Hold Your Horses: Modified Arts isn’t Dying!

October 7th, 2009

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In the wake of the news that Kimber Lanning is leaving her post at Modified Arts, a premature outrage ensued, before anyone really considered who is taking over the space.

Enter Kim Larkin and Adam Murray, a husband-and-wife duo that, truth be told, has some pretty stellar ideas for the space. Don’t get too heated; your beloved indie rock mecca won’t be the same, but it won’t be that different, either.

Yeah, they’re a young couple, but they’re confident, experienced and truly quite innovative. With these two at the helm, Modified Arts is only growing, not fading away.

Murray, who has been working sound at shows at Modified Arts for some time, has an extensive background in audio engineering. He is confident people will find that music will not be leaving Modified Arts — it’s simply being refocused to better fit the space.

“Being at Modified doing sound, it’s obvious music is a big thing there,” Murray says. “Kimber was willing to give up-and-coming musicians a venue to express themselves. So, going forward, I knew not just on the visual side, but also on the audio side, focusing on up-and-coming artists, showcasing something different is important.”modified7

There’s also the business aspect. Murray and Larkin agree that Modified Arts has really been two separate entities — the music and the art — and they’ve been pretty exclusive. People who came for music didn’t really care about the art on the walls, and vice versa.

“We want to make it a unified experience,” Murray says. “It’s a matter of having things there that fit the space. The room is shaped like a U. I was constantly pulling my hair out trying to do sound there. We’ll take advantage of the intimate setting — that’s something that people really like about Modified. I want to capitalize on that. There are artists that will work well within the space.”

Murray, in particular, is interested in continuing to foster Downtown Phoenix’s music scene. Just because a band won’t work well in Modified Arts doesn’t mean he won’t help to find them a show elsewhere. He counts consistent interaction between venues and arts spaces as key to Downtown’s growth. In fact, he’s hoping more venues pop up to help bring more artists Downtown.

So, that’s out of the way. Now we all know: Don’t write off Modified Arts for your live music intake. Meanwhile, Larkin is planning an improved focus on visual arts that will really support emerging artists.

Larkin’s background is in gallery management, and she opened a gallery with a friend in Salt Lake City soon after graduating. She’s parlaying that experience into Modified Arts, and respecting the tradition it has earned.

“Modified Arts has always been about the community and building it from the ground up,” Larkin says. “That’s absolutely something we want to maintain and help grow. Change can be difficult, but change can be good, too.”

During the period between the current Modified Arts’ last show and the reopening for January’s Third Friday, Larkin and Murray will be touching up the space to be more suitable for exhibiting visual art. They plan to open the space up a bit more and give it a better flow, but they’re committed to keeping the building’s current charm and personality.

“What we want to focus on is creating an overall experience for people,” Larkin says. “We want it to be something they can take away with them, too. We want people to interact and converse. Too often people feel inhibited in a gallery. We want to find ways to break down those barriers.”

Larkin cites different ways attendees will get involved — everything from artist meet-and-greets, to audience participation at experimental music performances, to educational and speaking events. She is hopeful that this renewed sense of place will inspire all kinds of presentations within the space.

Having spent time in Salt Lake City and most recently Pittsburgh together, Larkin and Murray moved to the Valley for Murray to attend the Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences. With gallery experience already under her belt, Larkin started contacting anyone in the arts scene she could find. Naturally, she met Lanning, and kept returning to Modified Arts for openings. Murray enjoyed doing sound at Modified shows so much, he finished his intern work and volunteered to stay on board.

“To be honest, when we moved here, I thought we’d stay for Adam’s program; I didn’t think there would be many opportunities, so I figured we’d move on someplace else,” Larkin says. “Over time, it proved us wrong. Since moving Downtown, it’s been like a breath of fresh air.

“When I moved here, everything felt new and young. There’s this vibrancy; it feels like there is a lot happening here, as opposed to Pittsburgh, which comes from old money. It’s exciting because you can influence that growth and take part in it.”

  • Nicole Snow

    Adam and Kim are passionate about supporting the arts, and they’re some pretty fun folks, as well. Wait and see, Phoenix — you’ll love the new Modified!

  • http://northphoenixblog.blogspot.com North Phoenix Blog

    I think The Modified is making a mistake by putting more emphasis on visual arts than live music. The area they are in is already full of galleries that feature visual arts (Holgas, Red Dog, etc). The live shows are what make them unique from everyone else in the area. They have made a name for themselves as a great local venue and while I understand that may not be as profitable as it used to, it’s what makes them stand out from the crowd.

  • Kevin

    I wish nothing but success for Larkin and Murray, though I have to be honest here, they have some pretty big shoes to fill. Kimber is not only a work horse but a driving force, when it comes to indie music in Phoenix metro. The space will only survive if they cont. to bring a diverse music calendar to the venue and somehow get other avenues involved in promotion of the artists. Why come to Phoenix to play to a just a few heads at a small club? Find them other resources to promote and sell while the artist is in town.

    It was really funny when I read that blurb in the New Times last week stating that the demise of Tempe’s live music scene was when Long Wong’s closed. Well, good old Mayor Neil and the Tempe board killed it long before Long Wong’s closed it’s doors.

    I strongly believe that this town has always suffered because of a lack of radio that supports local and international acts. Some of the greatest memories I have of Phoenix is when KZON first hit the airways, Stinkweeds was thriving on Apache and Tempe bands where playing on Letterman. Those combinations produced some of the greatest small shows all over in Phoenix, Mesa, Scottsdale and Tempe.