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Current Work By Bassim Al-Shaker Opens June 6th
The 720 Gallery is pleased to announce its latest show featuring artist Bassim Al-Shaker from Baghdad, Iraq. Bassim was born in Baghdad in 1986 and has garnered top awards in painting in the Middle East. His work has been exhibited internationally and is in public, private and museum collections.
Bassim Al-Shaker was among the youngest instructors at the University of Baghdad where he taught painting. His work was featured in 2013 in the Iraqi Pavilion during the 55th International Venice Biennale. He was an invited Artist–in-Residence with the ASU Art Museum in 2013 and 2014 and became a legal permanent resident of the United States in 2014.
“Bassim is an extraordinarily talented artist, ” said Gordon Knox, ASU Art Museum director. “His artwork was on view in the Venice Biennale, one of the most prestigious international exhibitions in the world. And now, through the ASU residency program, we are able to offer ASU students and the community an opportunity to interact with and learn from this dynamic young painter.”
Al-Shaker paints in both a hyperrealist manner and a more expressive, gestural style. Says gallery owner Nancy Hill, “I’ve become a fan of Bassim’s work and it’s exciting to be able to share his art and vision here in downtown Phoenix.”
He has been featured in the New York Times and his artwork has appeared in leading art journals including ArtForum, Art in America and the Guardian. Bassim Al-Shaker has been commissioned to paint portraits of royalty, elected officials and other prominent individuals.
The opening reception for Current Work by Bassim Al-Shaker will be held on First Friday, June 6th from 6PM to 9PM. There will also be a 3rd Friday reception on June 20th from 6PM to 9PM. After the June First Friday event, the show can be seen by appointment through August 31st.
720 Gallery is located at 720 N. 4th Street, Phoenix, AZ. For more information, visit http://cargocollective.com/bassimalshaker/About-Bassim-Al-Shaker or call 602-318-4362 for an appointment.
The ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency at Combine Studios is located in downtown Phoenix, at 821 N. Third St. For additional information please call the ASU Art Museum at 480.965.2787
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View From the Tracks: The Light Rail Plays
Rising Youth Theatre, a new theatre company that creates socially relevant original plays with youth will present the world premiere of View from the Tracks: The Light Rail Plays on June 6, 7, and 8, 2014 on the Valley Metro Rail system. Eight short plays will be performed on the trains and at the stations from Roosevelt/Central Ave. to Central Ave./Camelback, and explore the idea of “how Phoenix moves from place to place.” Performances will happen throughout the evening each night, from 6:00 – 8:00pm.
Eight adult performers: Liliana Gomez, Cody Goulder, Anthony Kelley, Kim Manning, Elizabeth Polen, Julie Rada, Tomas Stanton, and Charlie Steak are paired with eight youth perfomers: Clare Emmert, Monica Essig-Aberg, Za’Nea Jackson, Bridget Marlowe, Xavier Ramirez, Stephanie Santa Cruz, Alex Tuchi, and Colt Watkiss to develop the plays. Professional designers Samantha Bostwick, Anastasia Schneider and Joey Trahan work alongside youth designers Victoria Arora, Maria Ramirez and James Tanner to create the aesthetic of the plays in an alternative performance environment. Even the stage management follows the youth/adult pairing model, with stage manager Rachel Solis working alongside youth stage manager Lyric Jackson.
Rising Youth Theatre received funding for this project from the Arizona Commission on the Arts as part of the Art Tank funding program. The project received $10,000 (the highest level of funding) at the Art Tank West event.
RYT has worked in close partnership with Valley Metro to develop the project, and looks forward to exploring what theatre on light rail can look like in Phoenix.
If you would like to reserve a “ticket” to View from the Tracks: The Light Rail Plays, you can reserve your spot and a free transit pass at lightrailplays.eventbrite.com (limited availability). You can also attend the show without pre-registering, enjoying any combination of the eight different plays.
Photo courtesy of Rising Youth Theatre’s Facebook page.
Downtown Phoenix is home to Arizona School for the Arts (ASA), a unique campus where the performing arts are deeply infused into an academically rigorous curriculum. Next week, on the evenings of May 28 and 29, the ASA Showcase 2014 at the Orpheum Theatre offers a special opportunity for the public to sample the range of student talent.
Leah Fregulia Roberts helped found ASA in 1995; she started as a curriculum specialist and English teacher and worked her way up to her current position as Head of School.
