College of Fine Arts, School of Art, School of Dance, School of Music, School of Theatre, Film & Television

Arizona Arts was well represented at TEDxUArizona: Spirit of Wonder on Nov. 1 at Centennial Hall. Now you can watch all of the TEDx talks here.

The University of Arizona’s unending curiosity shapes TEDxUArizona: Spirit of Wonder, with talks and interviews revealing incandescent ideas and profound research, and vivid performances from across campus. 

Heather Roper speaks about her experience with the OSIRIS-REx mission at TEDxUArizona. Photo by Chris Richards.

Arizona Arts Speakers

  • Alexandra Cerna (BFA ‘21, Film and Television); School of Theatre, Film & Television; filmmaker and photographer
  • Duane Cyrus, director, School of Dance; award-winning creative artist
  • Yuan Yuan (Kay) He, assistant professor, School of Music; composer and multimedia artist
  • Brian Moon, associate professor of Music, School of Music; Lifetimes of Listening podcast producer
  • Heather Roper (BFA ‘15, Visual Communications); School of Art, lead graphic designer for the OSIRIS-REx mission
Treasures Beneath My Tree

Alexandra Cerna | “Treasures Beneath My Tree”

Alexandra Cerna is a filmmaker and photographer from Scottsdale, Arizona. She grew up in a loving household that blended the cultures of her Mexican father and her American mother. Her artistic soul was steeped in mariachi music and art passed down from her father’s side of the family, and fostered by her mother’s imaginative and creative presence. She started taking photos and making videos around age 8, and from then on was rarely seen without a camera. 

A recent graduate of the University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film & Television, Cerna’s senior thesis short film, Treasures Beneath My Tree, combined stop motion with live action in a fantastical tribute to the patches of nature Cerna knew as a child – both the lone tree in her front yard in the Arizonan desert and the lush green Mexican pueblo of her father’s family. The film was a global festival hit, connecting with audiences of all ages across the country and around the planet. Throughout her work, Cerna celebrates the beauty and wonder of nature and humanity in all its vibrant colors. 

Body as Text

Duane Cyrus | “Body as Text”

Duane Cyrus is a professor and director of the School of Dance at the University of Arizona. An award-winning performing and creative artist, he is a two-time North Carolina Arts Council Choreography Fellow, Princess Grace Foundation Awardee, and Bessie Award nominee. His work is informed by research into Black American and Caribbean history and culture. Cyrus danced in musical theatre, concert dance, and commercial venues. Including, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, The Lion King (West End production), and Martha Graham Dance Company.

His creative work is iterative—devised to engage a range of communities by being accessible and relevant. Cyrus is the co-author of the photographic book Vital Grace: The Black Male Dancer with Joanne Savio. He is founder of Theatre of Movement, LLC, a performing and visual art collective producing multidisciplinary collaborations and curations––meshing Cyrus’ movement background with photographers, filmmakers, poets, and musicians. 


Yuan Yuan (Kay) He | “StellarScape”

Yuanyuan (Kay) He is a composer and multimedia artist with roots in China. Her research focuses on using innovative technologies to blur the boundaries between different fields and combine different art forms. Her works often explore and intertwine various forms of media to create unique audiovisual experiences that engage the audience. Many of her works involve collaborations with musicians, choreographers and dancers, scientists, engineers, photographers, visual artists, and stage design artists.

Known for collaborative works spanning dance, video, and music, she serves as Creative Director for Electronic Music Midwest and founded the Turn Up Multimedia Festival. As Assistant Professor at the University of Arizona, she imparts expertise in composition, electroacoustic music, multimedia, and orchestration.

“Music for Better People”

Brian Moon | “Music for Better People”

Brian Moon is a musicologist and performing musician from the School of Music, where he is an Associate Professor of Practice, and the Coordinator for Music in General Education. This position allows him to enhance student learning and teach musicians and non-musicians to listen to music like they were performers. Moon’s diverse research ranges from the black spiritual’s reception among white southerners, Harry Burleigh, record stores, Frank Sinatra and the history of American popular music.

More recently, Brian collaborated with Dan Kruse to launch the podcast Lifetimes of Listening and the Arizona Musical Memory Archive. This work symbolizes Brian’s approach to teaching and 0talking about music. Lifetimes of Listening celebrates music’s power to unite people, validates individual experiences and connects them with broader musical trends. Moon attempts to employ these kinds of experiences in the classroom by guiding students through the musical past to illustrate its relationship to the present.

“Art Lifts Science to Make Magic”

Heather Roper | “Art Lifts Science to Make Magic”

Heather Roper’s illustrations take art and science to cosmic heights. With a passion for both disciplines, and a BFA from the University of Arizona School of Art, she discovered her calling as the lead graphic designer for the UArizona-led NASA OSIRIS-REx asteroid sample return mission. For a decade, Heather has translated intricate mission concepts into captivating visual narratives that ignite people’s curiosity about space exploration.

In the uncharted realms of space exploration, a visual artist’s role is pivotal; they endeavor to depict and convey these scientific concepts in ways that are both visually captivating and highly comprehensible. Heather’s unique ability to bridge the gap between scientific data and artistic expression has made her an invaluable asset to the OSIRIS-REx mission; her diverse artistic contributions not only inform but also inspire. Her artwork has achieved international recognition, appearing in prestigious publications like the New York Times, Science, Nature, and Scientific American.