't noticed, we don't exactly run this place. Maybe you should take it to the other side if you need authorization”. And I said “Kyrsten, don't be silly. It's the bill of rights. It belongs to all of us. Find one person on the other side, join up with him and I bet everybody comes along for the ride”. She reached across the aisle to Karen Johnson. You couldn't find more polar opposites. And that started the template and we got unanimous approval and then it was just the matter of finding the right site. That took a while. They offered us a wonderful site in Bolin Plaza, then it was getting the final approvals and funding.

Ted Simons: Yeah indeed, and now everything is a go for Saturday. Let's get some particulars. Where exactly will this be located?

Chris Bliss: It's in the southwest quadrant of Wesley Bolin Plaza. That's technically the address is 1700 West Washington but it's right across 17th avenue from the state capitol. On the Jefferson side adjacent to the Vietnam memorial on a prominent hillside there. You can see it from everywhere.

Ted Simons: We're looking at one of the monuments here. Describe better for us. We're talking ten slabs for each amendment, correct?

Chris Bliss: Ten individually sculpted limestone monoliths. They are made from single salt cut slabs of limestone. They will last for 100 years. The sculptor and artisan is a guy named Joseph Concannon, one of the top stone artisans in the country. He put this design together as a group of individual monoliths. They are individually carved, they are all beautiful sculptural shapes but are also a grouping on the hill. It speaks straight from the whole concept philosophically of the bill of rights.

Ted Simons: As far as design is concerned you don't want the second amendment to look like a gun, but is there abstract notions behind each slab?

Chris Bliss: Actually there's two things at play. In the first play, some of the amendments are longer in terms of the words; and some are shorter. That comes into play on how large the monoliths are, but also the sculptor's challenge is when you have words on stone to make people want to engage with the wording and then move from stone to stone. So the variance in shape and choices of those shapes is to create movement in it as a single sculpture made up of ten pieces and to each have its own focal point and engage. Then these are not flat surfaces with letter in sand glass. They are contoured. This is a trick he learned when he was lead carver of St. John the Divine in New York. And the result is that they pull you in to engage. You want to read the words. The words are very readable. You can see them from 20 feet away, then you want to move to the next and the next. So I think for kids, just who we really wanted to engage,schoold kids, for these really big blocks of stone; they are really kind of friendly and inviting. They invite you to engage in them. I think it succeeds on that level as sculpture and also to engage people with the words of the document, which is what Joseph really wanted to do.

Ted Simons: With all that going on, what price are we talking about? How much did this cost?

Chris Bliss: Oh this is a miracle. We got it done for under $400,000.
Ted Simons: Wow!
Chris Bliss: And it will be there for 100 years.

Ted Simons: How did you get it done for under $400,000?

Chris Bliss: Well, a lot of people wanted to work with us and cooperate with us. Also the design was built into the design too because it's fairly simple design. The design was not made to be less expensive than other monuments. It was meant to fit the environment. Then we just had a lot of people work with us and we had that comedy concert here back in May. All those great acts came in pro Bono. Sun construction, doing the installation, is donating a large part of their services, a lot of their subcontractors have contributed and the business and legal communities have donated significant funds so we can meet our target. It's got to be the most forgotten commemorative holiday in America.

Ted Simons: And this will obviously help in Arizona. This is going on with a first in the country.

Chris Bliss: First major monument of the bill of rights anywhere.

Ted Simons: Where will the second, third and fourth be?

Chris Bliss: Well we are hoping that this monument will draw attraction too. We have something approved at the Texas state capitol. It's a beautiful design. Significantly more expensive. That's almost a $3 million project because it's a redesign of an entire Plaza. I'm hoping the attention that will be drawn to this and we're getting good national attention and we should have a day that's just about the ideas that made the country great. Just one day a year. Call it national ideas day if you want to call it that. The bill of rights is one of the best ideas that humanity has ever come up with and celebrating it seems to me to be -- it's great ideas that make a great nation and the bill of rights is part of our greatness.

Ted Simons: So with that, last question. You've seen the finished product. We will all see it on Saturday. You put so much of your life, so much effort, so much attention, are you happy with the way it looks?

Chris Bliss: It's beyond my best expectations. I have seen it during the day now. We put lighting on it at night. The stone is so beautiful it's scaled perfectly to the space, the landscaping. It's the first really inviting space over in Wesley Bolin Plaza. I think it will become a major landmark for the state and the city of Phoenix. The mayor, the governor will be there. The chief justice is going to be there. We're going to have ten different individuals each unveiling from one of the amendments while we have a reading over the loudspeakers so the bill of rights will be front and center. We'll also have some fun that way. It's going to be a terrific celebration.

Ted Simons: Well congratulations on this. Good luck Saturday. Thanks for joining us.

Chris Bliss: Thanks and I should mention, 10:00 a.m. Saturday is the dedication.