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?
What goes into designing the promotion materials for an event? How do you decide on an image that conveys the right message?
When it’s the 25th Anniversary of Art Detour, you look to your past and turn for inspiration to the local artists who’ve been the heart of the event for a quarter century.
The Gala and the Gal
During last year’s Detour, photographer Bryan Mok was documenting an event at the Crescent Ballroom hosted by local artist Hugo Medina. “Celebrating Beauty and Artists” featured live models sporting body painting creations by several artists.
As Mok stood with his camera poised, one of the models stopped near him just under a spotlight. She was wearing glitter on her body and her hair and the beautiful floral image by Dianne Nowicki that was painted on her back luminesced under the light.
In that moment, says Mok, “it all came together – the cool composition, the floral body painting on her back, the glowing light from her skin and hair – it was completely evocative of the event, embodying people and art.”
The resulting photo caught the eye of Artlink Phoenix board members as they were planning this weekend’s Silver Gala, a kick off event to celebrate Detour’s silver anniversary. The image embodied the festive, artful spirit of the gala.
Graphic designers were asked to use the photo as the inspiration for the gala invitation and poster, and voila! The resulting image pays homage to last year’s Art Detour, to Dianne Nowicki’s floral image, and to the fabulous photo that Mok captured.
Celebrating “The Artist”
For Art Detour’s main image, used for poster and postcards, Artlink put out a call to artists to submit work that would capture the essence of the event.
Fred Tieken’s brilliantly colored submission entitled “The Artist” was chosen. Not only was the image bright, colorful, and fun, the subject matter fit perfectly with the focus of Artlink.
As Nancy Hill, Artlink board member and Art Detour Chair said “Artlink exists to bring attention to local artists in downtown Phoenix and Art Detour is the signature event that brings the public into artist studios. Fred’s piece captures that focus perfectly.”
Tieken, a longtime Phoenix resident who had successful careers in music and graphic design before turning full time to art, talked about how the piece came to be. “I started with the idea of an artist painting a portrait of a lady, and the paint led me on. It was something that just developed before my eyes.”
Tieken is an enthusiastic supporter of the downtown Phoenix art scene who many people will know from his large-scale mural “Buzz” on the side of the Vermillion building on MacDowell, just east of Third Avenue. “I paint a lot from images I get from watching people on First Friday,” says Tieken. “I love the downtown art scene, I love the energy on the streets on First Friday, and I always come back excited and inspired.” He puts ideas for paintings up on a wall and says he has enough ideas on the wall currently to paint through next year.
So, the next time you happen past the poster or postcard for Detour or the Silver Gala, take a minute to reflect on the inspiration behind the images. And while you’re at it, put on your best finery to attend the Gala and make plans to spend the following weekend exploring everything the downtown Phoenix arts scene has to offer at Art Detour.
If You Go:
Event: Artlink Silver Gala
Date/Time: Saturday, February 23, 7 to 11 p.m.
Location: A.E. England Building, Civic Space Park.
Tickets: Buy tickets here
Event: Art Detour 25,
Dates/Times: Saturday and Sunday, March 2 and 3, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Locations: Over 90 locations throughout downtown Phoenix and beyond.
Sometimes, one of the best aspects of living in Arizona is uncovering a gem of innovation, novelty, substance and intrigue where you never thought you’d find it. You have to look close and keep your eyes open because one day while perusing the exhibitor list for the LA Art Book Fair, you might find an amazing little publisher called Hol Art Books.
Tucked away in Tucson, founder Greg Albers has been taking advantage of the space and freedom of Arizona’s wide open working environment to develop an art book publishing house that specialize in e-books. After moving his business from Boston, and recognizing the adaptability needed in a struggling economy, Albers shifted gears and became one of the first art publishers to work in e-books.
Hol Art Book’s website, blog, projects and approach all exude an enthusiasm for innovating in a realm that many of us have never considered. Says Albers “It is very much a mission of patronage, and perhaps I put that more in the forefront of our activities than other publishers.” The bottom line is bringing subjects, authors and artwork to the public for universal, engaged consumption.
The Hol Art Book website’s “incubator” page allows authors, editors, publicists, designers and bookstore sponsors to participate and have a voice on whether a project will come to fruition. It also makes you aware of all the great potential ideas that exist in need of a platform for all the pieces to come together. Albers turns the process of publishing, from initial seed to final project, into a transparent collaborative effort—removing the intimidation of what can often be a massive project. Also, by removing the printing step, Hol Art Books makes many of these projects financially possible and no longer a far-off economically insurmountable dream.
