This year's artists were handpicked by Arizona Citizens for the Arts through a collaborative process with our member organizations, board members and first-hand research. 

The artwork,  provided as awards to each of the honorees, is underwritten by the Arizona Lottery.

Sonoran Birds
Acrylic on paper


Rick Kupferer, Mesa, Arizona, draws inspiration from the plants and animals of the Sonoran Desert as well as the more urban environments of metro Phoenix. Currently studying both art and environmental engineering at ASU, he works to find the exciting place where art and science can connect to create a deeper understanding of both fields. The acrylic work submitted for the Governor’s Arts Awards is comprised of four images from a composite depicting four birds native to the Sonoran Desert with their colors and patterns reimagined: the Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Gambel's Quail, Greater Roadrunner and Great Horned Owl. His current collection of art is curated at, and at Arizona institutions, including the Desert Botanical Garden, the Phoenix Art Museum, the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology and Taliesin West.

Desert Island, Bounty
Oil on found object


Laura Spalding Best received her BFA in painting from Arizona State University in 2003 and has been actively involved in the Phoenix art community since then. Best has been studying and painting the urban landscape of the Valley for many years now. Working with oil paint on metal and found objects, she has long viewed her paintings as installation, seeking to analyze and quantify the complex infrastructure that makes our desert cities livable while also appreciating the unexpected beauty that can be found in power lines and transformers. Through the visual metaphors of the oasis and the mirage, her depictions of banal locations, like parking lots and drive-thrus, tell stories of unfulfilled promises of paradise and the future effects of climate change.

Laura Spalding Best is the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, has completed several public murals in downtown Phoenix, and is a 2017 winner of a Contemporary Forum Artist Grant. Best has been the Exhibitions Manager at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art for eleven years.

After the sunset
Linoleum Print


Melissa Cody was born for the Edgewater Clan of the Navajo Nation in Arizona. She is from the Navajo Reservation, from the region known as “No Water Mesa”, which is part of the historical Painted Desert.  Melissa is a forth generation weaver with the sensibility of a contemporary textile artist.  Melissa weaves in the Navajo “Revival” style, Germantown, which was named for the plied-wood yams that were originally milled in Germantown, Pennsylvania during the Long Work ear, 1860s, of Navajo history. Coming from a “Navajo weaving” tradition, Melissa’s work is a combination of traditional patterns deconstructed and reworked, breaching the restrictive boundaries of “regional” and trading post” influenced styles, and signifying her as a new wave weaver and printmaker, which she finds to be vital in the continuation of creativity.

Line Derivation
Wall-mounted wood sculpture


In my art, I use geometric shapes found in nature to explore the relationship between the individual and the collective. I am particularly interested how these forms manifest the resolved symmetry of Nature's design. 

In the planning stages, I use drawings to express, plan and construct these rhythms. I then employ the natural textures of wood to build a precise and interdependent liaison between various sections within a single shape.

As an artist and sculptor I search for elegance, simplicity, and the ever-elusive impact of perfection hidden in wood. Throughout the span of my creative output is the theme of tension and unity needed to create a single form. If successful, the search for elegance and simplicity unite with imperfection, flowing from the wood to and bonding to hold the presence of a universal form.

Flight: Tree Swallow
Oil on canvas


Benjamin M Johnson is originally from southern New Jersey. Growing up geographically between urban Philadelphia and the New Jersey Pine Barrens gave Benjamin an early appreciation for the interaction between wild places and the human element; a balance which continues to inform his work. He studied traditional painting, printmaking and sculpture at The University of the Arts and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. A birdwatching trip in Arizona led to Benjamin relocating to Tucson in 2009. Shortly thereafter, he embarked on a series of projects that directly focused on desert ecology. He also curated exhibitions at Tohono Chul Park, amplifying Benjamin’s ecological and artistic interest in the region. Now a full-time studio artist, his recent work continues to reflect his fascination with the natural world, while weaving together narratives of history, science, spirituality, and culture.


Fused glass


Virgil was born in Indiana and grew up surrounded by the arts, originally studying dance and iceskating. He found he was fascinated with the visual arts when he discovered glass as an artistic medium. Virgil first learned glassblowing techniques in the Spring of 2014 at Soverow Glass in Birmingham, Alabama. Since moving to Tucson and studying at Sonoran Glass School, Virgil has excelled as both a student and instructor. He regularly teaches beginning glassblowing classes and Make-Your-Own experiences, assists in the Flame Shop, and was recently appointed interim director of our Warm Shop.

