The Collective

Creative Catalysts, an initiative of Mesa Arts Center, offers The Collective, a program that uses creativity to activate leadership skills and enhance innovation across sectors. The Collective brings creativity to the forefront of the conversation by intentionally weaving it into every lesson on leadership, collaboration, failure, problem-solving and mindfulness.


Applications are closed. If you have questions, please email


The 12-week program includes applied learning sessions, art experiences and a final project. 


To date, 47 participants have graduated from the program, and The Collective alumni consist of leaders from a variety of industries and professions.


The breakdown:

  •  Accomplished leaders from a variety of different industries will facilitate learning and discussions.
  • Participation in community projects will exercise examples of theory in practice.
  • Final projects will provide real-world implementation of what has been taught.
  • A focus on personal growth will allow participants to apply lessons in ways that are meaningful and immediate in both personal and professional situations.


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


Have questions? Add your info here to stay connected.  


Now more than ever, we are tasked with reinventing how we do things. The Collective offers leadership training with creativity at the core, infusing mindfulness, collaboration and design thinking to elevate your professional skillset moving forward from this transformational time in history. Tap into your own creative superpowers and join others as they carve a new path for success.



Be a supporter of creative leadership


Hayley Anderson


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Erica Black

Brand Manager, Content/Design, Artist

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Benjamin Paysnoe

Arizona Museum of Natural History

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Dani Kahn

Higher Grounds Roastery and Café

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Matthew Kennedy

S.T.A.R. - Stand Together and Recover

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Apichai Sotiwong


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Jeanette Chenevert


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Jisun Myung

Arizona State University

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Tony Moschetti

BASIS Education

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Taylor Moschetti

BASIS Education - Phoenix Central

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Alicia Holmes   

Mesa United Way

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Brynn Locke 

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Cheyenne Hepworth

Roosevelt School

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Christi Currier 

Stay-at-home mom/Self-employed

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Iris Avila

Mesa Fire and Medical Department

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Ivy Nnakabonge 

Scottsdale Interior Design Group

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James Grubb 

Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix

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Jess Wozniak 

Mesa Community College

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Karen Kormendy 

Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix

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Keith Stanton   

Thoma-Holec Design

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Leon Webber

Retired Therapist

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Mariel Marino 

Harmony Project Phoenix

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Marlena Robbins

Cultural Coalition, Inc.

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Muthana Toman 

Mountain Park Health Center

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Rebecca Murphy Keith


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Ric Castillo


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Shay Masterson 

Benedictine University Mesa

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Stephanie Madden

DMB Community Life

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Torie Klocko 

Thunderbird School of Global Management

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Wendy Miller

Alhambra Elementary School District

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Arianna Jones

Arizona's Children Association

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Azucena Gutierrez

Anderson Family Dentistry

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Brett Farkas


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Caden Gillespie

Arizona State University

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Deanna Reid


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Elaissa Sears

Maricopa County Justice Courts

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Jacob Bush


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Jenna Maley


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Jessie Bali

Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona

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Justine Sponder

University of Phoenix

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Katie'B Jarvis

Childsplay Theatre

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Keiona Eady


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Kimberly Crowther Miller

Eastmark at DMB Community Life, Inc

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Mawa Keita

Wells Fargo

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Molly W. Schenck

Freelance Artist and Educator

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Monique Jones

Banner Health

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Ruth Sager


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Ryan Sereduk

Phoenix Children's Hospital Foundation

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Stephanie Coombs


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Tiesha Harrison

Valley Leadership

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Tyler Stalica

CORE Construction

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Zane Ewton

Arizona Public Service (APS)

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Zara Bish

Town of Gilbert, Arizona

Videos describing the final projects of the 2019 cohort of The Collective can be viewed here

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Alumni Final Project Videos

Videos describing the final projects of the 2019 cohort of The Collective can be viewed here.  


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  • CREATIVE LEADERSHIP: A fresh look at leadership through a creative lens, with skills to apply in everyday life and career situations.
  • PERSONAL GROWTH: By combining skill building with mindfulness and personal growth, we equip participants to thoughtfully and effectively put skills into practice.
  • PEER NETWORK: A robust collective of collaborators and leaders across sectors and access to an extensive network of artists, civic practitioners, local business and community members.
  • COMMUNITYEnhanced skills and tools to design, implement and sustain effective community engagement.
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You DO NOT need to be an ARTIST to participate in The Collective. 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. Participants will be selected through a competitive application process, and each round will include 15-24 people.



If you say YES to any of the below, we want you!


 Individuals who:

  • Seek to expand their skill sets to include creative and mindful leadership
  • Self-identify as a creative and are looking to step into leadership opportunities
  • Self-identify as a community leader and are looking to elevate your skills
  • 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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The Big Picture 

  • 12 weeks in the program, two months to implement your final project
  • 6 half-day sessions, occurring once every two weeks
  • 3 arts experiences, one as a volunteer
  • 1 Downtown Mesa retreat-style experience
  • A desire and commitment to build community using creative problem solving

Estimated total hours

  • 30 hours in session
  • 50 hours outside work including:
    • reading & homework
    • independently-pursued arts experiences,
    • volunteer time, and
    • final project development and implementation
  • TBD hours for one overnight retreat-style experience

Ideal candidates may have:

  • Unique perspective to share with the cohort
  • Desire/time to commit to a leadership training program


The Collective selection committee seeks a diverse group for the program. Applications will be reviewed by a select panel of Mesa Arts Center staff and community leaders. 


