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CREATIVE FORCES: Award honors innovative works that make a significant impact on Albuquerque

Illustrator Zahra Marwan moved to the United States from Kuwait as a child. She has some of her illustrations hanging in her studio at the Harwood Art Center.(Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Zahra Marwan relies on her vivid memories to inspire her artwork.

Normally, the Albuquerque-based artist is influenced by her travels and daily interactions with others.bright spot

For the past nine months, she’s mostly remained at home – rarely traveling to her art studio at Harwood Art Center.

“I miss the casual experiences of talking to strangers,” she says. “The stories I do hear these days are from my mother who is living in Kuwait. I also find inspiration in the things I read throughout the day.”

As points of inspiration became more of a challenge, it didn’t stop Marwan from creating new pieces of art regularly.

A self portrait with her husband, Florian Goussin, hangs in Zahra Marwan’s studio in the Harwood Art Center.

Marwan’s point of view as an artist is part of what helped her get recognized by the city of Albuquerque as a recipient of its Creative Bravos Awards.

“I was surprised,” she says of the award. “Of course it’s an honor to be recognized in the city that you love and have made your home.”

Marwan immigrated to New Mexico with her parents from Kuwait in the late-1990s. The family made their home in Rio Rancho.

She studied the visual arts in France, and continues various pursuits to further educate herself.

When her parents went back to Kuwait, Marwan decided to stay in Albuquerque and make it her home.

She has collaborated with several institutions and individuals including: The National Hispanic Cultural Center, The National Institute of Flamenco Arts, Éditions du Seuil and the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, Bloomsbury Publishing in New York, and Sharaf Studio along with Oloom Magazine in Kuwait.

Marwan is one of eight recognized by the city and first lady Elizabeth Kistin Keller.

Albuquerque’s Jordan Caldwell was an apprentice with the Apprenticeships for Leaders in Mosaic Arts (ALMA) before becoming an artist.

The Creative Bravos Awards began more than 30 years ago and have since recognized the creative work of more than 270 artists, programs, organizations, businesses and events that make a significant impact on the lives of area residents, neighborhoods and communities.

“While we are sad we can not gather to celebrate the creative contributions of this year’s winners, we look forward to sharing their stories with the community in a virtual setting,” says Keller. “Each recipient has impacted the community and has a hand in making Albuquerque a truly special place to live and work.”

Lucia Martinez, left, a student at Albuquerque High School and a youth producer for Generation Justice, attends a rally at UNM in support of HB172 which bans corporal punishment in all New Mexico schools in 2011. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)

According to the city, a series of videos featuring the recipients will begin to broadcast at 7 p.m. Monday, Jan. 11, on One Albuquerque Media’s YouTube, Facebook and Comcast channel 16. A video will be released at 7 p.m. each day from Jan. 11 through Jan. 19.

“Local creatives, artists and makers have been severely impacted by the pandemic,” says Dr. Shelle Sanchez, director of Cultural Services. “This year, more than ever, it’s important for us to shine light and support those who make creative contributions to the community.”

Sanchez says the Creative Bravos Awards help inspire others, though getting a group of those to be recognized was a little more challenging.

“It was harder to get our community engaged the way we have in previous years,” Sanchez says. “We still have to celebrate the good things that happened in 2020 and these artists and organizations kept moving forward.”

Patrons enjoy an interactive game at Electric Playhouse in February 2020.

Sanchez says the 2020 group of recipients is also diverse.

“Zahra is still at the beginning of her career and she’s going to launch big time in the coming year,” Sanchez says. “For the Bravos, we try to look at diversity in all of those ways – in terms of the art form, in terms of the creative economy.”

Joining Marwan as a recipient for the 2020 Creative Bravos Awards are:

Apprenticeships for Leaders in Mosaic Arts (ALMA)

ALMA supports and nurtures artists of all ages in creating artworks of exceptional quality and becoming artistic entrepreneurs. The artists of ALMA developed an apprenticeship model and over the past 20 years have created handmade tile mosaic artworks in collaboration with youth and adults in the community. ALMA is the Creative Bravos Legacy Recipient.

Albuquerque Poet Laureate Organizing Committee

Mary Oishi

The Albuquerque Poet Laureate Program (APLP) celebrates poetry by recognizing a resident poet who makes meaningful connections, honors, and serves our diverse community, elevates the importance of the art form, and shares poetry with Albuquerque residents. The committee named Mary Oishi, as Albuquerque Poet Laureate in 2020 for a two-year term.

 Electric Playhouse

Electric Playhouse’s unique brand of active entertainment and flexible digital environment create an engaging space for visitors of any age. Electric Playhouse produces immersive and interactive experiences.

Generation Justice

Lead artists and apprentices with Apprenticeships for Leaders in Mosaic Arts (ALMA) put the finishing touches on a mosaic mural titled “Tree of Life,” on the south wall of the East Convention Building in Downtown Albuquerque in August 2019. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Established in 2005, Generation Justice is a multiracial, multicultural project that trains youth to harness the power of community and raise critical consciousness through leadership development, civic engagement, media production and narrative shift in the areas that most impact New Mexicans – racial justice, health, education, early childhood development, and economic security.

A.G. Joe Stephenson

Stephenson has worked extensively as a muralist, graphic and scenic artist in Jamaica West Indies, New York, Los Angeles and Berkeley, California. After relocating to Albuquerque in 1987, he has worked with various Albuquerque arts organizations including La Companía de Teatro de Albuquerque, Working Classroom Inc., The Vortex Theatre, the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque Civic Light Opera Association (now Musical Theatre Southwest).

Jordan Caldwell

Otilio Ruiz formed the children’s group, Voces De Coronado.Courtesy of the NM Department of Cultural Affairs

Caldwell creates art to introduce people to his view of the world and how he feels. His ambition is to depict the cold, beautiful, isolated world he lives in, but to also acknowledge that others live in the same world. Caldwell is the Emerging Creative Bravos Recipient.

Otilio Ruiz

Ruiz was born in 1969 in the town of Pacho Nuevo, Veracruz in Mexico. He started singing at the age of five and he picked up his first instrument at the age of 11. He began his career in education in 2004 at the Bernalillo Public Schools. By 2009, he had transferred to *Albuquerque Public Schools as an elementary teacher at Coronado School where he has had the opportunity to form a children’s group, Voces De Coronado.

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