An appointment with a lawyer is not usually an outing on par with a trip to an art gallery. Yet within the legal offices of The Law Offices of David Michael Cantor in downtown Phoenix, prepare to leave behind your preconceptions about stuffy law offices decorated with mundane posters or black and white photographs.
When you exit the elevator and walk through the firm’s glass doors on the 18th floor of CityScape, you are confronted with an 8’ x 12’ foot mural painting of Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio entitled When Pigs Can Fly, which Attorney David Cantor commissioned from then local artist Robert Anderson in 1997. The brightly-colored painting, known throughout the office simply as Tent City, depicts the Tent City jail in downtown Phoenix. It has become such an established focal point to the office that its image is emblazoned on the complimentary water bottles given to guests.
For Cantor, the bold conversation piece is integral to the spirit of his practice and Cantor is clearly proud to have When Pigs Fly displayed so prominently. The Cheshire Cat peering down from the top of the painting at the ruckus below reminds Cantor of the cat he owned at the time, and he notes that “the nose [on Arpaio] is very distinctive, and Robert [Anderson] told me he did that on purpose.”
While approximately 60 of the more than 100 paintings, drawings and prints in this avid collector’s possession are on display throughout the offices, this is not a corporate art collection. Cantor acquired each piece over the past 25 years personally, and many have transitioned back and forth between his office and home.
Cantor estimates that 90 percent of the collection is comprised of local Arizona artists. With the exception of one or two, all works in the collection were created by living artists.
Cantor buys a piece because he likes it. “It’s personal, it’s not value driven.” Working without an art advisor, and a casual, but not close relationship with many of the gallerists and artists, allows Cantor full control over his collection, which includes a number of provocative political works.
Somewhat counter intuitively, the more outlandish pieces are on display at work, while the less salacious works stay in his private residence. “I’m a criminal defense lawyer,” Cantor says by way of explanation. The paintings are not merely decorative pieces to fill conference room walls, but pieces rife with social commentary. “It’s personal, but we display a lot that’s relevant.”
Asked if any artwork has offended a client, Cantor dismisses this notion.
However, one painting, Colin Chillag’s It is a Fearful Thing to Love What Death Can Touch (of “The Girls Next Door,” an E! reality TV show about the Playboy Mansion), was deemed unsuitable for the average visitor, and now resides back by the IT desk.
Other paintings, like Eric Cox’s Sheriff Joezo and The Wicked Witch of the Southwest, both purchased from R. Pela Contemporary Art‘s “The Joe and Jan Show,” or a yarn portrait of Governor Jan Brewer, Brewer? I Don’t Even Know Her…, by Todd Daniel Grossman, are scattered throughout the office.
Brian Boner’s Theft Balloon and Disappearance, both from 2004 and displayed as a diptych, depict a less overt political message. Both were purchased during a First Friday art outing. “Boner’s garage was open and he was working on this piece and I said I’ll take ‘em.”
Cantor’s life as an art collector began in law school in 1987 with a print by Olivia De Berardinis, inscribed to him by the artist, “To David, Good Luck in Law School.” He bought a second piece right after that, by Patrick Nagel, and a collector was born.
While he does not have a formal art education, he relies on magazines like Art in America and ARTnews to keep him informed, as well as visits to local museums when he travels. He frequents downtown galleries like Modified/Arts, Eye Lounge and R. Pela Contemporary Art, whose recent show, “Banned at the Herberger,” Cantor cites as a recent favorite.
His collection is united with color and figuration. “That’s the theme. A lot of these either have faces of a human or an animal, or it’s color. Fauvist. Almost everything has color. Even the so-called muted colors aren’t really that muted.”
The literal translation of fauve is “wild beast” and refers to the early 20th century art movement of brash, bold colors and apparent brushstrokes. It is the focus on brightly pigmented colors that shows the Fauvist influence in Cantor’s collection. A reinterpretation of “wild,” which includes socially progressive subject matter and outlandish presentation of some of the central figures is central to his collection as well.
The collection, as well as the office space, is constantly growing. Every office has at least one framed work on its wall, all curated by Cantor. Office inhabitants rarely get a say as to the art on their walls. Throughout the hallways, paintings reach towards the ceiling and the rare blank wall is merely a space that has yet to be filled.
