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June 13, 2013

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona ArtBeat: “Interconnections” Art Display

  |   Video
  • Local artist Laura Spalding Best will have her paintings on display at the Burton Barr Library in Phoenix through August 8. Her paintings explore the urban landscape. Best will talk about her work and the display.
  • Laura Spalding Best - Arizona Artist
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: arts, painting, phoenix, urban,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Tonight's "Arizona Artbeat" looks at the work of urban landscape artist Laura Spalding Best, who paints street scenes in ways to emphasize unappreciated flaws in our everyday views. We should note her paintings are on display at the Burton Barr Library through August 8th. Urban landscape, why?

Laura Spalding Best: I started painting the urban landscape of Phoenix almost years ago. Because I realized some of the landscapes I had been painting were from further away and kind of idealized and not representing what you saw every day.

Ted Simons: Define an urban landscape.

Laura Spalding Best: Part of our everyday views. So it's anything from buildings and downtown Phoenix, to the signs on the freeways and telephone poles and utility poles.

Ted Simons: Can you compare to traditional landscapes? If compositionally you can.

Laura Spalding Best: Well, yeah, one of the biggest things we share in composition, especially with traditional western landscapes, is the big sky and the horizon of the west. That's still something I try to capture about the desert environment. But I leave everything in that surrounds us.

Ted Simons: The title of your show is called Interconnections.

Laura Spalding Best: Uh-huh.

Ted Simons: Why that title?

Laura Spalding Best: It's the physical linking of two different networks in the telecommunications system or the electrical grid, and that's where that came from. And of course it kind of mirrors some of the things I try to explore in my work, which is our connection to each other as a community through our visual experience every day, and literally through the connections of telephone lines and utility poles, how we're all actually connected.

Ted Simons: With that said, let's take a look at some of your artwork here. When you see a telephone pole, some of these things, these power poles here, do you see them and go, that would be a nice pinwheel? How does the creative process work?

Laura Spalding Best: For that, that was a long time coming from starting, which is sort of simple urban landscapes that were a reflection of what I was seeing. They have brought it to a point where it's a little bit more conceptual. These radial compositions, I'm showing the telephone poles on one street the way you would never see them together. One is all the utility poles of Farmer Avenue. There's of them and they are all very different in a unique -- in their own way.

Ted Simons: But again, do you think this through at first or somewhere in your mind you're saying, I'm seeing something in a circle there. You think it through first?

Laura Spalding Best: It comes from a tradition of pattern and art and mandalas and things like that.

Ted Simons: Exactly. And when you're done and step back, does it ever surprise you?

Laura Spalding Best: Oh, yeah, all the time. That's a really rewarding part of being up close painting something, taking a few steps back.

Ted Simons: You've mentioned Farmer Avenue in Tempe.

Laura Spalding Best: Uh-huh.

Ted Simons: You drive around and you see a power pole with lines coming here and there, most of us would say, that transformer looks terrible. Do you say --

Laura Spalding Best: Yes, I do. I'm inspired every day by things that are part of my morning commute and that I see driving from my neighborhood.

Ted Simons: We see these things and we don't concentrate on these things. When you concentrate on something like this, this is an everyday view we're looking at. When you concentrate, what are you looking for? Is there something that's not being seen that should be seen?

Laura Spalding Best: Yeah, I think there are all these hidden dynamic views in our landscape. Once you start to look for them you see them more and more.

Ted Simons: What got you started in art?

Laura Spalding Best: I've been an artist since I was really young, but I pursued my BFA in painting at ASU and graduated in .

Ted Simons: These are paintings, aren't they?

Laura Spalding Best: They are all oil paintings. I work on -- I paint on metal.

Ted Simons: Why those particular materials?

Laura Spalding Best: I just love painting on metal. I started out by painting on some metal found objects. And the metal is such a natural surface for oil, especially on aluminum, it's very archival. The way the paint applies to that surface is wonderful. I've used the metal surface as part of background to represent the sky and left that exposed rather than always painted over.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Again, when did you decide -- was there a point where you said -- I'm assuming you painted flowers or something.

Laura Spalding Best: I painted people, sure.

Ted Simons: When did people become landscape art? Was there an aha moment?

