It’s no news to anyone who lives in downtown Phoenix that there are a ton of vacant lots. I am deeply familiar with all of the ones in my Garfield neighborhood. I have photographed them, walked across them and located the remaining debris of homes on them. They are a very real part of the structure here and are more than just undeveloped areas of desert. They are built-upon, once-used, stripped clean, recovered with gravel and continuously trimmed and maintained pieces of land.
When talking about these bits of patchwork that stretch throughout the city, the tendency is to talk about how these areas can be “developed.” We want someone to “do something” with this space, to fill it, or to make practical business use of it. We might think “store,” or “community garden.” Most developers might already have their eye on it as a place with increasing or decreasing property value that can be turned over for a profit and don’t care what it becomes.
More often what I tend to see is free, open space—a fact of the landscape that we regularly interact with on many different levels. I see a platform situated tightly within a community that could make relevant, temporary use of it. Why all this clamoring for indoor, stifling “art” space when we have a wide, vast outdoor venue that is just waiting to be drawn back into the city?
Some organizations and individuals have already begun to do this. Roosevelt Row CDC’s A.R.T.S. program managed to cultivate an entire field of sunflowers; INFLUX and the City of Phoenix are planning and realizing numerous arts projects on vacant spaces and even Mayor Greg Stanton has gotten involved by utilizing the space adjacent to Steele Indian School park for education, community farming and arts projects. “The Lot: What Should Go Here” poses the question to the community to think about what they’d want next to monOrchid. These people and organizations see the availability of this land as an opportunity to beautify our spaces and utilize them for the community’s creations.
These spaces also hold the potential for different types of work. Rather than putting the spaces through the same process of application, review and execution, individuals have the opportunity at any moment to interact meaningfully with this part of the landscape. An impromptu performance, a shortcut walking from one area to another, a place to fly a kite, an area of soft ground to run on (it’s more acceptable to run around a track?)—these allow us to see the land as less “vacant” as it is continuous.
While some areas may be fenced off and monitored, many others are available and have been for some time. What’s to stop someone from launching an impromptu, temporary and litter-less artwork? What would prevent us from inviting people to converge on a space for one hour to be part of a new performance, action, or participatory piece? New York-based 596 Acres has managed to organize a massive project that identifies all the vacant spaces in the city along with a path to activating them.
While the calls for proposals from places like INFLUX or the City of Phoenix ask us to consider a space, we also have the power within us to determine where to enact a project, with or without an organization’s approval. By regularly being present in these spaces, we can address them as something other than an off-limits area that should be looked at or treated differently. We create, through them, the same as what we have done with the once unpopulated sidewalks and streets of downtown Phoenix. By being physically present, we transform the space.
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Collectors Invited to an Intimate Artist Meet & Greet Tour
Crista Cloutier to Host Tour of Three Downtown Phoenix Galleries
Artlink’s bi-monthly Third Friday Collectors Tour returns Friday, March 15, from 6-9 p.m. These exclusive guided tours visit select exhibitions/artist studios in downtown Phoenix, with light refreshments at each location. Guests enjoy a private viewing as well as the opportunity to meet the curators and artist(s) one-on-one and learn more about their processes and vision.
Galleries are invited to submit their shows to be included on the tour. The Guest Guides select the exhibitions featured.
Crista Cloutier, an international curator, appraiser, arts writer, and artist selected this month’s exhibitions. Her most recent projects include curating the Kiki Smith/Valerie Hammond exhibit “Streaming Spirits” currently making its world tour, and developing The Working Artist, an online master class for creating a successful art career.
“I was thrilled to be asked to curate the Third Friday Collectors Tour, but humbled when I began visiting the galleries and seeing the breadth of talent that Phoenix offers. Narrowing it to three venues was a difficult decision,” said Crista. “I am interested in conversations about what it means to be a working artist and in showing people what the other side of the art business looks like: the hard work, big decisions, and dedication that it entails…. I look forward to sharing this ‘glimpse behind the curtain’ with participants on the 15th.”
WHAT: Artlink’s Third Friday Collectors Tour
WHEN: Friday, March 15
TIME: 6 – 9 p.m.
