DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
“Ground Cover,” a public art project by Arizona artist Ann Morton (pictured right) will be installed Friday, Dec. 6, and dedicated at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at a vacant lot at First and McKinley streets in downtown Phoenix.
The project temporarily will beautify a vacant lot in downtown Phoenix and provide 300 handmade blankets for homeless individuals. Mayor Greg Stanton and District 7 Councilman Michael Nowakowski will speak at the Saturday morning dedication.
The project will be located and displayed for two days. Created by Phoenix artist Ann Morton with the help of blanket makers – affectionately called “blanketeers” – from 22 states and two Canadian provinces, the 300 finished blankets will be assembled into a 116-foot-by-50-foot “ground cover” featuring a colossal image of lush desert blooms. Each of the smaller blankets measures 40 inches by 70 inches. They are made with up to 28 squares, each 10 inches by 10 inches, which serve as “pixels” of the overall image (see the rendering below).
Crews of volunteers will work with Morton to assemble the monumental blanket at the vacant lot on Dec. 6. The blanket will remain on view until 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. After the two-day installation, the large blanket will be disassembled into smaller ones and given to agencies that serve homeless people in the city.
The “Ground Cover” public art project was commissioned by the city of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program. It is supported in part by an “Our Town” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts as part of “Cultural Connections” series of temporary artworks sponsored by the city of Phoenix, the ASU Art Museum and Roosevelt Row CDC. The project is also a part of Mayor Stanton’s PHXRenews initiative to activate vacant lots and spaces in Phoenix in conjunction with Keep Phoenix Beautiful.
Images provided by City of Phoenix
Thanks to the efforts of Jill Johnson (Program Manager) and Doctor Diane Facinelli, students who participate in the course are steeped like tea bags in everything “downtown Phoenix” through a combination of tours and presentations by local historians, business people, city officials, arts community representatives, local community development wizards and urban sustainability advocates.
The goal is to break down any myths and misapprehensions young people who are new to downtown may have about their surroundings, and to give them access to the people on the ground who are transforming our urban core.
The course is divided into six areas, including Downtown Phoenix History; Entrepreneurship & Local Business; Governance, Politics and Activism; Places, Spaces and Adaptive Re-Use; Promoting Arts & Culture; and Sustainable and Vital Living.
Local experts in each area are brought in to meet with students and share their insights about how and why they do what they do and to show the impact they’re having. Students are not only encouraged to get involved, they are introduced to the very people and organizations that can get them started bringing their own passions and skills to bear on making the urban core vibrant.
“Incoming freshmen are sometimes disappointed to find themselves in downtown Phoenix versus the ASU campus in Tempe,” says Jill Johnson, the “connector” who makes the class viable and relevant. “We use ‘Community Encounters’ to dispel their fears, to show them what is happening right outside their student bubble, and to educate them about the wealth of opportunities they have available to them in downtown.”
The value of growing this connection between young ASU students and the downtown community is in reaching a potential new generation of residents who will want to live, work and play in downtown and create sustained vibrancy on our streets.
Jim McPherson, co-author with Suad Mahmuljin of Downtown Phoenix History, opens the course by sharing the historic context of the city’s evolution. “Students read our book before class,” said McPherson, “and then we take them on a combination bus and walking tour that enables them to see some of the areas featured in the book. We show them how historic places are contributing to the contemporary landscape of the city.”
“The purpose of the class is to provide students with variety of entry points for them to become active, engaged urban citizens,” said Johnson. “The students benefit from being exposed to the rich variety of experiences available to them in downtown, and the community benefits from the talent and energy the students can bring to making the best downtown possible. It’s as they say, a ‘win-win’ situation.”
Find out what this years’ students learned and how the class has impacted their perceptions of downtown at ENCOUNTER THIS! Community Encounters Showcase. At this free public event, groups of students who have worked together will show the community what they’ve learned and share how it has changed their perspective.
If You Go
When: Thursday, December 5, 7:00 pm
Where: A.E. England Building, Civic Space Park
Cost: FREE to public, but reservations are appreciated. Reserve your space now.
Contact: Jill.Johnson@asu.edu; 602-496-0557.
Detainees, military families, scholars, interrogators, and refugees offer perspectives of the controversial United States Naval Base at Guantánamo — also known as GTMO or Gitmo — through the final weekend of an exhibition at Burton Barr Central Library.
The 13-panel Guantánamo Public Memory Project exhibit, arranged on the library’s second floor, scratches the surface of a historical debate that continues to resonate with current issues of borders, indefinite and preventive detention, and foreign relations.
Established as a Caribbean base on indefinite lease in 1903 despite Cuban protests, and later made notorious as the purgatorial site of incarceration for thousands of Haitians and Cubans, GTMO is now infamous as an internment camp for war prisoners.
The exhibit explores Guantánamo’s history, the many roles of the base, and its potential closure through video testimonies, interactive discussions and activities, and complementary films at Phoenix Art Museum (Dirty Wars on Nov. 24 and Zero Dark Thirty on Dec. 8). Related topics include the progression of detention from the Japanese concentration camps in Arizona to refugees and enemy combatants at GTMO.
Initiated by Columbia University, the Guantánamo Public Memory Project continues to grow through collaboration and support from universities, organizations, and individuals, and solicits new narratives via its website and its traveling exhibit.
Although the second-floor exhibit runs through Sunday, November 24, the companion first-floor @Central Gallery photo exhibition Cuba: Through Each Others Eyes [sic] continues through December 1, displaying the work of five photographers from a 2002 Phoenix-Havana exchange.