“This is a dual program,” says Roberts, describing ASA’s mission as a college preparatory and performing arts school with top-ranked academic programs. English, social studies, math and science form a required core program beginning in the 5th grade. “Middle school students have to take a fifth academic class split between piano for half the time and what we call ‘life skills,’ which is really academic skills, college planning, et cetera for half the period.”
“High school has the same academic core,” she continues, “but they replace piano and life skills class with foreign language. …So they’re getting the most rigorous programs that all college prep kids are getting — the only difference is that their additional programs all center around the performing arts.”
Since ASA students must take piano and choir classes through the 8th grade, says Roberts, “Music is really the foundation.” Older students can choose to focus on an instrument, choir, dance, or theater arts, but those core programs remain equally important.
“I know we have a reputation for the arts,” says faculty member Johnathan Robinson, “but the academics are actually very, very good and strenuous as well.” Robinson is pursuing his doctorate in clarinet performance at Arizona State University, and he’s taught single reed and bassoon studies at ASA since 2011.
“I’m always amazed by the kids because they’re very articulate,” he says. “They get the best of both worlds…public speaking and performance…it transfers over into the music as well. The academics definitely help the arts.”
Robinson believes the nurturing atmosphere of ASA sets the school apart. “It’s the culture,” he explains. “It’s a very communal-type base where everyone knows everyone, so we’re all very supportive of each other, and I think the students benefit the most from that.”
Despite ASA’s reputation for elite arts and academics, cutthroat behavior isn’t a problem, says Robinson. “It’s never a super-competitive environment — all the kids applaud for each other after all their tests…I guess they realize where their strengths lie, and what they need to work on to fix it…. I think that…speaks to the culture itself, that we’re very accepting of what we can and can’t do.”
ASA students also enjoy the benefits of partnerships with numerous other arts organizations like the Musical Instrument Museum and Phoenix Chamber Music Society, says Head of School Roberts. “That’s the special sauce on top of a really great arts program,” she says with a smile. “They get exposure to all these other artists…and performances across the Valley.” In this past season, for example, ASA students appeared as the children’s chorus in Arizona Opera’s production of La Bohème.
Graduating senior Max Beckman looks forward to jazz studies in upright bass performance at ASU, but he’s already spent a semester in a combo with Scottsdale Community College, and he plays in a community band with Young Sounds of Arizona.
“I’m very active outside of ASA,” Beckman says. “I have two regular gigs, one at Carly’s Bistro…and one at Copper Star Coffee.” He’s attended ASA since the 5th grade. “I like…the freedom that you have to build your own arts curriculum,” he adds. “I’m choosing to go on with my art forms…I think I was pretty lucky because of that.” At school Beckman participates in Jazz Orchestra, Jazz Combo, and Symphony Orchestra, as well as serving as a teacher’s assistant with low strings.
On May 28 and 29, he’ll play with all three ensembles in ASA’s Showcase 2014 concerts at the Orpheum Theatre, the school’s annual end-of-year production. “We’re playing a pretty cool orchestra piece — it’s called The Firebird Suite [by Igor Stravinsky],” Beckman says, “…and then the jazz combo is playing some cool jazz and hard bop tunes, like Blue Rondo à la Turk and St. Thomas.”
“It’s the opportunity for the students to showcase their arts achievements for the year and for us to really highlight what’s been going on in our programs,” says Roberts, “and it’s also one of the few times…when we get to integrate the arts amongst one another…whether it’s in the massed choir or one of the bigger bands or the combined orchestras; the entire ballet program performs, so it’s every student on the stage.”
“There’s always a theme,” she continues. “This year [it’s] the four elements: earth, water, fire and air, so all selections will embody one of those elements in some way.” Roberts sees the elements as analogies for ASA’s “essential building blocks” of academic quality, arts quality, a culture of safety and excellence, and community partnerships. Although the students perform regularly throughout the year, Showcase is “the big fundraising performance of the year,” Roberts adds.
Each night features a different program, but both evenings will include an ASA Theater Department production of Bertolt Brecht’s 1944 play The Caucasian Chalk Circle along with ballet performances set to excerpts from Handel’s Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks. Wednesday, May 28 offers a piano arrangement of Wagner’s “The Ride of the Valkyries,” and Thursday night includes orchestral performances of Tchaikovsky’s popular waltz from The Sleeping Beauty and Manuel de Falla’s “Ritual Fire Dance.”