Tuition is $800 for the 12-week long program, including six half-day sessions, three arts experiences, and one overnight retreat-style experience for each participant.


Tuition is due in full by the first day of class. Your employer may be willing to assist with all or part of the tuition. Partial or full scholarships based on need may be available.


*Participants will be responsible for your commute expense (car, bus, carpool) to attend the retreat.

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Tomas J. Stanton & Jennifer Gastelum – Lead Facilitators

Dorian & Krissy Lenz – Collaboration & Design Leadership

Pamela Slim & April Tinhorn - What is Leadership?

Sogol Homayoun - What is Creativity?

Tiara Cash - Equitable Mindfulness

Jennifer Gastelum & Sogol Homayoun – Mindful Leadership

Dennis Gable -  Research-Purpose-Name-Impact

Ita Udo-Ema & Tomas J. Stanton – Storytelling and Videography 101



Tomas J. Stanton is a poet, teaching artist, and community engagement specialist. Tomás is dedicated to advancing the art of creativity as a platform for youth development, civic engagement, & social transformation. Co-Founder of Phoenix’s premiere literary arts and youth development organization, Phonetic Spit, Tomás uses critical pedagogy to inspire young and emerging adults to boldly express themselves – from the margins to the core. His work and teaching style are rooted in his experiences of learning to unlearn the pitfalls of poverty, violence, privilege, and hyper-masculinity through a lens of intersectionality.


Dorian Lenz is the Director of NCT 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 20 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. 


Krissy Lenz is the Creative Director of National Comedy Theatre Phoenix. Krissy has more than 20 years of performance experience and training as well as more than 10 years of teaching and directing. Krissy also teaches improv comedy workshops for adults, teens and kids. She coaches and administers the very awesome and successful 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 network Most Excellent Pod ( where she can be heard as the host of the Most Excellent 80s Movies Podcast and Gank that Drank: A Supernatural Drinking Game Podcast and WHOA: A Most Excellent Keanu Reeves Podcast. Besides doing all of that? Krissy is the proud mama of two adorable youngsters. 


Pamela Slim is an award-winning author, speaker and small business coach. She spent the first 10 years of her solo practice as a consultant to large corporations such as Hewlett-Packard, Charles Schwab and Cisco Systems, where she worked with thousands of employees, managers and executives. In 2005, she started the Escape from Cubicle Nation blog,which led to coaching thousands of budding entrepreneurs, in businesses ranging from martial art studios to software start ups. Her first book, Escape from Cubicle Nation, won Best Small Business/Entrepreneur Book of 2009. Her latest book, Body of Work, was released with Penguin Portfolio in January 2014. Pam opened the Main Street Learning Lab in Mesa, Arizona in 2016, where she works with diverse entrepreneurs to solve core business challenges and generates stories, research and insight for companies and organizations who serve them.


April Tinhorn’s (Hualapai/Navajo/Chinese) childhood curiosity about a video game led her to earn her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in computer science, inspiring her to help others at the National Security Agency, IBM, and Indian Health Service. In 2010, April created TINHORN CONSULTING, LLC, where she helps clients disrupt perceptions about Indigenous People via media. Through cultural marketing and training services, she has helped the Tohono O’odham Nation, San Carlos Apache Tribe, and Gila River Indian Community connect with others by creating websites and marketing strategies. The American Indian Chamber of Commerce of Arizona (AICCAz) recognized Tinhorn Consulting as the “2017 American Indian Business of the Year”. April has earned numerous professional recognitions and achievements including being honored as the “2018 Arizona State University Native American Alumni of the Year,” a Native American “40 Under 40” honoree,an adjunct faculty at Mira Costa College, Americans for Indian Opportunity Ambassador Leadership Program alumna, Sigma Sigma Sigma Sorority Beta Kappa Chapter alumna, and a former title holder of the Miss Indian Arizona Teen, Miss Hualapai and Miss Indian Arizona State University Pageants. April is most joyful when experiencing life with her husband, Sam Bender, Jr., and her daughter, Zoey Bear.


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 has been 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. 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.


Tiara Cash comes to Center for Mindfulness, Compassion, and Resilience as an alumni of Arizona State University. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University in Exercise and Wellness and a Master’s degree from Western Illinois University in Kinesiology. With a background in wellness management and exercise and sport psychology, her vision with Center is to engage ASU and the surrounding community in life-long learning and personal development with an emphasis on mindful practices and a true focus on connection through compassion. Research interests include educational leadership, phenomena of transitions, and resiliency training. Career focuses include leadership & self- sustainability in university settings, delving into the intersections of mindfulness and equity with a concentration on social justice, student-athlete retirement resilience training, and mindful performance art. With her background, her ultimate goal is to create a culture of connection through innovative programming with workshops, trainings, and events.


