Mary Stephens of Phoenix Hostel: 2014 Big Brain Awards Finalist, Urban Vision (VIDEO)
You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives, and the results are in. Introducing our 2014 Big Brain finalists.
For Mary Stephens, it's all about intersections.
Walking through the ever-changing courtyard of Phoenix Hostel & Cultural Center in the Garfield District, she meets a Peruvian jeweler staying the night. He's on his way to Los Angeles to sell his wares. "Mucho gusto," she says, as he wheels his suitcase around the incense-scented historic bungalow to get settled in his room.
Stephens, a Phoenix native who bought the 25-bed hostel from her mother in 2010, says she's passionate about "connecting things that don't necessarily go together."
Becky Bartkowski Mary Stephens sits in the common room of Phoenix Hostel.
See also: "Urban Legend" Award Celebrates Creative Phoenix Pioneers in Honor of New Times' Fifth Big Brain Awards
Becky Bartkowski Phoenix Hostel is a cultural beacon for international creatives.
Her goal in taking over the hostel was to make it a cultural hub, similar to Mexico City's Casas de las Culturas, which she visited during her many international travels. Thanks to her time abroad, she says, "I have come to really respect the creation of arts spaces as radical aesthetic and intellectual alternatives to the status quo."
Stephens credits her English parents and travels with what she alls her neo-Marxist European worldview with a strong class critique. And in her studies of race, culture, history, and identity in plays, she developed her interest in performing arts as a sociopolitical outlet.
At her hostel, artists and performers converge and uniquely experience Arizona. Its success is obvious. With performances and events held on a nearly weekly basis and past notable guests including Manu Chao, Ana Tijoux, and Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against The Machine, it's clear the space has become a destination for both staying and performing.
But that's only a fraction of what Stephens calls her work-driven life.
"At any given time," she says, "I am working on four or five projects that, in general, deal with border issues, whether that means geographical borders or identity borders. "