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Casa Grande’s Rising Stars

The heart of our mission at VoyagePhoenix is to find the amazing souls that breathe life into our city. In the recent weeks, we’ve had the privilege to connect with some of the Greater Phoenix area’s finest artists, creatives, entrepreneurs and rabble rousers and we can’t begin to express how impressed we are with our city’s incredibly deep talent pool. Check out inspiring stories from Casa Grande and surrounding areas below.

Hannah Yeun

I was born in NYC to a family who was deeply involved with the Unification Church, aka “The Moonies” (the somewhat derogatory nickname given to followers of the cult leader Sun Myung Moon). My parents had an arranged marriage in a mass wedding ceremony at Madision Square Garden in the early ’80s, and it was expected that I would marry this way as well. Beyond that, the followers of this church were deeply creative, albeit a bit lost in their spiritual journeys, but their many artistic talents were apparent in nearly everything. Many hymns we sang in the church were actually written by members. Before my mom married by dad, she traveled around on tour in a school bus with the church choir, and they even recorded a few LPs that you can find on Discogs–New Hope Singers International. Creativity and music, in particular, was weirdly encouraged, which is why there is a pocket of second-generation musicians who seem to have made a name for themselves–Sasami, Misun, and Joo-Joo from Froth all grew up in this environment with me. Read more>>

Christian B. Meza

One look at me in high school and the LAST thing you thought I would be doing in a few years was managing two individual film production and photography companies. I was that nerd character that you remember at school who was always big into astronomy, maybe watched a little too much Cosmos and the Big Bang Theory and was on my way to becoming a full-time dedicated scientist into – what would probably be – a career in planetary science or astrochemistry. But even as I obtained my first intern career at the age of sixteen with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, something wasn’t fulfilling me, and it kept me awake at night. Amongst a daily background of sixteen hours of school and homework, I decided to learn photography and do it my own way, despite the fact that it would surely be a long endeavor of learning optics, exposure, editing software, lighting, color science and application. Read more>>

Benjamin Brockman

I’ve been drawing things and making things since I could sit up. I grew up in a creative family – my dad and mom were both in theater, as well as my uncle, so there was always a lot of creativity and praise for creative achievements at home, and I guess that’s where it started. But I guess you could say my first passion wasn’t really art – it was storytelling. I was really captured by stories at a young age and that’s a big through-line to what I do today. I tend to think in terms of allegories, metaphors, and symbols – and I think that kind of thinking has just always helped me understand the world around me. I’ve always been more comfortable with visual language than written or verbal language, especially as I’ve grown up and had difficulties feeling like I was understood or belonged.  Read more>>

Zaskia Villa

I started dancing and performing at the age of three. Since then, I have sought different mediums with which to express myself creatively, including poetry, theatre, and music. When I grew old enough to become consciously aware of myself, art became a tool I used to ask deeper questions and reveal new answers about what it means to be human. Artistry took on a meaning far beyond simply writing a song or painting a picture. As I was growing increasingly aware of myself and those around me, I suddenly noticed a massive elephant in the room. It was present in my home, at parties and get-togethers; it was present in the people that were closest to me: depression. This realization sent me spiraling into a new journey of questions. Psychology became a subject that I read about for leisure up until I decided to pursue it in school. Read more>>

Don Parsons

I was working at back in 2015-ish. It was a slow day for Tattoos & Piercings so we usually just Draw and create Art. Well, I found a small plastic Doll in my Studio and I really don’t know where it came from. It was just there that day, never seen it before that. Anyways, I was looking at it, bored, and got some WhiteOut, colored its face white, black sharpie was next to make a Skull Face & Bone Arms. I tattered the dress to make it more a distressed look, I then took a little box I displayed different stuff in and put the new Skull type doll in the box with a hanging light overhead…. I thought it was kinda cool. The other Artists at the shop seemed to like it so I took a pic and threw it up on Facebook…. Lots of people clicked the “Like” and reacted to it positive…then one of my friends Shared the pic saying “This is my friend Don and his New Creepy Doll Business!” … I giggled and thought, “Well, I guess I’m Now a Creepy Cool Doll Artist!!” 😂 Read more>>