Albers efforts to engage and include the community reach even farther than publishing their next book. Their Kickstarter project The People’s E-book endeavors to create a free online program that will simplify the currently confusing process of turning a book into an e-book—opening up a new and accessible self-publishing option for aspiring writers and artists wishing to create a book project. At over 180% funded and about two weeks to go, The People’s E-book will likely become a reality and change the face of personal creative publishing. Albers says “the response has been overwhelming and humbling”—a sign of someone who’s inventive mind trumps his pride. Soon, we could be using e-readers to peruse a whole new medium for visual and text-based art projects. I’m already planning mine.
In addition to reaching out to the larger world to make e-book publishing available to the masses, Albers is regularly involved in the local community discussing art and books. Coming up at Tucson’s MOCA, he will be leading a four-part program called “Art Reading/Reading Art: An Unbook Club” that attempts to tap into the regional enthusiasm for learning new things in combination with making the criticism of artwork approachable to all. Simply, we are capable of assessing what we see, with or without a formal art education. This series will focus on “the various, alternative kinds of texts about art that exist including Fiction, Essays, Poetry and Artists’ Texts.” A drive down to Tucson may be in order, or perhaps Greg Albers will consider a trip to downtown Phoenix.
Maybe you like your giant 80lb art books. You like having a shelf full of weighty titles to impress your friends. You’re scared of the prospect of books becoming part of the intangible ether that will keep us from having a concrete, recorded history. To that, I would say: paper is very flammable (the library at Alexandria still burned to the ground), you have your mind to hold all these words and thoughts in and, you can always take the time to conceive of a creative, interesting way to bring ideas to the people, like Hol Art Books has. If none of that works and you still want to impress your friends, you can use this handy E-Book Shelf Surrogate and no one will be the wiser.
The Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission is partnering with Artlink Inc. to provide expanded service during tonight’s First Friday Trolley Tour. This “pilot” route will take attendees to the Gallery @ City Hall and other galleries in the downtown Phoenix area (read the details in the press release below).
Artlink is distributing a new map that includes the new trolley route and the destinations that contribute to the First Friday visitor experience. Click the image below to enlarge or download it here. (The map is produced by DPJ)
FIRST FRIDAY TROLLEY ROUTE EXPANDS TO THE GALLERY @ CITY HALL
A new pilot trolley route to downtown Phoenix will bring First Friday attendees to the Gallery @ City Hall, 200 W. Washington St., as well as three other city center arts sites from 6 to 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 1.
The Phoenix Arts and Culture Commission in partnership with Artlink Inc., an all-volunteer arts organization, will provide a new trolley route for First Friday from the Phoenix Art Museum at Central Avenue and McDowell Road, which will include the city of Phoenix Gallery @ City Hall, Release the Fear Gallery, the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center (ALAC), @Central Gallery at the Burton Barr Library and a stop at Roosevelt Row.
The Gallery @ City Hall exhibit, in the Phoenix City Hall atrium, “Phoenix Icons: The Art of Our Historic Landmarks,” features photographs of more than 30 historic Phoenix landmarks by Patrick Madigan and Michael Lundgren. They include photos of once private homes that have been transformed into public venues and once revered schools reborn as new places to learn. An old department store now houses a restaurant and a former auto showroom re-emerges as the face of a vibrant downtown park. Visit phoenix.gov/arts for more information.
The Release the Fear Gallery, Grace Chapel at the historic First Baptist Church, 302 W. Monroe St., displays group paintings created by 20 to 30 youth as part of ongoing workshops. Visit releasethefear.org for more information.
ALAC, 147 E. Adams St., an advocate for Latino artists statewide, showcases Latino artists and builds networks with arts organizations, advocates and activists. This Friday, they will offer a blessing ceremony by a Navajo medicine man, accompanied by Navajo drums and songs. Also a live demonstration of edible Sonoran desert plants that can be harvested for medicinal purposes will be presented. Visit alacaz.org for more information.