WHERE: Round-trip tour from Phoenix Art Museum, 1625 N. Central Ave.
Barry Goldstein, Works on Paper
The Coe House Gallery
365 N. 4th Ave.
Curated by Hugo Medina
This exhibition is the first in the new Coe House Gallery, a 19th century building in the Historic Roosevelt District. Curated by local painter, Hugo Medina, Goldstein’s urban landscapes transcend the mundane day-to-day through rich colors and poetic imagery. Goldstein is an internationally known artist who was born and raised in Brooklyn, and has made Phoenix his creative home for the last decade.
The Joe and Jan Show
R Pela Contemporary Art
335 W. McDowell Rd.
Curated by Robrt Pela
“The Joe and Jan Show” is a group exhibition of artwork in homage to Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Governor Jan Brewer. Featured artists include Eric Cox, Jeff Falk, Annie Lopez, Peter Bugg, Cuban painter Chary Castro and French comic artist Vincent LaRue. Curated by Robrt Pela.
215 E. Grant St.
Curated by John Reyes
Bentley Gallery is a uniquely beautiful space in the warehouse district of downtown Phoenix. Neo Chroma is a contemporary survey of the use of brilliant color in abstract painting.
The galleries/artist spaces will provide refreshments, and participants will have a private viewing of the work and the opportunity to meet the curators and artist(s) one-on-one and learn more about their processes and vision.
Tickets are $35 each, two for $60. Seating is limited. To reserve your space please go to Eventbrite.
About Artlink: Artlink, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to linking artists, business and the public to better understand, appreciate and promote a thriving arts community in Central Phoenix. Artlink promotes a variety of community-based art events happening throughout the year, including First Fridays, the country’s largest self-guided gallery tour, and also operates two downtown galleries at Heritage & Science Park and the A.E. England Building. Both gallery spaces are committed to showcasing the talents of new and emerging local artists. Ongoing community projects include, the promotion of the First Friday Art Walk and Third Friday Collectors Tour, annual Juried Exhibition, and the annual Artlink Art Detour. For more information, visit: artlinkphoenix.com. Artlink’s year-round activities are supported by Phoenix Art Museum, Dunn Transportation, Snell & Wilmer, Arizona Commission on the Arts, Phoenix Community Alliance, The Torosian Foundation, Downtown Voices Coalition, Grand Avenue Merchants Association, Roosevelt Row CDC, Phoenix Center for the Arts, Obliq Art, Urban Affair and Invexi Web Development.
The Grand Avenue Arts and Small Business District is home to an eclectic, and very diverse, mix of the arts, small commercial enterprises, retail, industrial, affordable housing projects, social services, and historic residential.
Over the last several years, newcomers to the area have purchased the vintage commercial buildings along this diagonal strip into downtown to preserve the historic architecture or to create interesting adaptive re-use projects that are a combination of the new and the old. Hurt by the downturn, the Avenue is coming back to life with a variety of new small businesses, projects currently under renovation, streetscape planning, murals, and other arts and community related activities.
Have your own idea for a creative business or space? Check out the availability on Grand:
The Historic OS Stapley Hardware Store Buildings
The current owner is restoring these beautiful red brick buildings to their original 1920s appearance by removing interior plaster, exposing original painted signs, sandblasting interior trusses, and re-installing large storefront windows.
Location: 747 W. Grand Avenue
Space: up to 5-6,000 sq. ft. increments
Rate: Call for info
Contact: Kevin Lange, Cushman & Wakefield 602-253-7900
The Groove On Grand
In the heart of the Grand Avenue Arts and small Business District. These buildings have all been renovated for a variety of retail, art studio, and office type small businesses. It has nice outdoor seating area, a small outdoor stage, and good exposure and visibility along Lower Grand Avenue. The patio that has the beginnings of a lovely desert oasis. Owners will help build out kitchen for right, experienced bar/bistro tenant.
Henry’s Market Corner
Built in the 1920′s as a Piggly Wiggly market, the Market Corner has been purchased by a new owner who is preparing to renovate the exterior. The owner is looking for a restaurant or a neighborhood market, art studio, furniture store, or office tenant and is willing to negotiate on limited interior improvements for the right person.