Behind the reception desk—and directly facing Tent City—is another rare commissioned piece, this one a copper fountain by Gary Slater. It provides a sense of tranquility with undulating earth tones setting a serene scene. The juxtaposition of this subdued piece with the brashness of the Arpaio mural enables Cantor’s duality, as a lawyer and art collector, to shine through. This collection of bold work by talented local artists’ uniquely embodies his personal aesthetic sensibilities, as well as the rich scope and quality of contemporary art being produced in Phoenix today.
As an independent chronicler of all things downtown, DPJ takes a comprehensive approach to covering the urban living movement in Phoenix and, with this Conversation series, spotlighting the people who make it move.
“We should always assume that things can be better.”
Cindy Dach wears half a dozen hats at least and has been a key player in the revitalization of the Roosevelt Row area. She is a board member of Downtown Phoenix, Inc.; co-owner and general manager of Changing Hands Bookstore, which is about to open a Phoenix location in Uptown (Camelback Road and 3rd Avenue); owner of Made Art Boutique on Roosevelt and 5th Ave.; co-founder of Eye Lounge, a contemporary artists run collective on Roosevelt Street; co-founder of Arizona Chain Reaction (now Local First Arizona); co-founder and board member of the Roosevelt Row CDC; and one of the driving forces behind the annual Pie Social, the RoRo Chili Festival, and the Feast on the Street, just to name a few.
She and her partner, Greg Esser, moved to Phoenix from Denver in the mid-nineties and immediately set about seeking community. Even finding brunch back in those days was a challenge. “We always ended up at IHop, because there weren’t any other choices,” said Dach. They began taking steps to build the community they craved by creating Eye Lounge, which was originally an artist collective exhibiting at various locations.
After a while, they discovered inexpensive property in a blighted area along Roosevelt Street, and in 2001 they bought a building, rolled up their sleeves and create a permanent gallery for Eye Lounge. In reflecting on that time, Dach said, “Wayne Rainey and Kimber Lanning had begun doing things on Roosevelt then as well. We didn’t originally know each other, but we were all focused on creating a place for the arts and artists, and so we found each other.”
The impact of creating a community for artists and the arts on Roosevelt has been exponential. First Fridays went from a few hundred urban pioneers willing to seek out galleries on Jackson Street, Roosevelt Street and Grand Avenue, and exploded during those early years. Thousands of people now flock to Roosevelt and the area supports several galleries, retail stores, coffee houses, and restaurants.
“We didn’t originally know each another, but we were all focused on creating a place for the arts and artists, and so we found each other.“
Along the way, Dach and her cohorts established the Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, a non-profit 501(c)3 organization to further the unique cultural character and creative assets of the Roosevelt Row Arts District. Fellow Roosevelt Row and Evans Churchill District neighbors worked together to create innovative grassroots community building events, such as the annual Pie Social, and the Chili Festival.
In addition to infusing the area with the arts, Dach and others recognized the negative impact of the empty lots and created A.R.T.S. (Activated Reuse of Temporary Spaces) initiatives to focus on activating these dead spaces. To date these programs have included the creation of a temporary A.R.T.S. Market on First Fridays, the development of the innovative Valley of the Sunflowers project, and support of The Lot: What Should Go Here? Pop Up Park at 2nd Street and Roosevelt.
Dach believes that the development of the ASU Downtown campus and the coming of light rail have been key to the rebirth of the area. “It started with the nursing school. Suddenly you noticed lots of young women with ponytails out and about,” says Dach, laughing. “But as more and more of the schools moved downtown they brought a whole range of young people into the neighborhood,” she continues. “And they are looking for things to do and places to hang out.”
Dach believes that Downtown Phoenix, Inc. can make Phoenix more competitive. “The ratings system for development is good and DPI can help us grow the city in a smarter way.” Her advice for the organization? “DPI needs to allow for diversity in the widest possible sense to participate in change-making.” As she puts it, “We should always assume that things can be better.”
Cindy Dach, along with fellow DPI board members, Kimber Lanning, and Tim Eigo represent a powerful, grassroots movement that has brought a whole new kind of energy and promise to downtown. Their place at the table speaks to the impact they’ve had in creating the community they were seeking all those years ago.