Sonoran Glass School (SGS) is the only full-service, nonprofit, glass arts education facility in the Southwest. Founded in 2001, its mission is to inspire people of all ages to discover the wonder of glass art. The school's talented teaching staff engages established and emerging artists of all ages and abilities in the full range of glass art media: furnace glassblowing, torchworking, kiln slumping/fusing, stained glass, and mosaic. SGS brings world-renowned visiting artists to Tucson each year, and offers specialized instruction for veterans, seniors, and K-12 students who no longer have the benefit of arts education in their schools.

Home - 13
Thread drawing on industrial felt


Saskia Jordá is an interdisciplinary artist working on site-specific installations, soft sculptures, and drawings.  Her work has referenced the relationship between body and space, cultural identity, and mapping a sense of place since her undergraduate studies at Arizona State University and her graduate studies at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where she earned her MFA. She has received various awards, including the Arlene and Morton Scult Contemporary Forum Award of the Phoenix Art Museum in 2015 and an Artist Project Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts in 2010. She has exhibited widely within the U.S. and internationally, and is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona. In addition to her studio work, Saskia co-founded the Taliesin Artist Residency Program, which she directed from 2005-2017, and has been teaching Drawing and Textiles at college level. 

Ornassi Inception
Encaustic on Birch Panel


Like nature, my art is intricately layered and textured. My experiences growing up near nature, watching the drastic change in seasons, its chaos and unpredictability, all helped develop my artistic style.

As a child, the youngest in a large Scandinavian family, I often entertained myself with natural materials that surrounded me. I used sticks, leaves and other elements gathered in my rural environment to create craft projects and to design organic installations. I can remember specific projects I created that can still transport me back to the exact day and time of their making.

Encaustic is the perfect medium to capture, layer and create these synesthetic scenes. The variety of materials I can use; the wax, pigments and endless other mixed media, allow me to create works that draw in the viewer for a closer look.

I pull material and content from my emotional and physical environments, past and present. I am not only inspired by nature, but bring my love for modern architecture, design and music into my work. Merging the natural with the modern is always a delicate balance I strike to achieve. This process-focused approach to my art is a balance of creating and breaking boundaries within myself and then constructing something tangible for the viewer.

Royal Purple
Hand built porcelain


Katharina Roth was born and raised in Switzerland, where she studied art history at the university of Basel. After having spent several years in Northern Germany and Munich then moved to the United States in 1992.

In the US Roth learned jewelry making and metal smithing and worked for several years in that field.  Curiosity is a driving force in her life and that led her to return to school. In spring of 2015 she received a BFA from Northern Arizona University with focus on Ceramics, Sculpture, and Printmaking. Her works have been exhibited in several shows.

Besides working in her studio in Sedona, Arizona, Roth enjoys outdoor activities, knitting, baking, and spending time with her husband and our two cats.


Aluminum, acrylic, silk, epoxy resin


Originally from Chicago, Carrie Seid maintains a full time fine and public art practice out of her studio in Tucson. She also works with groups and individuals as a creativity coach, helping people realize their creative dreams and goals through workshops and private sessions. Her works are made primarily of metal, wood, and silk, and incorporate illumination and pattern investigation to conjure various states of being.

Seid received her B.F.A. from The Rhode Island School of Design in 1984, then went on to receive her M.F.A. from Cranbrook Academy of Art, where she was a Merit Scholar. She has taught at numerous universities, including the School of The Art Institute of Chicago, Buffalo State University, Arizona State University, and The University of Arizona. Winner of the Purchase Award in 2003, her work is part of the permanent collection of The Tucson Museum of Art where she also had a solo exhibition. In February 2006, her work was featured on "Arizona Illustrated," hosted by Sooyeon Lee of KUAT television. Her public commissions in the Tucson area include the reception area of the Udall Senior Center, five projects at the Northwest Medical Center in Oro Valley, and the glass walkway in the courtyard of the Flowing Wells Community Center.

No. 11 (Hierarchy)
Pigment Print


Claire A. Warden (b. Montreal, Quebec) is an artist working in Phoenix, Arizona. She received her BFA in Photography and BA in Art History from Arizona State University. Claire’s work has been exhibited widely in the United States and abroad. She has been named LensCulture's Top 50 Emerging Talents, Photo Boite’s 30 Under 30 Women Photographers, and a Critical Mass finalist. In 2017, she received an Artist Research and Development Grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts and the Ed Friedman Award from the Griffin Museum of Photography. Her work has been featured in various publications, including Real Simple magazine, The HAND Magazine, Common Ground Journal, Prism Magazine, and Diffusion Magazine. Claire was awarded artist residencies through the Alfred and Trafford Klots International Program for Artists inFrance, Art Intersection in Arizona, the Center for Photography at Woodstock and a forthcoming residency at LATITUDE in Chicago.

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