Work spaces, one small theater space, art studios, small retail/office, co-working space, etc. are available in a variety of sizes and price ranges. All spaces are in vintage buildings in the Lower Grand Avenue Arts and Small Business District.
Location: 1023 Grand, 1022 Grand, 1301 Grand, and 711 N. 15th Avenue
Space: Varies, call for info
Rate: 55 cents – 75 cents a sq. ft.
Contact: Beatrice or Tony at 602-391-4016
Oasis on Grand (corner commercial space)
A prime corner of the Oasis on Grand complex at Grand, Roosevelt and 15th Avenue. Looking for community friendly tenants and open to tenants who want to co-exist with several shared uses such as bar/bistro, small retail/office, gallery, etc. Owner willing to help with TI for an experienced bistro/bar tenant.
Oasis on Grand (Live/Work)
Artist live/work space in a beautifully remodeled Mid-century Modern motel building, with interior parking and leisure area. Or can be used for small galleries.
Last Saturday, Artlink’s Silver Gala brought together Detour supporters past and present in honor of Art Detour 25, March 2 and 3, Inspired Connections’ Chief Connector Rhonda Bannard remarks on the evolution of the arts in downtown Phoenix reminds us of this community’s strength and encourages further connection with business leaders to propel us to the next level of success.
In 1993, I jumped into the position of downtown [Phoenix Partnership's] marketing manager. My first assignment was to help the Suns and the city prepare for the NBA playoffs and a parade of what turned out to be 350,000 people downtown on a 115 degree day. It was quickly apparent that supporting the arts & cultural community was critically important to the revitalization efforts that were beginning to take shape.
My boss at the time – Margaret Mullen – was at the forefront of negotiating deals for artists in the Jackson Street studios. It may not be a happy memory for many artists, as the studios needed to be relocated for the Arena to be built. She shared with me that it was Mayor Terry Goddard who said we needed to figure out how the business community could keep the artists downtown and not have them scatter across the Valley. Consider how that set us up for where you are today.
Margaret said that it is often the artists who had the guts to go in early and see the revitalization opportunities waiting to happen.
I remember meeting artists Sevak Khalsa, Greg West, and Otto Rigan in the early years and how Jackson Street was one of the top places to visit on Art Detour. I remember hearing Beatrice Moore’s name often.
And I remember being told to help out Art Detour however the Downtown Phoenix Partnership could.
From arts to theater to the tiny Arizona Science Center with the Swensen’s Ice Cream shop next to it – those early days for arts and culture were not easy.
Tonight we celebrate the early pioneers who paved the way for the possibilities of today.
The first gallery owners, the early downtown artists, and those passionate volunteers with Artlink – many still active in the community today – all made it possible for tonight’s celebration.
I don’t have to tell you that it’s been a challenging road. And sometimes you can still hear the same challenges and complaints leveled in the effort to sell the value of the arts to a vibrant city center.
Yet I would submit you’ve proven the potential – whether it’s seen in the “must do” First Fridays, or the burgeoning Third Fridays and more intimate arts meet ups.
The business community and city are starting to speak your language. They just come at it from a different lens. They realize that they are competing for workforce talent – and the one common denominator of talent is to look to the creative.
So looking at 25 years and beyond for Artlink and the downtown arts community – what’s next?
1,500 chief executives noted “creativity” as the most important leadership skills needed for successful ventures in the future – according to an IBM’s survey through its Institute for Business Value. The findings noted that they understand the power of an innovative individual and the creative thinking and collaborative mentality they bring with them.
They’re even beginning to advocate for it in schools.
Well, as we know, Arizona is usually behind such trends, so here are some ideas that could help us move forward:
- Showcase the competitive edge businesses can realize with their workforce and within the community to attract talent by supporting the arts. This will not be easy given the realization that many business are still hanging on until the economy turns more upright.
- Refine your messaging.
- Remember to speak their language when you’re telling your story.
