The Collective

Mesa Arts Center, offers The Collective, a creative leadership program. This program is formulated with creativity at the core, infusing mindfulness, collaboration and design thinking to elevate your professional skillset. In the 12-week program, The Collective curriculum brings creativity to the forefront of the conversation by intentionally weaving it into every lesson on leadership, collaboration, failure, problem-solving, and mindfulness. Tap into your own creative superpowers and join others as they carve a new path for success.


This is a year of transition for The Collective Creative Leadership. While we will not be offering a 2024 Collective Program, Mesa Arts Center is excited to announce The Collective podcast series in which our own, Tomas Stanton will explore topics of creative leadership in conversation with local leaders and changemakers accessible to all -- anytime, anywhere.


If you have questions, please email


The breakdown:

  • Engage in dialogue with and learn from accomplished leaders from a variety of industries
  • Participate in community projects to turn theories into action
  • Develop final projects to implement and test out what has been taught.

  • Focus on personal growth to apply lessons in meaningful and immediate ways both personal and professional situations.


To date, 70 participants have graduated from the program, and The Collective alumni consist of leaders from a variety of industries and professions.


We are out to build a network of creative leaders who are equipped to use creative tools and leadership skills to impact social and cultural transformation.


If you have a desire to build your leadership skills through creativity, and to learn how to make change through creative practice - this program is for you.


Check out our handy one-page breakdown with more details about The Collective program goals and what to expect. 


Be a supporter of creative leadership


Have questions? Add your info here to stay connected.  


Why Creativity?

There is no shortage of blogs, articles, and studies that discuss the value of creative workers when it comes to productivity, innovation and all-around better business. Creativity helps employees capitalize on innovative solutions, think critically, foster enthusiasm for learning, and can help teams work better together and develop strong communication.
In the age of technology, desired skills in the workplace are changing rapidly. World Economic Forum projects that current workers’ core skills are expected to change by 40% in the next 5 years as more systems become automatized and machines help to make decisions for us. Something that will never be automated is the human capacity for creative adaptability. The universal ranking of vital professional skills has evolved quickly in the last 10 years. Creativity went from a ranking of 10th in 2015 to 5th in 2020 (WEF, 2020). Where do you think Creativity will be in 2025?
Innovation is the future of our economy, and adding a creative lens to your professional training can better equip you with tools for resiliency, forward-thinking, and adaptability across all fields of work. Creativity as a skill isn’t just about “thinking outside the box” it is the ability to reinvent “the box” entirely.


  • CREATIVE LEADERSHIP: A fresh look at leadership as a creative act, to apply daily at work and in life.

  • PERSONAL GROWTH: A thoughtfully and effectively crafted skill set build on mindfulness and intentional professional development.

  • PEER NETWORK: A robust group of collaborators and leaders across sectors plus access to an extensive network of artists, civic practitioners, local businesses and community members.

  • COMMUNITY PRACTICE: Enhanced tools to design, implement and sustain effective community engagement.

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Ideal candidates have:

A unique perspective to share with the cohort

Desire/time to commit to a leadership training program


This Program is best suited for:


Individuals who:

• Seek to expand their skill sets to include creative and mindful leadership

• Self-identify as creative and are looking to step into leadership opportunities

• Self-identify as a community leader and are looking to elevate their creativity

• Leaders who are eager for new experiences, relationships, cross-sector collaborations and potential partnerships with others working in your community

• Are part of an organization that values innovation


Organizations who:

• Have core values of innovation and creative problem solving

• Value collaboration

• Want to empower employees to develop relationships and resources through a cross-sector network

• Want to empower employees to expand their skill sets to include creative and mindful leadership

• Value how a hyper-localized community can impact business

• Recognize the value of creativity in building a workforce steeped in innovative capabilities

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Go to the application link, create a username and password to ensure your information is saved along the way, complete all questions and then wait for us to contact you to set up your interview. All applicants will be interviewed. Applications will be reviewed by a select panel of Mesa Arts Center staff and community leaders.


Participants will be selected through a competitive application process, and each round will include 15-24 people. The Collective selection committee seeks a diverse group with different perspectives, experiences and concentrations for the program.

Over a five-month period you can expect the following commitments:

• Approximately 30 hours in session

• 6 half-day sessions, occurring once every two weeks for twelve weeks

• Approximately 50 hours working outside of sessions on activities such as research & workbook exercises, bonus arts experiences, volunteer time, and final project development

• 2+ arts experiences

• Opportunity for group volunteer work, 1 overnight retreat-style experience in Ajo, Arizona

Application is free!


Once accepted, tuition is $850 for the 12-week long program, including six half-day sessions, three art experiences, and one overnight retreat-style experience for each participant.


Tuition is due in full by the 1st Session, Feb 4th. Your employer may be willing to assist with all or part of the tuition. Partial scholarships based on need may be available.


