AZ Creative Communities

CASA GRANDE — The community had one of nine community teams taking part in a learning program hosted by Arizona Creative Communities Institute that explored ways to use creativity to make a positive impact on the community.

Community teams were formed in 2017 and spent two years participating in intensive training and multidirectional mentorship, according to a press release from the Arizona Commission on the Arts. 

The Casa Grande team is featured as one of a 10-episode podcast series that chronicles the CCI experience and highlights the challenges and successes faced. 

Through the program, communities received funding for community-engaged arts projects.

The Casa Grande team included:

  • Erica Herman, an artist and art teacher with the Casa Grande Elementary School District
  • Gloria Leija, Casa Grande city clerk
  • Rina Rien, former executive director of Casa Grande Main Street
  • Stacey Seaman, a founder of the BlackBox Foundation and an instructor at Central Arizona College
  • Regis Sommers, an artist and member of the Casa Grande Arts and Humanities Commission

Twenty-two teams applied to be a part of the program but only nine were selected. 

For their community project, the group created a new, interactive arts-focused event, the Mosaic Festival, which took place in November of 2018 and 2019. As well as being a community outreach event, the festival showcases the talents of area residents.

In a secondary project in 2019, the group began to revitalize a nearly century-old vehicle/pedestrian train underpass in the community on Gila Bend Highway, near downtown Casa Grande.

“Casa Grande is a town rich in history and people who don’t wait around for someone else to make it happen. Casa Grande exists because a group of entrepreneurs at the turn of the 20th century saw an opportunity to build amenities around the ‘end of the line’ where Southern Pacific Railroad halted its tracks to California due to the heat," Rien said. "We’re dedicated to preserving our past, celebrating the present and envisioning our future as the economic locomotive of the Southwest.”

To hear the podcast, visit the Creative Communities Institute website at


Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at