In addition to her commitment to Roosevelt Row, Cindy is a staunch supporter of bringing a great bookstore to central Phoenix. It took eight years for Tempe-based Changing Hands to find the right location and circumstances to open a Phoenix store. Dach is confident that Phoenix can support the venture. “Phoenix is ready for a bookstore, but I think we have some bad habits to break.” She explains, “It’s very obvious and for good reason the Phoenix community has been buying their books online. I hope they don’t experience sticker shock and that they realize that it’s not just the book they are buying at full retail value, they’re buying the experience, they’re buying the store, they’re buying the bookseller who’s going to recommend the book.”
“But as more and more of the schools moved downtown they brought a whole range of young people into the neighborhood. And they are looking for things to do and places to hang out.”
Ultimately, Dach believes that Phoenix is not only ready, but deserves a great bookstore. “Phoenix deserves another great community gathering place; we have some great gathering places, but we’re ready for another model and I think the bookstore could be it.”
When did Dach realize that Phoenix was her place? She says it wasn’t one moment, but a series of little moments. “I remember working on Eye Lounge and going to Portland’s covered in dust and having conversations with people about what downtown needs. I began to feel like maybe I do have a place here. It really was like ‘if you build it they will come.’ I began to feel that I did have a purpose, to be involved, and that it’s fun to be involved.”
Dach believes that one of the most amazing things about Phoenix is the people. You say ‘hey, I have shovels and we need to clear this lot’ and, lo and behold, they show up. Phoenix just wants to know how to help.”
When asked about the possibility of an Enhanceed Municipal Services District for the Roosevelt area, Dach said, “In my head it can be great to see a community being able to take care of itself, because these services just don’t exist now. You can whine and complain and ask for them, but they’re not coming and at the end of the day it’s going to come down to the community having dialogue. What I love about the process we’re about to enter, it’s going to be the best way to engage everyone.”
David Krietor has served as CEO of the newly-formed Downtown Phoenix, Inc. (“DPI”) since April 8, 2013. In that time, he has begun work with community stakeholders to develop the downtown we want. “Your Downtown” shares his thoughts and DPI’s progress with the downtown community and beyond. Read the other chats here.
The Downtown Phoenix Journal continues its “Conversation” series featuring Downtown Phoenix, Inc. (DPI) board of directors and other downtown stakeholders. These interviews are an excellent way to introduce downtown Phoenix leadership to the community, and to learn their respective views on Phoenix. Since my last message to you, let’s read what Don Brandt (Arizona Public Service/Pinnacle West) and Ed Zito (Alliance Bank) have to say.
DPI/DPP CONSOLIDATION UPDATE
At the April DPI board meeting, a critical step was taken toward building the downtown organization we want by approving a consolidation plan for Downtown Phoenix Partnership (DPP) and DPI which will allow us to more efficiently represent the interests of the broader downtown community. DPP’s board of directors will continue to provide governance over activities in the core business district, but all staff and administrative services will move to DPI.
Entrepreneurs and small business owners continue to open or expand their operations in the downtown area. In the spotlight recently were the DeSoto Central Market, Hoodride Bike Shop, Last Exit Live music venue, New City Church, Palazzo nightclub, The Groove on Grand, and The Local restaurant.
With the likelihood of a new 118-unit apartment complex on the southwest corner of 4th Street and McKinley by Goodman Real Estate of Seattle, WA and Tilton Development Co. of Scottsdale, seven galleries and shops will need to relocate as their current building will be demolished. Most business owners have stated they would like to stay in downtown Phoenix.
A downtown restaurateur has been nominated for the 2014 Chef of the Year Award through the Arizona Culinary Hall of Fame. Aaron Chamberlin owns and operates the Phoenix Public Market Cafe at 14 E. Pierce St. (along with St. Francis in uptown Phoenix).
Downtown Phoenix Partnership, one of DPI’s partner organizations, seeks to commission a local artist to create the cover artwork for its upcoming 2014 July-December Downtown Phoenix Directory & Dining Guide.
In a recent Arizona Capitol Times article about the future of light rail in downtown Mesa, I was interviewed about light rail’s impact on our own downtown and how it should likewise benefit Mesa’s core.