*Participants will be responsible for their commute expenses (car, bus, carpool) to attend the retreat and all other events/activities.


Scholarships and Financial Aid

Competitive scholarships are available. If you are seeking scholarship support, be sure to complete the scholarship need portion of the application.


Full BIPOC & Mesa Small Business Scholarships are available thanks to Mesa Economic Development.


Other grants and professional development funds may be available. Check with your employer and within your industry.


Local arts and professional development grants may be available. Visit for more information and eligibility details.

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Tiara Cash, MS, MA, MCMA is the owner and founder of Crowned Vitta LLC - a multi-disciplinary company serving communities through the concepts of mindfulness, meta-awareness, and meaningful self-relationships and relationships with others. Born and raise in Memphis, TN, Tiara is a Black American & Indigenous (Chahta & Cherokee descendant) queer woman, and a former student-athlete who holds a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise and Wellness from Arizona State University and two Masters degrees, one from Western Illinois University in Kinesiology and one in Psychology from Simon Fraser University (SFU). She is also currently working on her doctorate in Social Psychology at SFU and is a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholar. Tiara has also worked in many community settings as an accomplice, including: speaking and coordinating anti-Black racism events, supporting anti-pipeline movements, and being present on many advisory committees that support systemically and intentionally marginalized groups (i.e., PoGM, 2SLQBQQIA+, Disabled communities, and many more.) 


Ita Udo-Ema has been creating digital media for the past 15 years. With a degree in computer animation from the Art Institute of Phoenix, Ita has co-produced three independent feature-length films, two network affiliate television programs and published over 200 online videos. In 2005, Ita founded the media studio, View from Above Entertainment and works as an above-the-line video producer. 


Dennis Gable has paved a unique path in the convoluted world of branding and marketing by identifying himself as the BRND PRDCR. Brand Production was coined by Dennis and is the integration of traditional marketing theory, relational philosophy, and foundational creative principle. The BRND PRDCR is always excited for his next challenge and full of gratitude for every person he has the opportunity of working with. 


Jennifer Gastelum has built her expertise in creative community practice through her time working for the Neighborhood Economic Development Corporation, Mesa Arts Center and most recently at Valley Leadership. Jennifer studied psychology and community counseling and has worked in community and professional program development for the past 8 years. Among a list of collaborative community programs, she is responsible for building and innovating the development of Creative Catalysts, MABEL, and The Collective Creative Leadership programs of Mesa Arts Center. As a local resident and a Mesa native, Jennifer is driven by her passion for community and the arts, and the value of bringing the two together to make positive change. 


Sogol Homayoun is a trilingual, strategic and self-motivated leader. She started her career in investment management undergoing a rotational leadership development program while pursuing her Global MBA at Thunderbird School of Global Management. Sogol was then inspired to learn more about leadership. She started her second career as global university recruiter for her alma mater, Thunderbird (now a unit of Arizona State University), while pursuing her doctorate in Leadership and Innovation at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teacher’s College. For her action research study, her innovation was to develop a creative leadership professional development program. Sogol’s goal is to help students understand what creativity means, how to recognize it, and share ways to creatively express their value to others and organizations. Currently, Sogol is focused on writing and leadership  onsulting. Originally, Sogol was raised in the Middle East and has traveled to over 14 countries. She has worked and studied in developed and developing markets and thrives in cross-cultural environments yet remains committed to improving the community in which she lives and works. 


Krissy Lenz is the Director and Most Enthusiastic Person at the Neighborhood Comedy Theatre in Downtown Mesa, AZ! Krissy has more than 25 years of performance experience and training as well as more than 14 years of teaching and directing. Krissy also teaches improv comedy workshops for human beings of all ages from 7-77. She coaches and administers the AZ High School Improv League, and presents Team Building Experiences and private workshops as well as performing in many Corporate Remote Shows. Krissy can be seen on 3TVs Your Life Arizona ( as the Guru of Geekery, presenting geeky takes on everyday life. And check out her podcast the Most Excellent 80s Movies Podcast. Besides doing all of that? Krissy is the proud mama of two adorable youngsters. 


Dorian Lenz is Co-Director of the Neighborhood Comedy Theatre in Phoenix. He previously enjoyed a successful career as Director of National Comedy Theatre San Diego; San Diego’s longest running comedy show. Dorian began performing improv comedy as a young teenager and now has more than 25 years of performance experience under his belt. Dorian has been teaching professional improvisers, workshop classes and high school improv leagues for more than 15 years. Dorian has performed across the country and all over the world, including performing overseas 

in Germany, Holland and Belgium for US Troops with Armed Forces Entertainment, as well as countless corporate and special events all over the United States. 


