My Water, My Culture

"Water Quest" by Mitra Kamali

My Water, My Culture

Phoenix, ArizonaThe Cultural Arts Coalition in collaboration with AZ Water Association brings a workshop about water to the Grand Avenue historic district on April 21st, 6:00-8:00 p.m. The intended audience is aged 10 to 90. This free, family friendly event responds to three questions:

  • What is the state of water locally?
  • What is “my” personal relationship with water, my water culture?
  • Is there something that I can do to conserve and preserve water for the future?

A water professional from AZ Water Association will share information about the local sources of water, how it is stored, treated, and moved from source to homes and businesses. Artist-engineer Mitra Kamali will lead storytelling through art-making in a way that is accessible and fun for everyone—even if you don’t consider yourself an artist. And after the storytelling, we’ll talk and build a list of ways that we might improve water conditions in our communities.

The event is hosted by Snood City Styles, 1018 Grand Avenue, Phoenix. Come to Grand Avenue early and have a bite to eat at one of the restaurants before the workshop. Pre-registration encouraged at

This project comes from the heart and vision of Mitra Kamali Fine Arts, and is funded in part by the Arizona Commission on the Arts.

The Cultural Arts Coalition: Celebrating Global Connections is an Arizona 501(c)3, facilitating multidisciplinary arts and cultural experiences through educational programming, exhibitions, and celebrations. The arts are a means to explore ideas, think about life, tell stories, and discover fresh perspectives, personally and in community. Arts practices for learning, exploring cultures and ideas, discovering self and community:

The AZ Water Association is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization founded in 1928 with a membership of more than 2,700 water professionals dedicated to preserving and enhancing Arizona’s water environment. Although AZ Water is an independent organization, it also manages the Arizona section of the American Water Works Association (AWWA) and the Arizona member association of the Water Environment Federation (WEF). Visit for more information.



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Mandiani Rhythms!

Mandiani Rhythms! a Cultural Education Project

Dr. Melanie Ohm | July 31, 2022

What is cultural education? On the surface, cultural education is learning about other cultures—of course! The Cultural Arts Coalition also views cultural experiences as just the beginning. Interacting with the values, ideas, and traditions of other cultures allows us to explore our own values and beliefs, revisit our personal and community traditions, and learn something about ourselves. Art making in all its forms  enables us to wrestle with concepts and perspectives in the physical world, engaging critical inquiry and creativity in a project-based environment.

Music and dance tell the social histories of people around the world. In West Africa, the passage to adulthood is often celebrated through drumming and dance practices based in Mandiani rhythms, known simply as “Mandiani.” African touring groups brought Mandiani (or Mendiani, Manjani) to the United States, where it is a popular form of cultural expression among African-American communities.

Emerson music students drum with teaching artist Keith Johnson.
Keith Johnson teaches Mandiani rhythms on djembe
Muslimah teaches Mandiani steps at Emerson School
Muslimah Hameed teaches Mandiani dance steps, Emerson Elementary, Phoenix

The Mandiani Rhythms cultural education project has engaged 15 artists over 2½ years in teaching and resource development.  Initiated by Cultural Arts Coalition teaching artists Muslimah Hameed and Keith Johnson, the project was originally implemented at Ralph Waldo Emerson Elementary School in Phoenix spring 2021. The school Principal Nicholas Lodato welcomed the programming, and music educator Dr. Dianne Anderson-Nickel, known to the students as “Dr. Music,” served as host to the project in her classroom.

It became clear that first pilot year that the project could be delivered and accessible to more schools and communities with the addition of cultural resources. The Cultural Arts Coalition (CAC) determined to develop high quality instructional videos for Mandiani drumming and dancing, provide curriculum, and create a performance video.

