Melissa Dunmore of Phoenix's Mujeres del Sol: 100 Creatives
Courtesy of Melissa Dunmore Meet the creative.
Phoenix is brimming with creativity. And every other year, we put the spotlight on 100 of the city's creative forces. Leading up to the release of this year's Best of Phoenix issue, we're profiling 100 more. Welcome to the 2014 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today: 40. Melissa Dunmore.
"I am always working on something whether it's a poem, a narrative, a bracelet, a recipe," Melissa Dunmore says.
The 24-year-old Phoenix poet, performer, and writer is a member of Mujeres del Sol, an arts collective of women and girls, and works in social justice and youth development. Her many interests mean there's never nothing to do. "I love to cross everything off my To-Do List, and regularly have about a dozen tabs open on my Mac, reading article after article, and books -- always a book," she says of her day-to-day schedule. "If I can get to the library I am happy."
The ASU grad's next socially conscious project is currently in the works. Dunmore says she wants to blend fashion, blogging, and domestic violence statistics and resources during the month of October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
"My idea is to wear purple all month long as part of 'Paint Phoenix Purple' in partnership with the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence and showcase different outfits, coupled with statistics and resources, for 31 days," she says, adding that she's had her own experiences with domestic violence in the past. "I would do this via a blog I would start specifically for this endeavor. The goal is to get all the outfits donated by local shops and have an auction at the end of the month where all proceeds will be donated to vetted organizations."
Sounds like that checklist just got a little longer.
I came to Phoenix with my family. My mom, brother, aunt, cousin, and abuelos all relocated from Brooklyn in June of 2004 when I was 14. We had never moved anywhere before, and the cross-country culture shock was a big one for us. As a kid, I couldn't imagine living anywhere other than NYC with its big buildings, traffic sounds, and seasons, so moving here where there are mountains, wild animals, and monsoons was a big awakening for me.
I make art because I can't help it. I'm enraptured by the beauty of everyday encounters, of the natural world, urban jungle, and social constructs. I feel compelled to give voice to the feelings -- the awe, the hope, the devastation I discover and more recently, I've begun trying other mediums such as printmaking. I'll get these phrases or verses stuck in my head and I just have to write them down on anything that's closest -- a napkin, receipt, business card, or the palm of my hand. I resist entering anything into my phone since the simple act of writing has always been significant for me. And I've always been drawn to the performative, the unabashed, and bombastic such as live music, theatre, musicals. When I moved to downtown two years ago, I felt it was the only place for me to spread my wings in AZ and just had to get involved in the local arts scene. From performing at open mics or with Mujeres del Sol, taking classes at Phoenix Center for the Arts, and cooking wholesome dishes, I have this habitual urge to create things with my words and with my hands.
Courtesy of Melissa Dunmore Winds of Change is one of Dunmore's solarplate etchings.
I'm most productive when I'm well rested and I have a plan. I'm a planner, for sure. An ambitious one.
My inspiration wall is full of plants, books, and takeaways from local art shows put on by friends of mine and artists I admire. My refrigerator door is covered with magnets I made out of local business cards of my favorite places, a signed poster by Sentrock, magnets of places I've been or want to visit. I live in a bungalow on the second story of this historic building and I've converted the entryway with a private stairway into a gallery of sorts - posters from shows at Crescent Ballroom, designs by Michelle Ponce and Jackie Q. I'm inspired by all the brave art being created by my peers.
I've learned most from bouncing back. Life deals us blows we don't always understand but that inevitably make us stronger, resilient, and wise. It is in those moments that I have discovered my innate strength, voice, and power. Realizing self-love is the surest safeguard against loneliness, sadness, and dissatisfaction. Also, bouncing back has led me to have profound gratitude for the unconditional love and support of family and friends. I am grateful for places where I can feel safe that nurture me -- cocoon places -- from which I can emerge transformed, and triumphant.
Good work should always be true. Even if it's fiction, it needs to ring true. It need not co-opt another's experience or story simply to be trendy or controversial -- it needs to be rooted, and fed, by truth. Ethicality and authenticity are paramount.
The Phoenix creative scene could use more people showing up to witness the incredible, revelatory, compelling, and authentic voices, images, sounds, and creations of its citizenry. I can't tell you how many times I've heard people, over the years, say that Phoenix has no culture. That is absurd! There is culture all around us -- it's in the very soil. It's in our bodegas, street names, tribal lands. I will say that people do need to become aware of and challenge the privilege that exists in terms of the type of art that is revered, produced, bought and sold, and who is benefitting from it. We need to see the problem in defining indigenous and minority voices as "new" or "trendy" when the fact is we have been here all along. I'm a firm believer that if you don't see your culture represented then you, yourself, need to challenge the status quo -- be that change you want to see. Make others take notice of you, your art, and your very presence as valid, as evolution, as revolution.