Diane C. Taylor

In early 2002, my mother died. I moved from Switzerland, where I had been working, to Tucson, to sell her house. My plan was to go back to the East Coast, where I had lived before and where my daughter was. But there was no job, so I ended up staying in Tucson, with some time and money to learn stained glass, something I’d wanted to do for some time. I didn’t like it. Then I saw an ad for making beads. I tried, but working with tanks of gas at home didn’t appeal to me. However, that instructor introduced me to glass fusing, and I found my passion. I was only ever able to get a part-time job, so I had time to take more classes. Eventually, I bought my own small kiln so I could make jewelry easily. I did small shows around town and had work in a shop here and there. After a mishap renting space in a large kiln, I bought one so I could make plates and bowls. In 2011, the organization I worked for was changing, and I retired. Now I’m just fusing glass, having moved on to framed pieces and small sculptures. Read more>>

Gayle Petrillo

I was an outgoing, girly girl as a toddler. After I tipped a fresh pot of coffee off a table, and all over me, causing 40% of my body to be burned, my life changed drastically in moments, I became afraid of everyone and everything. While I’m very fortunate not to have scars visible to others, my hidden scars caused me much distress throughout my life, from physical pain and itching that tormented me, to trying to keep from drawing attention to myself, at all cost. My fears and phobias (rational and irrational) ran my life, for years. I am now 67 and have finally come out of hiding to tell my story in hopes of self-healing and helping other heal as well. And, I finally feel comfortable in my own skin. Having had my story recently published, The Accident and El accidente (March 2021) I’m hearing from my audiences how they relate to many of the stories of growing up. I was bullied, had body image issues, and lacked self-confidence and trust of others.  Read more>>

Adiba Nelson

BLOOD, SWEAT AND TEARS!! No, just kidding. I don’t like to bleed my own blood, nor am I a big fan of sweating. Tears? Maybe…on a good day. Okay, let me be serious. I began writing professionally in 2011, when I wrote my first children’s book, Meet ClaraBelle Blue. The publishing world wasn’t ready to take on a book about a little black girl with a disability, so I taught my self how to self-publish, and then hustled my butt off to get out into the world. That hustle led to writing “for exposure”, a personal invite from Ariana Huffington to contribute my words to Huffington Post, and then a staff writer position with Ravishly. At some point in there, I wrote a cheeky little love letter to my local library and read it on the air for the NPR/AZPM show, Arizona Illustrated, which led to the Emmy award winning documentary, The Full Nelson, about my life, and my life as my daughter’s mother. THAT led to me writing my memoir, countless speaking engagements, and writing for Washington Post (and others), which has led me to today – just a few months away from the pub date of my first traditionally published book!. Read more>>

Crystal Wheeler

I started LOM Candles at the beginning of the pandemic. I have my own personal training business and covid caused me to take a break from that line of work. Between being cabin crazy from covid isolation, politics, and societal stressors; I decided to take a three months break from social media and the news. I wanted to challenge myself by learning something new and find a new outlet for creativity and LOM Candles was born. Read more>>

Vanessa Luna-Baird

My name is Vanessa Luna Baird and I am an artist. Since I can remember I have always been an artist, moving from one creative project that called my heart, to the next. My love of beauty and the Beauty Industry started at the early age of 18, where my search of self and art began as a makeup artist. Over the next 16 years I would weave in and out of other creative skills such as hairstyling, editorial and interior designing, and now as a permanent makeup artist. As I experienced life, grew and reflected, I started noticing similarities between my experiences of success, defeat and burnout. I observed reoccurring patterns in my own life that showed up as obstacles and sometimes horror stories. The more I turned away or fought these moments, the more I remained the same, unchanged, and stuck in a pattern. After many years of resisting and denying the Universes plea to shift, I was ready to take a leap of faith, which led to rebirth and reinvention. Read more>>