“It’s kind of…a kaleidoscope of everything that we do throughout the year,” describes faculty member Robinson. “You get a tasting of every arts area that we have to offer…it’s like the best of the best.” ASA students finished their final exams on May 21, leaving them free to focus on Showcase rehearsals.
Olivia Freeman, an ASA graduating senior and saxophonist who plans to attend Chicago’s DePaul University, is currently sitting first chair in Wind Ensemble. “We’re playing Vesuvius [Thursday night],” she says, “…a very interesting piece and very intricate — there’s a lot of little melody lines within the bigger piece.”
Freeman entered ASA from the public school system. “There was a huge difference,” she says. “When I came to ASA I was asked to analyze…my thought process. It was basically asking me to think in a whole new different way, so that was obviously a tough transition at first, but now I think it’s helped me in the long run through problem-solving….” She adds, “I’ve learned how to work in a group successfully.”
Head of School Roberts points out that, although the waiting list for ASA can be quite lengthy after the 5th grade enrollment, openings for new students often become available between the 8th and 9th grades. “Sometimes…people forget to take another look at us in high school,” she says. Showcase 2014 is a great opportunity to see ASA’s students in action.
All photos courtesy Arizona School for the Arts.
If you go:
Where: Orpheum Theatre, 203 W. Adams:
When: Two different programs are scheduled:
- Pre-show — ASA Jazz Combo performs outside each night at 6:15 p.m.
- Concert: Wednesday, May 28, 7 p.m.
- Concert: Thursday, May 29, 7 p.m.
Tickets: Purchase tickets here. Tickets are $55/$40/$25, with proceeds benefiting ASA
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 “Conversation” series consists of interviews with 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. Now let’s read what Cindy Dach of the DPI board, Roosevelt Row CDC, MADE Art Boutique, Changing Hands Bookstore, and more… has to say.
PHOENIX WELCOMES YOU
Phoenix is the #2 U.S. destination – right after Las Vegas – to hold trade shows and events according to a new Expo Magazine survey of trade show managers. The other good bit of news from the survey, as reported in the Phoenix Business Journal, is that Phoenix has made significant strides in terms of its reputation as a destination.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport‘s busiest month was even busier this year, with March passenger counts up 3.2% from a year ago despite a late Easter. It is the third consecutive year-over-year gain in passengers this year, an encouraging economic indicator following two years of slight declines in overall passenger counts. Passenger traffic was up 3.8% in January and 2.9% in February.
Hines, the international real estate firm, announced that the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee has signed a 7,535 square-foot lease in Renaissance Square, a two-building, 965,000 square-foot Class A office complex on Washington St. between Central Ave. and 1st Ave. in downtown Phoenix (pictured left).
The Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT) invites you to submit nominations for the 2014 Governor’s Tourism Awards to celebrate outstanding local and statewide tourism achievements. Nomination deadline is Friday, May 16. Click here for details.
A CHANGE IN LANDSCAPE
Last fall, City of Phoenix officials issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to redevelop the block where the Central Station transit facility now stands at Central and Van Buren streets. The goal is to better utilize this prime downtown parcel with a multi-use development that incorporates public transit elements in the design. An evaluation panel comprised of business, civic, and community representatives reviewed proposals, interviewed finalists, and came to consensus on a project. The City, in agreement with the evaluation panel’s recommendation, selected the proposal from Smith Partners, LLC to advance for negotiation of business terms. Here is a rendering of the proposed project:
A half-empty office tower at the southwest corner of Monroe St. and 1st Ave. has been purchased by Rialto Capital Management LLC and a joint venture between Sunbelt Holdings’ John Graham and Ironline Partners LLC. The 19-story, 255,000 square foot building, dually known as 111 West Monroe and the First American Building, sold for $22 million.
New City Church in midtown Phoenix met its fundraising goal to finance a move to a new, larger facility at 1300 N. Central Ave. (across the street from Burton Barr Central Library). The new facility will house a sanctuary for 600 people, children’s gathering space, recording studio, gallery, and coffee bar.
A UNIFIED ARTS SCENE
A group of Phoenix arts organizations are coordinating their efforts and launching as the new Central Arts District. In a unanimous effort by the burgeoning art institutions located in the area between 7th St. and 7th Ave., Roosevelt and Virginia streets, leadership of these organizations envisioned the opportunity to distinguish the extraordinary concentration of arts in the new district and embrace the businesses within it.
Phoenix City Council Member and DPI Board Member Michael Nowakowski recently gathered some 30 civic leaders to discuss plans and options for a major Hispanic museum and cultural center to highlight the arts and culture achievements of our city’s Hispanic community.
TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW
Recently we (the collective we) learned that Jim Ballinger will retire as director of the Phoenix Art Museum. Jim’s foresight and leadership transformed a 72,000-square-foot facility to a 285,000-square-foot amazing experience for art lovers locally, nationally, and globally. We’ll truly miss Jim around Central and McDowell, but know that his influence and involvement will continue to benefit Phoenix for many more years to come.
BEING IN THE KNOW
Our partner organization, Downtown Phoenix Partnership (DPP), has teamed with the Phoenix Convention Center to launch the “Know It All Series,” designed to give sales professionals who are in the business of selling our downtown the tools they need to best serve our visitors. It’s also a great way for industry peers to network while experiencing our wonderful locally owned businesses.
A downtown Phoenix small business was named one of the nation’s ten best start-ups for innovation, entrepreneurship, and creativity by G/O Digital, a Gannett Company. Congrats to Welcome Diner in the Garfield Neighborhood for standing out as one of the most unexpected gourmet culinary experiences around.
Downtown Phoenix fosters an environment where women business owners are increasing in number and influence, says the Downtown Devil. Two pieces of hard evidence: (1) Arizona ranks fourth in the U.S. for economic clout for women-owned businesses and (2) membership in the Phoenix chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners has increased significantly.
Featured homepage image courtesy of RED Development. Lustre Rooftop Garden at Hotel Palomar is beginning its 100 Days of Summer campaign May 24th and 25th with a Memorial Day pool party.
Every city has its hidden gems—those under-the-radar places you walk by a million times, never realizing that history is being made behind the unassuming walls. One such example in Phoenix is Chaton Studios, a state-of-the-art recording studio located near the Coronado district in downtown.
The creative force behind this Chaton Studios is Otto D’Agnolo, a record producer, audio engineer, musician, singer and songwriter.
D’Agnolo received his audio production training in the early ’80s in his home state of Illinois before relocating to Phoenix in 1989. Soon after, he went to work at a recording studio in Paradise Valley, then known as Chaton Recordings.
“I worked there for 10 years, and when they wanted to close up shop, I said, ‘should I go to California for a job or build a studio?’ So I offered to buy all their gear and license the name and build my own studio,” says D’Agnolo.
He re-established the business, calling it Chaton Studios, and moved it to its current location in central Phoenix.
In his time as a record producer, he has worked with some impressive talent, including artists like Waylon Jennings, Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers, Lou Rawls, Nils Lofgren, and Jordin Sparks, to name a few.
D’Agnolo also records and releases his own music, which has been featured on national television shows, like Jersey Shore, One Tree Hill and Punk’d. And due to his undeniable physical and vocal resemblance to John Lennon, he fronts a tribute show devoted to the legendary Beatle called “Working Class Hero.”
When he’s not lending his more than 30 years of experience to major label acts and independent artists alike, he’s contributing projects to Phoenix’s creative cache.
He developed a website called therecordingartist.com, which recently featured a live broadcast of local bands producing a track over the course of three hours. Fans bought memberships to the site so they could watch the process unfold. The show featured local artists like Sarah Robinson and the Midnight Special, Banana Gun, Dry River Yacht Club, and Ghetto Cowgirl. The show was in production from 2012-2013, and it is D’Agnolo’s hope that it will be live again soon.
D’Agnolo is putting his experience to work for the next generation of Arizona’s artists. “So many parents have kids with talent and don’t know how to help them. Someone like me can evaluate them and provide objective feedback,” he says.
“One of my hopes is that parents living and working downtown, whose sons or daughters want to pursue a career in music, discover that they have someone right here that they can go to for information and assistance in helping those careers stay on track.”
With his proven track record, he’s shown that artists don’t have to go to L.A. or other larger cities for high-quality music production. “Production work can be done in a lot of places,” he says, “so I think it’s sad when bands feel like they have to leave the Phoenix market to record. Because they don’t have to.”
Additionally, Phoenix has a wealth of music and recording talent that attracts artists from other cities according to D’Agnolo. “I have a client who’s flying here from San Diego constantly to do his country record because of the musicians here. I have another artist who has been working in Nashville and she’s coming back to work here.”
After years of making records with some of the music industry’s biggest names, helping independent artists elevate their careers, and attracting clients from all over the world to work with him, D’Agnolo has shown that this “hidden gem” is an essential element of Phoenix’s artistic and cultural landscape.