Melody Lewis is a social entrepreneur and a Co-Founding Member dedicated to serving Indigenous communities and individuals within the systems of workforce development, education, and economic development, utilizing collaborative approaches rooted in Indigenous Identity. Melody’s career blends her experiences of social work, education, and Workforce Development to create participant-centered programs. Experiences include: industry implementation of workforce and education initiatives with post-secondary institutions, local school districts, employers, and nonprofits across Arizona, California, and Nevada. Melody Lewis is Mojave/Tewa/Hopi and an enrolled member of the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe. 


Danica Marlin is a visual artist, creative and arts administrator at Mesa arts Center. Danica earned her Bachelor of Arts Administration and Fine Art at Whitworth University in Washington State and completed her Master of Fine Arts with an emphasis in sculpture at ASU where she worked and taught. More recently, Danica has taken on Engagement Programming at Mesa Arts Center overseeing programming for the Mobile Art-Based Engagement Lab - MABEL, The Collective, and more. Danica’s work in the community is spurred by the belief that arts-centric programming can bridge barriers, spark conversations and holds the unique ability to give voice to thought and volume to voice. 


Pamela Slim is an award-winner author, speaker and business coach who works with small business owners ready to scale their businesses and IP. She is the author of Escape from Cubicle Nation (Penguin Portfolio, 2009), Body of Work (Penguin Portfolio, 2014) and The Widest Net (McGraw Hill, November, 2021, named Best Sales & Marketing Book of 2021 by Porchlight Books). Pam and her husband Darryl co-founded the K’é Community Lab in Mesa, Arizona, where they host scores of diverse community leaders and regular small business programming. Pam and Darryl are passionate human and dog parents to Angie, Josh, Jeffery, Rocky and Tsili. 


Tomas J. Stanton is a Poet, Teaching artist, and Community Engagement Manager. Tomás is dedicated to advancing the art of creativity as a platform for community development, civic engagement, & social transformation. Tomás is many things but conventional he is not. His favorite color is green, he loves red velvet cupcakes and eggs give him really bad gas. You get the point right? Currently he serves as the 

Community Engagement Manager at Mesa Arts Center. 



What is The Collective Schedule?

Are scholarships and financial aid options available?

Tell me more about the retreat? Why Ajo?

What is the Final Project?


What is The Collective Schedule?

Program Schedule for the 2023 Cohort

Session atmosphere and activities are interactive and participatory, topics will be framed through creative practice and skills will be applied through project development. Six half-day sessions focus on: understanding your preconceived ideas about leadership and creativity, learning from failure, gaining an understanding of the value of collaboration and creative problem solving, mindful activation, and how to implement projects thoughtfully. Local leaders who are uniquely qualified and involved with community enterprises will share insights and practical examples of how the arts can show up in your everyday practice.



Are Scholarships and financial aid options available?

Yes, competitive scholarships are available. If you are seeking scholarship support, be sure to complete the scholarship need portion of the application.


Other grants and professional development funds may be available. Check with your employer and within your industry.


Local arts and professional development grants may be available. Visit for more information and eligibility details.



Tell me more about the retreat. Why Ajo?

The closure of Ajo’s copper mine in the 1980s left this one-industry town without a key economic driver or unifying principle. Over the past 25 years, the International Sonoran Desert Alliance (ISDA) and other organizations have been working to revitalize and refocus Ajo, in part by using the arts and creative placemaking as triggers for economic development.


Ajo is small enough and remote enough to serve as a perfect laboratory for how creative planning and creative arts can bring energy and money to a struggling community.


Retreat Learning Objectives:


The retreat in Ajo is an opportunity for participants to experience a new environment, to engage and interact in a space that might inspire you and trigger new ideas and opportunities, to bond with one another, and to learn more about the Ajo story. Hands-on creative experiences, learning opportunities, and time out in the desert will give you a chance to reflect on the work you’ve done together so far.


By learning about Ajo directly from some of the leaders who have been deeply engaged in its renaissance, we will have a chance to contemplate what works and what doesn’t work when trying to introduce creative ideas, practice and leadership to a community.


• Leadership Stories - evolution of leadership through economic development

• Hands-on Ajo Experiences

• Story of Ajo and asset-based community development

• Task-negative experiences

• New perspectives



What is the Final Project?

Participants will produce a final project which will be a culmination of the program and an opportunity to apply the concepts discussed in sessions into a tangible plan of action relevant to you and your professional mission. The parameters for selecting your project are intentionally ambiguous. We will guide you through steps that will help blend your passion and personal values with community practice. That community may be in your neighborhood, in your place of employment, in an organization that you are involved with, or any other community that means something to you.


Projects will range in scope, impact, and timeframe, so don’t feel pressured to take on something that does not align with what you want your project to be. Final projects will be pitched in a 3-5 minute video before the final graduation celebration with opportunities for seed funding awarded by a select panel based off of a scoring rubric. We will provide you with the tools, support, and steps to get there, but it is ultimately up to you to do the work.


Check out videos of past cohorts here!

Are you an alumnus? Get Connected on Facebook


Add your information to The Collective alumni directory.


Still have questions?

Email Danica Marlin at

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