Breanna Hamilton

In 1999, my husband, Chris decided he wanted to start a winery in Arizona. Not only a winery but a 100% estate winery, something that had never been done in Arizona before. Our first vines were planted in 2002 and we waited two long years for our Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah vines to mature. In 2004, we had our first harvest and made our first wines. Our wine was finally ready to sell in 2006! We were awarded the best red wine in the state and after many years of anticipation, we opened our doors! We have continued to use only our own fruit to make our award-winning wines. In 2018, we went to our local Humane Society and added an adorable Aussie-Beagle puppy, George Bailey, to our family. It wasn’t with us long but the impact he back will last a lifetime. After a few short weeks, George started showing signs of illness, it went from bad to worse in a matter of hours. We rushed him to the emergency vet in Tucson. It took hours to figure out what was wrong but at 3 in the morning we received a frantic call from the doctor. George was dying, his kidneys were not functioning, there was nothing they could do. I was unable to accept this answer, there had to be something we could do. Read more>>

Holly Fain

My passion for photography began with a trip to San Francisco. The city is so vibrant with imagery and unique photo opportunities. That was in 2012. I purchased my first professional camera in 2013 and have loved my journey ever since. I am so fortunate to know and network with so many fabulous photographers and industry professionals who have helped me along the way. I look forward to helping others as they venture into the world of photography. Read more>>

Andy Littleton

Andy Littleton and Sean Hunter of Midtown Artisans opened M E S A in the spring of 2018 to showcase their custom furniture and a capsule collection of in-house designed and fabricated concrete goods. One year later, Emily & Kent Willert joined M E S A. Emily’s own leather and textiles goods, and Kent’s steel items have been added to the collection of M E S A-made products. Today Andy and Emily have taken the helm at the store, while Sean and Kent still handmade several of the products. Emily’s curation builds upon M E S A’s original concept, enriching the store’s offerings by sourcing well-made, beautiful, and hand-crafted objects to complement what M E S A founders originally put into motion from other local makers and trustworthy fair-trade wholesalers. Read more>>

Jacob DeSio

My love for movies started early in childhood. My family would bond by watching films together. We would go out and pick a couple of movies and watch them throughout the week. I would often reenact blockbuster films with my Legos or GI Joes. During my time at a community college as an acting major, I honed in on my passion for directing. During a screen acting class, I was given the opportunity to jump behind the camera and I fell in love instantly. I remembered the thrill of getting to make my own stories and create worlds that did not exist. I think on some level, I knew that day I was no longer an actor – I wanted to be a filmmaker. From there, I attended the University of Arizona to get my Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Film Production. While attending, I took every opportunity available to work with my professors on extracurricular projects. For three years, I spent almost everyday working on my craft – I wanted to learn everything I could about film. Read more>>

Katherine Todd

I got started with elderberry when my grandmother mentioned it when I was telling her about my two young boys getting sick again. She suggested we try elderberry syrup to cut down on the constant coughs and sniffles. I had never heard of it before but I was hopeful it could help us from being sick all the time. I have always been interested in plants, foraging, and using herbs and wild plants in the kitchen but had not ventured into plants for healing. Elderberry really appealed to me because it has such a long tradition of use in the kitchen and for health. The only problem was that my kids didn’t like the store bought syrup. It was expensive, full of refined sugar, and tasted like yucky medicine. That’s where the journey really stared for me to come up with a syrup my family loved, had better quality ingredients, and was affordable. The idea spread from there as more friends and family were interested. Right before Covid hit, we decided to offer it to our community. The response was incredible and we’ve been on a roll since then. Now you can find our line-up of elderberry syrups, teas, and gummies at farmer’s markets around Tucson and various shops in town. Read more>>

Jon-Lee Campbell

I have loved performing since I was very young. First performance was at age of three; singing at a bluegrass festival in Alaska. First play was 7th grade. Continued all through Jr high, high school and college. After college I had own theatre company and now running Differently Abled Entertainment. Read more>>