- Guantánamo Public Memory Project at Phoenix Public Library’s Burton Barr Central Library
- Witness to Guantánamo website
- Recent news about the potential closure of GTMO
- The American Civil Liberties Union’s “Guantánamo by the Numbers” infographic
- A brief history of GTMO from Paul Kramer in The New Yorker
- Further reading recommended by Phoenix Public Library staff
Here at DPJ, we’re all about sharing what we love. Beyond the stories that make us love downtown, we often come across things that catch our eye, tingle our senses or have us dancing in delight. “We Like…” turns a brief spotlight on the little treasures that make our day, with helpful links so you can share in the fun.
When I was young I thought that artists were born fully formed and able to accomplish amazing work right out of the gate. Later I came to recognize that what makes an artist truly great is all of the time spent learning technique, honing their craft, refining their vision, solving problems, and growing into their talent. Recently I stumbled across an example of that kind of evolution in the work of a remarkable local artist, Jordan Alexander Thomas.
I first came across his delicious robot constructions at Made art boutique a few years ago. I don’t really care one way or another about robots, but these charmed me immediately. Not only were they imaginative, cheerful and affordable, they also had magical little “secret compartments” built into their bodies. I am a sucker for a box, and the hidden boxes in these robot bodies had me leaping for joy.
Flash forward a couple of years to just a week or so ago, when I wandered into Practical Art one afternoon with a friend and discovered an entire exhibition of Thomas’s newest robots. In just a few short years his constructions have evolved from charming, slightly rough-hewn curiosities, to gorgeously wrought works of art. I kid you not, they are absolutely beautiful.
So, quick like a bunny, before the show comes down, trundle yourself off to Practical Art and spend a little time marveling at these fabulous constructions. They’d make a perfect gift, especially if you tuck a little surprise into the secret compartment. For those of you who don’t want to commit to a larger piece, Thomas has created smaller scale “busts,” as well as some sweet and wearable pins.
Jordan Alexander Thomas bills himself as a robot artist, which might lead some people to overlook his work. Don’t make that mistake. He has created unique, exquisite, finely detailed sculptures that just happen to be robots. When you slow down enough to look closely, you will be amazed and delighted. Your mind will be blown and Santa may just have to bring me one for Christmas!
“Nothing has come easy at all,” says actor Joseph Kremer flatly. “This was probably the most challenging show I’ve ever done. There was not one bit of it that was easy — not one.”
Kremer steps into a role previously filled on Broadway by Hugh Jackman as the angry, bullying character Denny in A Steady Rain, Keith Huff’s hit play. The Valley actor appeared recently in Southwest Shakespeare Company’s Love’s Labour’s Lost, Phoenix Theatre’s Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, and last season’s Dead Man’s Cell Phone with Actors Theatre.
Denny’s onstage partner is fellow Chicago cop Joey, played by Christopher Haines (of iTheatre Collaborative) in the Actors Theatre production closing this weekend. Kremer and Haines are directed by Anthony Runfola, longtime production manager at Childsplay.
“One of the biggest challenges is trying to make this character likeable,” adds Kremer, “because you don’t really want to like him.” The two-man play packs potent emotion, plenty of action, a cataclysmic mistake, and morally challenged characters into 95 minutes on a spartan set. An intermission added for this production doesn’t break the tension, he says. “It doesn’t take you out of the show at all…you pop right back into it because you want to know what’s going on. It starts boiling up right when you get back, too.”
Kremer explains that the play is uniquely split between each cop giving his side of the story. “The play is divided into six sections…it’s definitely two separate parts in many ways…with scenes that we do together interwoven.” For example, he says, “The whole number two section I do on my own — he’s not even in it. He [Haines] faces upstage the whole time.”
“But then there’s the next one,” Kremer continues, “where we’re talking back and forth together…and then parts where we’re talking to each other in front of the audience, like the audience is there.” He laughs. “And that’s what’s pretty wild.”
“That’s something that the playwright did really well,” Kremer elaborates. “He juxtaposed scenes…to create that energy coming back…it just goes like crazy. And you know, every cop show has to have a car chase in it, and this…has one, believe it or not — it’s just me and him onstage, but there is a car chase in it.”
Although some audience members have commented on the play’s often harsh language, including frequent f-bombs, Kremer believes that the verbiage is anything but gratuitous. “I’m the one who has all that language,” he points out. “The other guy doesn’t…and you’ll have to figure out why.”
Kremer adds, “The guy that wrote it…he knows what he’s doing — it’s pretty authentic.” He laughs. “I don’t know how many people I’ve had come up to me after the last three shows that we did, and they were like, ‘You know, I’ve worked for Chicago cops before, and I’ve gotta tell you: you guys nailed it – not only the way they talk, but the language they use…the playwright nailed it, too.’”
A Chicago resident, author Huff boasts writing and production credits on the AMC award-winning television series Mad Men and involvement with Netflix’s House of Cards. He’s developing work for SyFy and HBO, and his other plays include The Bird and Mr. Banks, Dog Stories, Big Lake Big City, and The Detective’s Wife, which follows A Steady Rain as the second in Huff’s trilogy about Chicago law enforcement.
A Steady Rain was critically acclaimed for its innate poetry and won several Joseph Jefferson (“Jeff”) Awards for Best New Work, Best Actor, and Best Production when it was originally mounted by Chicago Dramatists. The 2009 Broadway run starring Jackman and Daniel Craig was named second on a “top 10 plays of the year” list by TIME Magazine.
This production signals the welcome return of Phoenix’s financially troubled but highly regarded Actors Theatre, a company freshly reorganized with massive cutbacks. Performances end with the Sunday matinee on November 10.
If you go:
- A Steady Rain by Actors Theatre
- continuing through Sunday, November 10
- Playhouse on the Park at Viad Corporate Center, 1850 N. Central Ave.