Many Phoenix residents turned out for community workshops held for the Reinvent PHX initiative to help shape the future of development along light rail. The final design plan for the midtown, uptown, and Solano areas was presented to a standing room only crowd on April 4 by the architecture and urban planning consulting firm of Duany Plater-Zyberk & Company. A surprise was unleashed for fans of historic preservation and adaptive reuse: the architectural firm of Shepley Bulfinch announced their move to the Phoenix Financial Center from their current location above Giant Coffee.
According to Dan Klocke, DPP’s vice president of development, more condos and apartments are going up in downtown Phoenix. And it’s becoming more apparent that members of the Millennial Generation moving downtown want to live a lifestyle less dependent on the automobile. Exemplifying this trend is Quinn Whissen, a local marketing consultant and co-founder of This Could Be PHX, who strives to live “car-less.” She shares her story in this Arizona Republic article about Valley Bike Month.
WE’RE ‘SUPER’ EXCITED
Oh, did I mention that the Valley just landed the NFL Pro Bowl in 2015 and downtown Phoenix will be a center of activity for it?!
Featured photo by Stephen G. Dreiseszun/Viewpoint Photographers
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.
I love stumbling on secret delights in cities – the odd alleyway, a hidden bench behind a bushy shrub, or a work of art where you least suspect it. My early years in Phoenix were marked by dismay that I couldn’t get out and wander about as a pedestrian. I got a dog and walked my residential neighborhood, but I specifically craved city streets and their eccentricities.
There was, however, one thing about Phoenix that gave me hope for the great city it would become – its world class public art. Even 21 years ago when I first arrived, Phoenix was way ahead of the game in making art an integral part of its bones, especially given the irony that, at that time, the city was exploding with gruesome suburban sprawl.
But the public art was a revelation and, over the years, innovative public art throughout Phoenix has continued to shape the way our beautiful city feels. One of my favorite tucked-away examples in the heart of downtown is The Hohokam Camshaft Gates.
This wonderful, but easy-to-miss piece is a perfect combination of art and infrastructure. In 1994, Phoenix artists Bob Adams and Michael Maglich were commissioned to collaborate on the design and fabrication of gates for the loading area of the Phoenix Convention Center. They hit the nail on the head with a concept and execution that always makes me smile.
The spindles for the gates represent diesel truck camshafts, a nice nod to the importance of the trucking industry in the operation of the Convention Center. The masks that top the gates pay homage to the Hohokam people, the first Phoenix urban dwellers. The masks were sculpted by C. Matt Thomas and are enlarged reproductions from prehistoric Hohokam figurines. Kudos to everyone on this project!
The end result is a functional, but beautiful gate on the backside of the convention center, where visitors aren’t as likely to be wandering. It comes as a happy surprise for those who do stumble upon it. And when you stop and take it in, it tells an authentic story about this particular spot and the role it plays in our city. I love it because it isn’t grand, but it is integral. Stroll by and check it out. (A side note: when the Convention Center was renovated and expanded in the mid-2000s, half of the gate was moved to the Shemer Center.)
If You Go
What: The Hohokam Camshaft Gates
Where: Loading Dock Area – backside (east) of Phoenix Convention Center, on 5th Street between Jefferson and Washington Streets
Artists: Bob Adams, Michael Maglich
Want to share your love? Send a note to email@example.com and tell us what YOU like.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
DOWNTOWN PHOENIX INC SEEKS LOCAL ARTIST TO DESIGN DOWNTOWN DIRECTORY COVER
Artists are asked to submit a proposal for the brochure-sized cover capturing the spirit of Downtown Phoenix’s diversity and vibrancy while paying tribute to the urban landscape. The deadline for submissions is April 30.
The call continues the recent trend of artist-designed covers for Downtown publications, including artists Christina Mesiti on the 2012-2013 Downtown Dining Guide, Meghan Mitchell on the 2012 Annual Report, Jesa Townsend on the 2013-2014 Dining Guide, Jon Arvizu on the 2014 January-June Downtown Business Directory and Barry Goldstein on the 2013 Annual Report.
The Directory will be distributed to businesses, restaurants and major event locations inside and outside of Downtown and through the Downtown Ambassador team.
For more information on how to submit, please visit http://www.downtownphoenix.com/blog/2014/04/design-our-directory-and-dining-guide-cover/
Image courtesy of Downtown Phoenix, Inc., featuring cover art by Jon Arvizu.