Laura Spalding Best: Yeah, I went on a trip where I did a lot of more traditional landscape painting because I was out further in nature. And when I came back I really wanted to keep doing that and describe space and place. So that's where all this came from.

Ted Simons: Will you go back to doing landscape nature?

Laura Spalding Best: I'll go to what's around me, but I might always jump back to people.

Ted Simons: And you're Phoenix-based, correct?

Laura Spalding Best: Yes.

Ted Simons: Why do you stay in Phoenix?

Laura Spalding Best: I came out here for school and just loved it. I've never felt the need to leave. I've lived here for 14 years.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Talk about the local arts community,ist the supportive or best that they are out there on their own?

Laura Spalding Best: It can feel like artists are out there on their own. I was part of an arts collective for three years and I work at the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, so I really get to see a lot of effort into the arts in the community.

Ted Simons: In 14 years have you ever seen that change?

Laura Spalding Best: Yeah, I've seen us get closer to a more active and dynamic art scene over that time, from fledgling first Fridays into the early 2000s to how it is now.

Ted Simons: And art tours.

Laura Spalding Best: Yeah.

Ted Simons: Optimistic about art and the future of artists in the Valley?

Laura Spalding Best: Yeah, in my personal experience it's only got better.

Ted Simons: What's next for you?

Laura Spalding Best: More exhibitions and more painting.

Ted Simons: I guess we can't run out of urban landscape, can we?

Laura Spalding Best: We'll see where it goes.

Ted Simons: Congratulations on your work and now sharing it here.

Laura Spalding Best: Thank you so much.

Rural Schools Survey

  |   Video
  • More than 3,000 rural superintendents, principals and teachers were asked in a survey what rural schools need to teach math and science by the Arizona Department of Education. Science Foundation Arizona Chief Operating Officer Margaret Mullen will discuss the results of that survey.
  • Margaret Mullen - Science Foundation, Chief Operating Officer
Category: Education   |   Keywords: education, teachers, survey, school,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: The State Department of education recently surveyed more than , rural superintendents, principals and teachers on what they need for better results in the classroom. Science Foundation Arizona Chief Operating Officer Margaret Mullen is here to discuss the results of the survey. Good to have you here. Surveying teachers, principals, why?

Margaret Mullen: We had a donor say, you've invested $40 million in education in the major communities in Arizona. How do you know what the rural communities need? So we went to the Department of Education and asked if they would send the survey out for Science Foundation Arizona. We got an amazing 31% response rate. We sent to it every public school superintendent and teacher in the rural counties. I must say the results were devastating.

Ted Simons: I want to get to the results in a second here. I was going to ask you what constitutes a rural school and a rural school district.

Margaret Mullen: In Arizona everything outside of Maricopa and Pima County are considered rural by state definition. We surveyed all of those rural counties. They are communities like Flagstaff, Prescott, Yuma, that we would consider urban. We've made significant investments in those communities and we will continue to do so. But this will force us to look at what we can do to help those smaller communities in Arizona.

Ted Simons: Okay. What was asked in the survey? What was found?

Margaret Mullen: We asked teachers how much professional development they had, were they qualified to teach science and math if they were teaching science and math. We asked if they had the necessary tools to do their job. We asked what they need to do improve science and math teaching and academic achievement in Arizona. Unfortunately, in rural Arizona, very few teachers get adequate professional development, and in fact very little in math and science. Unfortunately, most of them don't have the tools necessary to do their job. You would think they would beg for salary increases, smaller class sizes. That is not the case. What these people are saying is we have to spend our own money to do basic -- to have the basic resources in our classroom. We need equipment, some of these stories are heartbreaking. They have textbooks that are 12 years old that don't have all the pages in them. They don't have basic supplies. They spend an average of $1000, a year, science and math teachers, for the supplies for their own classrooms. Yet they make less than $30,000 a year.

Ted Simons: This sounds like basic stuff here. Where is the state? Where is accountability? Where is oversight? That sounds unacceptable.

Margaret Mullen: It is unacceptable to most people. The State will tell you they invest per pupil and there is an additional amount of funding that goes to rural Arizona. But it goes there because of things like the transportation needs. People spend a lot more time on a school bus. They don't last as long. Bottom line, the money does not get to the teachers in the class. If we want an educated population to continue to develop Arizona and have the tax base we have, we can't throw away 22% of the student population. That's what lives in rural Arizona.