- Stop speaking to the choir and let your voice be heard outside of your community.
- See yourself as a bridge to connect the community. Help the business community see you as the creative tool in their toolbox.
The intrinsic benefits of arts are many – they sooth, provoke, connect us, connect cultures. It’s essential to the health and vitality of our community – it makes new business possible, tourism probable, attracts skilled and educated workers – especially if we begin to consider and harness the growing power of the younger generations. Let them know they can tap your talents when pitching for business.
- Go to them until they starting coming to you.
- Support business leaders who “get it” and help them become your ambassadors.
Business scholars are already recognizing that creativity is at the leading edge of innovation.
In Massachusetts a “creative economy director” is part of their statewide economic development strategy.
In D.C. a mayor’s summit is held on the creative economy to connect arts to community and help local businesses.
In one MBA program ranked first in entrepreneurship, students are required to take art classes. Same with those in another college’s engineering program. They believe that creativity allows for quantum leaps in knowledge.
Americans for the Arts said, “When we reduce support for the arts, we are not cutting frills. Rather we’re undercutting an industry that is a cornerstone of tourism, economic development and the revitalization of many downtowns. When we INCREASE support for the arts, we are generating tax revenues, jobs and a creativity-based economy.”
Great points, great message. One that now requires us to translate it to those who need to hear it.
There are some advantages to your bike being your only source of transportation around Phoenix. One of them is no longer being subjected to the inevitable conversation on the bus or train where someone says that Phoenix isn’t a real city and has no character.
I get it. You came from somewhere else and it was so awesome you had to leave. Then you came to Phoenix expecting it to answer all of your problems and it turns out it’s just as messed up as everywhere else and, on top of that, it has spiky plants, absurdly hot weather and none of the flowers you could grow back in Michigan will grow here.
When I try to pinpoint what Phoenix’s character is, I often end up thinking about how our isolation and the possibility that the heat will kill you define our actions here. I also try to see this place like someone who hasn’t lived here for over 15 years and accepts it with open eyes.
I look at Grand Avenue.
Due to a little-known zoning restriction, the sweat of a lot of people, a slower process of development and a unique positioning in the geography of Phoenix, Lower Grand Avenue has managed to retain enough remnants of the early developments of this city to give us the sense that Phoenix does not have to mean generic strip malls and chain restaurants. It is one of the few places where we can look at what is still there and imagine the generations that were there before us. Phoenix is in fact not a blank slate to wipe clean and re-imagine how to rebuild for whichever developer’s benefit. It has a history—one that goes back much farther than even these poured concrete and masonry buildings.
Beatrice Moore has pretty much seen it all, partly because earlier developments for the now US Airways Center and Chase Field forced her and her partner to be moved to whichever location was just on the fringe of the developer’s zone. They looked to Grand Avenue with its unique, older buildings, lower prices and distance from possible development to be able to work and be creative in peace.
It seems that Grand has managed to remain this type of place. It integrates families, artists, new and old businesses, and social welfare programs. It seems quieter and slower there. There’s more time for cactus to grow and for people to think, thoughtfully, about what might be best for the community. Unlike other areas of the city that have seen immediate high rise development, speculation and the battle of large chains moving in to take advantage of high trafficked areas (monstrosity at 7th Ave and McDowell, I’m looking at you), Grand Avenue has been churning on, planning for ways to make it a lively area without simply focusing on it as a one-hit destination. This is an area where people can afford to live and breathe.
Stephanie Carrico, co-owner of the Trunk Space, sees Phoenix as a small town in a big city and maybe this is its unique key to potential success. In a community where people are aware of who has lived there for generations and what businesses helped build the area, it seems more likely that people will look out for each other’s interests. They’re less likely to allow developments that turn the location into a concept of the location without any remaining soul.
Grand Avenue, partly because of the care people have put into adapting and reusing buildings there, is a place that makes people stop and think. Not as many people want to contend with it as they might with more hip locations because, in order to do so, you are confronted by a place that is rooted in time and actually manages to say that this is Phoenix. Now are you going to tear it down and pretend it’s somewhere else, or are you going to figure out how to work with it?