During the second pilot year at Emerson Elementary, the CAC collaborated with music educator Emily Flathers. Muslimah Hameed returned as teaching artist and Darrin “Nomad” Jackson joined the team for Mandiani drumming instruction. Dr. Melanie Ohm and Muslimah Hameed have worked closely together to produce the video series, supported by the Financial Potion videography team Taylor and Eric Wellman. Return soon to find all of the resources available here on our website.

For now, please enjoy Darrin Jackson’s “Mandiani Rhythms” Instructional Video below. We are grateful for project funding from the Phoenix Office of Arts & Culture, Arizona Commission on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Phoenix Office of Arts & Culture Logo
Arizona Commission on the Arts Logo
National Endowment for the Arts Logo


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Keith Johnson and the Lion King

Keith Johnson & The Lion King!

Dr. Melanie Ohm | July 27, 2022

Keith in front of Lion King banner at ASU Gamage






This summer, artist Keith Johnson’s traditional feathered hats were on display at ASU’s Gammage Auditorium. The occasion? The Broadway touring show The Lion King was in town, and his work was a perfect fit with the production.






This large hat incorporates peacock feathers. The feathers are typically mounted on a headpiece covered in an African fabric, like mud cloth.

Feathered hat
Keith stands next to the Performing Cast listing in the lobby.














The hats are on exhibit one more week during The Lion King performances. Keith Johnson is a multifaceted artist, a percussionist specializing in African and Caribbean drumming who builds instruments and creates traditional clothing. He is known for his work in community with people of all ages.


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Sonic Sculptures with Joe Willie Smith

Sonic Sculptures with Joe Willie Smith

Melanie Ohm | November 19, 2021

The Canal Convergence is an annual signature event for the City of Scottsdale. Artists, musicians, and technologists from around the world are selected or invited to use the backdrop of the “waterfront” for their creative expression. Our friend Joe Willie Smith hosted a workshop on Saturday night, November 13th in the Innovation Space, building a sonic sculpture in minutes, then giving participants the tools to create one of their own.

The sonic sculpture featured here uses what might have been a camping clothesline as a base. Joe then added rubberbands, waxed thread, and pick-up mics in the feet he created for support. He was able to tap, bow, and sing to produce a variety of sounds that filled the space through his amplifiers.

Listen as Joe talks about creating musical instruments from found objects, “sonic sculptures” as he refers to them, and how he began this work.

The Workshop! A variety of found objects and materials were provided by Joe for the creative exercise: buckets, grills, cans, car parts, wire, palm fronds, rubberbands, sticks, tape, clips…pretty much anything a person can think of. Throughout the workshop, he helped participants think about the qualities of the materials, and how the way they were  constructed and connected might influence the sound. Mics were attached to the instruments and plugged into the amplifiers to experiment further. Joe noted that he works for months on each sonic sculpture, and that he would continue to work on the instrument that he assembled and played for us. Taking things apart and reassembling them in different ways is part of the process.

The images below give some insight into a fun evening with participants of all ages taking part. Be sure to join the fun at the Canal Convergence next year! At the bottom of the page, you can learn more about how the event began.

Enjoy some of the public art from Canal Convergence 2021.

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The Grand Unification 2021

The Grand unification 2021

Melanie Ohm | October 28, 2021

Phoenix, AZ – Historic Grand Avenue businesses present The Grand Unification, featuring local artists, vendors, food trucks, street performers, and music for all types of individual and family fun. Explore the 9th-to-16th Avenue blocks of Historic Grand Ave on Friday, November 5, 2021, 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm, and Saturday, November 6, 2021, 10:00 am to 10:00 pm. The entire event is free to the public.

The Grand Unification is a cultural fiesta, celebrating the historic Grand Avenue community.  It is not only a showcase of eclectic and locally owned shops, restaurants, and galleries – the streets will be alive with activations to entice visitors. Enjoy a drum parade, interactive sculpture garden, glass blowing demonstrations, street performers, and live music!

Come support local businesses, while enjoying some wholesome FUN for everyone during this community extravaganza.

The Cultural Arts Coalition is a sponsor of this event!

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