Ted Simons: We will get critics who say we can't throw money at education. We've spent enough, some say. I realize what the state rankings are. Some say you are spending it on the wrong things.

Margaret Mullen: I'm not asking the state to put money in this. I don't trust the state to get this money to the teachers and into the classroom. I'd like the state to look at the expenditures, determine how much is actually getting to the classrooms to improve academic achievement. What we're going to do is take philanthropic dollars and ask the public to help us, in addition to what we're getting from philanthropic donors. We will get gift cards to teachers, professional development to teachers, and basic science and math equipment to teachers.

Ted Simons: Through Science Foundation Arizona. How much are we talking about?

Margaret Mullen: We've already raised $15 million. That sounds like a lot, but it's less than $100 per rural school. At least we will begin to make a difference in the classroom.

Ted Simons: Do you know how the money will be distributed?

Margaret Mullen: Yes, we are going to start with Navajo and Apache Counties. We are hiring a field staff person to NSF to work with the schools. We will dedicate up to $10,000 per school. But the teachers have to get the principal and superintendent to agree to do their part. That's not financial. That's letting them have common planning time so they can have the professional development and the planning across the curriculum.

Ted Simons: Are there RFPs involved? How do you know where it's going to go?

Margaret Mullen: We're tough. We will issue an RFP and require the superintendent and principal to sign to do the things they need to do. We will give gift cards to the teachers for supplies. They will give us receipts. We will track everything, the previous three years of academic performance and the next three years, to make sure what we're doing actually improves academic achievement.

Ted Simons: Are you working in conjunction at all with the state? Sounds like something the State Department of Education should be doing.

Margaret Mullen: The State Department of education helped us do this. They are very aware of what we're doing. They have no surplus funds to get to the classroom. They understand the problems but they don't have the resources to do it. This is a short-term stop-gap measure to give teachers hope, and hopefully to get some students' achievement increased in rural Arizona.

Ted Simons: How do you address the concerns, everything from after school programs and basic needs from teachers with common core now coming in. The standards of the state are changing big-time. How does this play in?

Margaret Mullen: We're not going to be able to implement common core unless we can get basic supplies and equipment to the teachers. If you read some of the teachers' comments -- these are not my answers, these are comments from teachers in Arizona saying, we haven't had textbook changes in 12 years and we don't have all the pages in our textbooks. We don't have calculators in our classroom. How do we get the basic needs so they can begin to implement common core. Teachers have to have increased rigor in the classroom. Common core is important. They can only do it with the supplies and equipment necessary to do their job.

Ted Simons: Science foundation, $15 million in three years.

Margaret Mullen: All of that. We've heard for example Salt River Project, the minute they saw this called and said we've got a plant in Apache County, we're on board, we'll help. I think there will be a lot of corporate support in Arizona, but we are getting a lot of support from around the country.

Ted Simons: Give us the website.

Margaret Mullen:

Ted Simons: All right. Margaret, good luck, good to have you here.

Margaret Mullen: Thank you, good to see you.

Yavapai Oral History Book

  |   Video
  • The Yavapai Community of the Fort McDowell Reservation east of the Phoenix area has fought for rights that have had nationwide implications. The Yavapai fought and won in court for voting rights in the 1940s, battled a federal dam and were the first to have gaming. In the 1970s, tribal elders Mike Harrison and John Williams sought to have their history recorded as they themselves knew it, passed down orally from generation to generation. The effort resulted in a book “Oral History of the Yavapai.” Book editor Caroline Butler will talk about the book.
  • Caroline Butler - "Oral History of the Yavapi," Book Editor
Category: Community   |   Keywords: community, Yavapai, voting rights,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: In the 1970s the Yavapai community of the Fort McDowell Reservation east of the Phoenix area fought off a proposed federal dam, which spurred tribal elders to have their histories recorded as they themselves knew it, passed down orally from generation to generation. The effort resulted in "Oral History of the Yavapai." A history of the Yavapai Nation. Joining us to talk about it is Carolina Butler. Why did you undertake this particular project?

