Banda music blares from a Chevy Tahoe in the South Plaza parking lot. The 5 p.m. traffic slowly builds up on Central Avenue as people do their best not to have an accident with all the light rail construction. Then Blu Erran stops in the square.
Erran was born and raised in South Phoenix, a rarity in a city that continues to rapidly change. Erran spent his youth on this side of town, spending his teenage years with his grandmother.
“I wish she still lived here,” Erran said. “I want to buy this house.”
At 23, Erran is part of an ambitious generation of artists and entrepreneurs looking to leave their mark on Phoenix’s identity and culture.
Building community and building relationships with like-minded people comes naturally to Erran.
Bringing Phoenix’s Hidden Talent to Light
Erran has worn many hats over the past five years, but he could be described as an event coordinator and art curator, managing over 20 events during that time.
“I did ‘Player’s Ball’, ‘Homegrown’, ‘Second Earth Experience’, ‘Under Pressure’,” Erran said. “That one was completely made and created, but I was never able to share it with the public due to COVID.”
The people highlighted at these events are largely Erran’s friends, collaborators and local musicians, which they say is important because they’ve seen how arts institutions in Phoenix often overlook local talent.
“I love the art world. I love everything that comes with the artistic community and the talent of people. I feel like just being around artists inspires me a lot” , Erran said.
They consider these events as opportunities to preserve their own art by using the space as a medium for their creativity.
A common vision for the community
Erran has come this far doing odd jobs, sometimes multiple ones, to make ends meet, and directing some of those funds to creative projects.
“When I started this it was difficult because things were so intensely controlled.” They described the landscape as inaccessible to many in his community: “If it’s someone in my community who loves their art and you need funds, they won’t even know where to look.”
This barrier became an inspiration for artists in Phoenix to self-fund, creating a do-it-yourself mindset.
Liz Medrano is another artist in this DIY art scene, participating through painting, drawing, and making her own shows. She first met Erran online where they both share their work. They later connected at a gallery exhibit last summer in Phoenix, and they clicked on their similar visions for the community.
“It felt like we had known each other for years,” Medrano said, “which is something very rare because I’m kind of reserved as a person.”
Medrano recently had an exhibition at The Greater Good hair salon, which allowed him to further explore the hidden aspects of the work that goes into event planning.
The aspiration to succeed at what they love has developed their friendship and respect for each other’s work.
“I think we share the same enthusiasm for bringing people together or bringing the same type of energy together under one roof,” Medrano said, noting that Erran’s face lights up when they talk about it.
Leaving a mark on the Phoenix art scene
Erran does not intend to slow down. There’s a festival in downtown Phoenix in the works for later this year. With each new event, Erran seeks a larger footprint.
Although Erran doesn’t often think about how they will be remembered, they hope people can recognize their efforts.
“I want to be known as a good person. I’m very strong in my values,” they said. “Whenever I think of bigger festivals that I can make money on, I also think, ‘OK, what kind of nonprofits surround my community that I can donate to as well? ‘”
Erran wants to leave is a community with more opportunities than the one they grew up in.
“While there is a lot of change in South Phoenix,” they said, “there are a lot of people who are scared and going through a tough time. We are building spaces where you pause and collect also funds for people who are on the south side.”
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