Adriana Bachmann

I’m a corporate communications professional by day and a green lifestyle blogger by night. Having struggled with my mental health since childhood, I began my journey to recovery in 2019. At the beginning of this journey, I became acutely aware that I was missing something very important in my life: spirituality. During my recovery, I reconnected with the earth’s healing power and found spiritual comfort in the idea that we are all connected. Soon after realizing this, I decided to pursue an Eco spirituality Coach certification, hoping to practice mindful eco-therapy techniques with future clients to help in their personal healing journeys. I currently explore the connection between mind, body, and earth on my green lifestyle blog Earth Momma Trainee.​​ Knowing that our planet does so much for our physical and mental health, I am determined to take care of it in return. This idea has drawn me to the sustainability world, along with practicing and promoting sustainable fashion practices. Read more>>

Karin Floyd

My interest in natural hoof care began in 2012 when I moved from sunny Los Angeles to wintery Syracuse, NY, with my horse Jazz. After a traditional farrier had made my horse very, very tender-footed and lame by removing the callousing on his hooves, I was determined that it was time to take matters into my own hands so my horse would be comfortable again. I began asking around if anyone knew of a “barefoot” or “natural” hoof trimmer. Most people thought it was peculiar and didn’t understand what I was referring to. Using traditional farriers and applying horseshoes was the norm for that area. Frustrated but determined, I decided to begin reading books and trying to teach myself to trim. I did, however, run into problems with my horse and needed assistance. I looked online for barefoot trimmers in the area and was referred to a woman named Jamie Wooten, who spent the entire day answering my questions and really showing me how to apply the concepts that I had been reading about onto hooves. Read more>>

Derek Salazar

As a young child, I would often help my grandfather around his workshop on the afternoons after school – like almost every day. I can vividly recall being given my own small hammer pretty early and attempting to drive in nails. Sometimes, even putting more dents and holes in those walls of his shop more than I managed to hit the nails. As you might guess, these are amongst my fondest of childhood memories. Years ago, my grandfather accidentally gave himself the nickname of “My Grandpa, my old man” and, of course, it stuck with my brother my dad and I. We quickly abbreviated it to “The Old Man”. The nickname has stuck all these years… I’m sure you’ve put it together already. Once I started moving my woodworking from a hobby to something I wanted to share with others, the name was obvious. I’m happy to use it more officially now to describe a set of skills that he introduced to me. It definitely feels like it’s full circle. I started Old Man Woodworking as any other person starts a hobby – with minimal knowledge and a mind full of creativity. Read more>>

Michelle Genardini

I am a Southern Arizona gal, through and through. I grew up in Nogales, AZ where my family had been for many years and had the advantage of growing up in a bilingual and bicultural community. There something magical and mystical about the blending of cultures, cities, and countries that provided my life with a richness I can’t imagine getting anywhere else. I attended the University of Arizona and after graduation, pack my bags and move to San Diego! I knew immediately after graduating that I would eventually get my real estate license. The timing just wasn’t right yet. I got my first job out of college at a mortgage company and after a few short years, had worked my way up. Then… BOOM! That thriving market everyone was celebrating came crashing down harder than anything we had seen in our lifetime. I packed my bags, moved back to Tucson, and decided it was time to figure how I could secure my financial future. But there was this timing thing again. The timing just wasn’t quite right! A few years later, I found myself working for a well-known CEO in Tucson. Read more>>

Prabhs Matharoo

It’s been a roller coaster of a ride, with a lot of twists and turns that I didn’t see coming. I come from a family of immigrants; my dad was the first one from his family to leave his home in Punjab, India and move to Oman to start his own business. Essentially, I grew up in an Indian household while also being exposed to the diverse cultures in Oman. Fast forward 17 years, I was able to move to Tucson to study Architecture at the University of Arizona, through my family’s hard work I had every intention of becoming a world-class Architect. I wanted to design the biggest, tallest and most innovative buildings only to realize that the Architecture world doesn’t work like that After I swept up my shattered, childhood dreams, I started to take an open-minded approach to my education: learn and experience as much as I can and choose what to absorb and use that to define my life path. Oddly enough, having never held a screwdriver while growing up, I had a natural attraction and affinity for building things It was just any other day in our shop, building something for our structures class, my friend asked me if I wanted to start making straight razors with him. Read more>>

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