Caroline Butler: Because it was not mine to do, but it just worked out that way. The oldest man of the tribe, Mike Harrison, asked me in 1973, I want you to write the history of our tribe. I said, well, I'm busy right now helping you fight off the dam, which would have forced them from their land. But I said, I'll get you someone. So I sent out a letter to a publisher in Tucson that I knew, and the letter found itself to the hands of Dr. Sigrid Cara, an ASU anthropology professor. She called up and said, I'm interested in doing this project. I took her out to Fort McDowell and introduced her to Mike Harrison. He had invited his cousin, John Williams. The three of them sat down and started recording, they recorded for two to three years. It ended up in 200 audio recordings of their interviews. And Mike and John died of old age and infirmity in 1983. And Dr. Cara unfortunately got cancer and she died in 1984. She knew that she was not going to get well, so she wrote her will and left me all her research material.

Ted Simons: Wow, wow.

Caroline Butler: Yes. So this big project landed in my lap. So I just put it aside for many, many years. Did some work on it, you know, reorganizing her color slides, et cetera. So anyway one day I said, I'm not getting any younger, I better get this thing done.

Ted Simons: And you got this thing done.

Caroline Butler: I'm very pleased.

Ted Simons: I'm sure you are.

Caroline Butler: The "Oral History of the Yavapai" is a very special and different book which all Arizona should know about. It's history from the Indians' point of view and told in their own words. You don't come across that in any book. Nobody's library shelf has a book like this one.

Ted Simons: You talked to two elders, mostly responsible for their earlier interviews. Were other people involved? Were others involved at later dates or was this mostly their remembrances?

Caroline Butler: It was their remembrances. You will read in the book that Dr. Cara writes that other people from the reservation came around and said, well, that's not exactly how it happened, you know. But anyway, this is to be expected. So she said after hearing from other people, there was no question that the ones that had the most knowledge about the old days was Mike and John.

Ted Simons: And you mentioned some other people involved and maybe they had different stories. How do you -- when you put an oral history together, how do you make sure the facts are the facts? How do you corroborate some of this information? Do you look in textbooks? Did you talk to other people? How did you make sure what you were getting was the real thing?

Caroline Butler: I remember that Dr. Cara, all of us became close friends. I remember, because she researched the Army records, the white people's records. She would say it's amazing what the two old fellows are saying, that it dovetails in with the records that the Army has, it was amazing.

Ted Simons: I'm sure. Your book includes some amazing photography. The photographs, where did you find those?

Caroline Butler: First of all, the cover is of Four Peaks. And that's on everybody's Arizona license plate, you know.

Ted Simons: We can almost all see it, too, at some times of the year.

Caroline Butler: But this photo was taken by my son who is a professional photographer. He gets his photographs in "Arizona Highways." He has taken so many photos. When I finished the text of the book, he said, Mom, you can have any photo you want from my inventory. I asked, do you have a photo of this? This? I don't want any buildings or people, I want landscape.

Ted Simons: And you got some landscape. We saw an amazing array of photographs there. When the project was finally done, you got the book, you leaf through it, was it what you expected?

Caroline Butler: I have to tell you that it brings me to tears. Because the story of the Yavapai is so painful, and no one knows about it. And these people walk among us today, and I say that for years the Yavapai people have been walking among us, holding this painful past in their hearts and souls. Because their history has not been out until now. And so imagine the black Americans walking among us today, and no history has ever been recorded of their painful past, let's say. It's the same way for the Yavapai.

Ted Simons: What reaction have you had from the Yavapai people, and from other historians?

Caroline Butler: Well, the historians, I'll tell you, even today when I was telling everybody, I alerted half of Arizona that I was going to be here --

Ted Simons: Good news.

Caroline Butler: - and that the book was going to be on this program. The professionals, anthropologists and professors I know that know about the book, they said, oh, it's so great. One e-mailed me today and he says, I've read the book; and he says, I had to skip some of the painful parts. It was just too much. I says, well, these people have been walking around with it in their hearts for 150 years.

Ted Simons: We've run out of time. Congratulations on the project. Obviously a long time in coming but you got it out there. The books is out there. Continued success. Thanks for joining us.

Caroline Butler: And the Yavapais have all loved it. I think every Yavapai is watching too.

Ted Simons: Good to have you here. That's good news.

Caroline Butler: Thank you, Tim.