@Central Gallery at Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave., will hold an artist reception for T.M. Noël and a viewing of his “Everyone Could Use a Hero” exhibition. Hero images include Martin Luther King Jr., Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix and Malcolm X in charcoal, graphite and oil paint. Also a “Beneath the Ice: The Folk Art of Robert A. Schwartz” exhibit with more than 60 hand-crafted wooden decoys will be displayed on the second floor and a Poetry Night hosted by Divine will be offered in the Pulliam Auditorium. The library activities will conclude at 8 p.m. Visit phoenixpubliclibrary.org for more information.
Each of the locations is open to the public at no charge. The new route will enhance the monthly Artlink First Friday trolley service by providing access to an increased number of downtown Phoenix art venues. For more information about First Friday trolley routes, visit www.artlinkphoenix.com.
You’ll never hear traffic noises or see plastic bags in quite the same way after STOMP, says drummer-actor John Sawicki. Since 1997 the native New Yorker has performed in the percussion stage show, which wraps up its stop in Phoenix at the Orpheum Theatre tonight. Nominated for Emmy and Academy awards, STOMP is also familiar from television, and winner of an Olivier Award for Best Choreography as well as a Drama Desk Award.
The cast members engage in a non-stop flow of sound, motion, and comedy using common household and industrial objects as well as their own bodies as instruments. Brooms, trash cans, lighters, poles, and hubcaps fill a two-story set that requires two semi trucks for the tour.
“We have a carpenter and a props guy and drivers,” says Sawicki, “and let’s not forget about the lighting and the sound…our crew is amazing. They do such a great job – all that behind-the-scenes stuff that people don’t realize is so important.”
The various sounds generated by the cast are strictly live, following STOMP’s origins as a UK street performance. “There’s no backing track,” Sawicki declares. “The sounds that you’re hearing are the actual items that we’re using – they’re just amplified a bit for the houses that we play.”
STOMP’s various vignettes frequently change. “We have new numbers that come into the show, and that keeps it fresh,” says Sawicki. “The things that we do now [include] shopping carts, and we have a number with inner tubes…another one with paint cans…. So if people saw the show last year, they’ll definitely see newer stuff.”
“The number that we do called ‘Matches,’ we play these matchboxes,” Sawicki describes. “And people might react toward what I do [in] a certain way, which will cause that piece to have a different journey for that evening. It could be something as basic as a smile or not smiling, and that changes the tone.”
“New performers add a freshness,” he continues. “Their personalities and the way they play…change the whole vibe and energy. The placement of the beat can be different. When you’re dealing with rhythms and drumming, playing is their emotion, so it changes every night.”
Each performer plays a role – Sawicki is “Sarge.” “I’m in charge of the audience and the group onstage,” the actor explains. “Then there’s another guy we call ‘Potatohead’ who’s kind of in charge of making sure the music’s going right.”
Another character is ‘Mozzie,’ Sawicki continues. “He’s like my annoying little brother – he’s just like a tag-along guy, so there’s that comedy element. The whole show is based around drummers, dancers, and actors, and if one of us isn’t a dancer or a drummer, we help each other learn how to do that.”
STOMP requires constant practice, he says. “We rehearse every single day, and block out a four- to five-hour rehearsal every week. You have to be extremely focused and you have to be on point.”
The physically taxing routine takes its toll on the cast. “I can equate it to being a professional athlete,” Sawicki elaborates. “There’s definitely wear and tear…people have knee injuries, hip injuries…it’s so hard-core and so punk-rock that there are going to be injuries – that just comes along with the territory. The longer you do it, the more your body shows it.”
“There’s so much that goes on within the performance,” he says, “people sometimes think there’s more than eight of us onstage.” Sawicki chuckles. “They think, ‘Oh, I thought there were 10 or 12 or 16 people.’”
The audience returns to see the show again and again, he continues, “because there’s so much going on that they want to catch all of it. And the whole show is based upon action and reaction.”
STOMP also seems to inspire audiences. “Everything we use onstage is [what] people use in their everyday lives,” says Sawicki, “and they don’t realize that it’s possible to make all this rhythmic beauty. So after they see the show,” he continues, “they’ll hear a car horn honk or their windshield wipers and their turn signal, and all of a sudden that becomes a song.”
“It’s a contagious show because of that,” he concludes. “We take the chaotic rhythms of the world and we organize it into a show.”
All images courtesy of STOMP.
If you go:
- Thu., January 31 at 7:30PM
- Orpheum Theatre, 203 W. Adams St.
- Tickets available at the Phoenix Convention Center box office, theaterleague.com, Ticketmaster, or 800-745-3000.