Jennifer Gastelum is a local resident and Mesa native. She studied Psychology and Community Counseling before stumbling into her role as the Community Engagement Specialist at Mesa Arts Center. Jennifer has worked for over five years researching and exploring the effective use of art as a community and economic development tool. She uses collaboration and kindness to bring together her passion for community and the arts to make positive change.


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 "You wouldn’t believe my story if I told you myself. I’m grateful to be where I am in life. I have 2 beautiful children: Nevaeh
& Nehemiah. I’m an Arizonian. The first time I remember consulting on a brand was in 1998. My 20’s were spent as a creative entrepreneur and public speaker. I studied Commercial Graphic Design @ Nossi College of Art. Now I’m a progressive voice in both the creative and mental health spaces."



How much does The Collective cost?

Are scholarships available?

Are there other financial aid options to support my participation?

Where can I get more information about the program?

How do I apply?

What is the time commitment and how long are the program days?

What is the schedule for The Collective?

What is the curriculum for The Collective?

Who will teach the classes?

Why the arts?

How are the sessions structured?

Tell me more about the retreat.

Tell me more about the final projects.

What happens after the program concludes?

What is the big, hairy, audacious goal of The Collective?


How much does The Collective cost?

Application fee is $25 and due at the time of submission. Tuition is $800 and is due in full before Session 1.


Are scholarships available?

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


Are there other financial aid options to support my participation?

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

Arizona Commission on the Arts has a Professional Development Grant for which you may be eligible. Visit for more information.


Where can I get more information about the program?

Download the information packet which has more details about the program goals and what to expect. Still have questions? 

Email Danica Marlin at



How do I apply?

Go to the application link, create a username and password to ensure your information is saved along the way, complete all questions, submit your application fee, hit submit and then wait patiently for us to call you for your interview.


What is the time commitment and how long are the program days?

Session days are 4 hours long, starting at 9 AM every other Saturday beginning on February 5, 2022. There are art opportunities in between the session days which will have varying time-frames and an overnight retreat that will take the majority of two days.


What is the schedule for The Collective?

Program Schedule for the 2022 cohort

 What is the curriculum for The Collective?

Session 1: Creative Collaboration & Design Thinking 

Session 2: What is Leadership?

Session 3: What is Creativity?

Retreat: Ajo

Session 4: Mindful Leadership

Session 5: Equitable Mindfulness

Session 6: Storytelling and Videography 101


Who will teach the classes? 

Session 1: Dorian Lenz, Krissy Lenz & Sogol Homayoun

Session 2: Pamela Slim, April Tinhorn, Dennis Gable

Session 3: Sogol Homayoun, Dennis Gable

Overnight Retreat

Session 4: Sogol Homayoun, Jennifer Gastelum

Session 5: Tiara Cash

Session 6: Ita Udo-Ema, Tomas J Stanton


Why the arts?

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. One article asserts that creativity helps employees capitalize on complexity and is believed to be the most important leadership quality, another states that innovation is essential to competitive advantage, and are placing greater value on finding and employing creative workers (Ready to Innovate, 2007).


A global study by Adobe surveyed 5000 people and found a significant link between creativity and professional success, with the majority believing businesses that invest in creativity are more likely to foster innovation,  have happier employees and increased employee productivity (Why You Should be Investing in Creativity and Design, 2016).


We all know innovation is the future of our economy, but adding creativity to the equation is like having that extra cup of coffee in the morning -- it’s an amazing jolt that makes you feel unstoppable. Adding a creative lens to your professional training is not just thinking “outside the box.” It’s ripping it open, giving it a paint job and turning it into something better.



How are the sessions structured?

Simply put, participants will experience an interactive setting, where the topics will be framed through arts practice and skills will be applied through a hands-on art project. 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 to share their experience with local initiatives will share insights and practical examples of how the arts can show up in your everyday practice.


Tell me more about the retreat.

An overnight retreat will take place between sessions three and four and will be a chance to get inspired about the work you can do in your own community before final projects are proposed. In essence, the retreat will provide an opportunity to further connect with personal goals, each other, and the larger community. The retreat will also encourage individual application of this work, how to make the arts work for you, how to apply leadership in your own way, and how to be creatively successful in your future work.


Tell me more about the final projects.

Participants will produce a final project which will be a culmination of lessons learned put into practice. Participants will develop their projects throughout the program and implement them in the two months following the last session. Final projects will be pitched in a 3-5 minute video due before the final graduation celebration. Check out videos of past cohorts here


What happens after the program concludes?

The Collective will produce a network of local leaders who are tied together by shared experiences and the desire to continue making an impact in their community. The past alumni have organized The Collective Alumni Committee and is identifying opportunities for mentorship, socials, and ongoing professional development. Our hope is that The Collective Network continues to grow and that the strength of this program comes from the alumni. 


What is the big, hairy, audacious goal of The Collective?

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.

Activities, events and resources for The Collective alumni will be posted here as available. 


Add your information to The Collective alumni directory


Not yet an alumni? Learn more and apply! Visit for complete information. 

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The Collective 2022 is generously supported by CORE Construction