The Arizona Commission on the Arts, an agency of the State of Arizona, has announced that it will pilot a new artist-to-artist professional development program called AZ ArtWorker in three Arizona cities: Douglas, Phoenix and Tucson.

Funded by a grant from the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation and produced in partnership with Arizona State University, AZ ArtWorker will provide opportunities for Arizona artists to learn from national and international artists who are at the frontlines of contemporary art and community practice.

According to Casandra Hernandez, the Arts Commission’s Artist Programs Coordinator, “AZ ArtWorker reflects the agency’s commitment to nurturing the creative and professional development of Arizona artists while leveraging their knowledge and talents in service to Arizonans.”

“AZ ArtWorker recognizes the need for high-quality, accessible and culturally-relevant professional development for artists in the communities where they live and work, and invests in those artists as the foundation of Arizona’s art sector,” Hernandez said.

“The Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation is excited to support AZ ArtWorker,” said Heather Pontonio, Art Program Director at the New Haven, Connecticut-based foundation. The foundation has committed $30,000 to the initiative through its Marketplace Empowerment for Artists program.

“We believe AZ ArtWorker will provide much-needed training to artists working throughout Arizona and create the foundation for a statewide network that will strengthen local arts communities for years to come,” Pontonio explained.

AZ ArtWorker will provide an expansive learning platform, which will include training with national and international artists, capacity- and leadership-building opportunities, community-focused programs and digital tools to support the business side of creative practice. To realize the program’s ambitious goals, the Arts Commission will partner with three Arizona State University initiatives: ASU Art Museum’s International Artist Residency Program, ASU Performance in the Borderlands and ASU Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship.

The Arts Commission will launch AZ ArtWorker in the border city of Douglas, AZ, on October 10 and 11, 2015, presenting a series of conversations and workshops with the indigenous artist collective Postcommodity (AZ/NM/OK), visual artist Ana Teresa Fernandez (CA/MX) and media and performance artist M. Jenea Sanchez (Douglas/Agua Prieta).

M. Jenea Sanchez, Douglas-based artist and collaborator in the development of AZ ArtWorker, believes this is an ideal time for this sort of programming to come to Douglas.

“There’s been a surge of creative momentum this past year in Douglas as local artists explore ways to build community within our city and strengthen the relationship with our sister city, Agua Prieta, Sonora,” Sanchez reported. “We are using our skills as artists to reestablish what previously existed here: an interconnected borderlands culture where we share ideas, art, music, relationships, food and creativity.”

“Our community as a whole will reap great benefits from AZ ArtWorker,” said Sanchez.