Long-buried city founders lie buried in the heart of downtown Phoenix, and their history returns to life twice each year with character-driven cemetery walks. Thanks to the non-profit Pioneers’ Cemetery Association (PCA) and a handful of enthusiastic volunteers organized by author and Association board member Debe Branning, these events visit the denizens of the Pioneer and Military Memorial Park cemeteries near 14th Avenue and Jefferson Street.
Attendees of all ages meet historical figures depicted by actors in costume — on March 23, for instance, the theme was early Phoenix physicians, with actor Mark Broadley taking on the role of 19th-century state Surgeon General Dr. Scott Helm. “Debe knows the history of the cemetery backwards and forwards,” he says. “She’ll do the research on some of the most interesting people buried there…and then [Branning] writes a short monologue for usually eight people and recruits the re-enactors.”
Broadley, who’s been involved with the cemetery walks for six years, continues. “Once she sends us our biographies we’re basically turned loose to do our own research on the character, prowl around local thrift stores for costumes, and decide what props, if any, our character might have used.” He adds, “Most of my preparation involves studying the script so that I’m comfortable enough to give the speech a number of times for each tour group that comes through.”
To recreate those characters, Debe Branning says, “I read hundreds of obituaries and old newspapers, and actually dive into their ancestry a bit so that I can get a feel of what these pioneers were made of and what their family life was like.”
This year’s spring walk also called on a few of the physicians’ wives with their own unique accounts of early Phoenix life, and it was followed by an informal ice cream social. October’s walk coincides with an outdoor dinner party fundraiser at the Memorial Park called Dining Among the Dead, and all proceeds go toward tombstone restoration. Other opportunities to visit the Park occur every Thursday as well as the fourth Saturday of each month.
Branning strives to reconnect the community with the cemetery and remind Valley residents about the forgotten early Phoenix pioneers buried in the Park. “They come from many backgrounds and professions,” she says, “and some met strange untimely deaths.” With the help of a cadre of volunteers, Branning organizes outreach and paranormal research events in the hopes of reviving interest in Arizona’s burial sites and engaging newly-interested participants.
Around 2007, recalls Broadley, “Borders Bookstore hosted a group called MVD Ghostchasers (made up of past and present employees of Arizona’s Motor Vehicle Division) that lectured about their investigations of haunted places around Arizona.” He continues, “Having always been interested in ghost stories and things that go bump in the night, I went to the lecture and met the group’s founder (Branning) after the event.”
The practice of dowsing also plays an interesting role for many of the cemetery volunteers — it’s a method of divining answers and locating objects (including unmarked graves and water) using a hand-held wand or pendulum. “Dowsing of cemeteries has been used back east and in other countries for centuries,” says Branning, who was taught by a dowser from Missouri and teaches a class on the subject herself. “You can map out a cemetery, determine the rows, and have a rough idea of how many are buried at a site.”
The history of the Pioneers’ Cemetery Association itself began in 1938, when a group including Carl and Thomas Hayden and Barry Goldwater banded together to preserve the historic cemeteries near the State Capitol building. Used between 1884 and 1914, those seven small cemeteries on 11 acres include several established by Phoenix’s fraternal orders, including Ancient Order of United Workmen, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, and Masons.
It’s reported that Civil War veterans are buried in Porter cemetery, which abuts Rosedale (also called Loring or Walker Cemetery), while Loosley, the city cemetery, houses Jacob Waltz, the “Lost Dutchman” of gold-mining fame. More ancient secrets lie buried beneath those estimated 3700 pioneer graves in the remains of a Hohokam village known as La Villa.
Together with the historic 3000-square-foot Smurthwaite House, built in 1897 and serving as the PCA’s headquarters, the cemeteries were designated as the Pioneer and Military Memorial Park in 1988, and are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, allowing Arizonans to not only remember the often unsung heroes who helped create Phoenix but also care for their monuments and burial sites, preserving a bit of history.
If you go:
What: Visit the Pioneer & Military Memorial Park and Smurthwaite House any Thursday (e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org first to get in touch with volunteers), or bring the family and stroll through time on the fourth Saturday of each month through May (Apr. 27, May 25)…and don’t forget to plan for the Dining Among the Dead fundraiser in October.
Where: 14th Ave. and Jefferson St., downtown Phoenix
Contact: 602-534-1262 or www.azhistcemeteries.org
Additional Info: Another local organization, the Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project, was founded in 2004 and focuses on dowsing to locate graves as well as marking and protecting burial sites.
Unless otherwise noted, all photos courtesy Debe Branning.
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What began as a simple house party along Roosevelt Row has grown into an annual fundraiser that brings over 200 people together to celebrate life in the Downtown Phoenix Arts District. This year, Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation will host its annual fundraiser at the start of spring – under the banner of the Equinox.
The funds raised through ticket sales and a raffle will help keep the Adaptive Re-use of Temporary Space (A.R.T.S.) Growhouse Community Garden active and vibrant. Growhouse grows fresh produce for the market and local restaurants, and works with students at Bioscience High School to create hands on learning experiences such as producing honey, growing food, and creating sunflower seed based bio fuel.
The event will be held at Cibo Urban Pizzeria, 603 North 5th Avenue on March 28, beginning at 5:30 pm.
General admission tickets are $35 and include two drinks and complimentary appetizers.
As a special addition to the event, a $100 VIP ticket will be offered. The $100 ticket includes entry to Equinox as well as VIP admission to the to the Feast on the Street event on April 13. VIP guests will have access to a lounge with food, drinks, comfortable facilities, and a balcony overlookign the event.
Tickets are available online at: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/344451
Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation (CDC) is a 501(c)3 non-profit community development corporation established to further the unique cultural character and creative assets of the Roosevelt Row Arts District, to advocate for the continuing presence and role of the arts and small business in the revitalization of the district, and to foster a dense, diverse and walkable urban community.
Information about Feast on the Street can be found at http://www.feastonthestreet.org/
If You Go
What: Roosevelt Row Equinox Fundraiser
Where: Cibo, 603 N. 5th Ave. Phoenix, AZ 85003
When: Thursday, March 28, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $35 and include two drinks and complimentary appetizers.
100 ticket includes Equinox AND one VIP ticket to Feast on the Street on Saturday, April 13.
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Calling all Volunteers!
Feast on the Street…a strolling celebration for the eyes and palate! A community dinner party in the new urban harvest tradition. Linking guests through a half-mile long dining table, a promenade of artist-driven street entertainment, demonstrations of sustainability, and a shared joy of exploring the heart of downtown Phoenix through locally sourced food and music.
*This is a FREE public event.
An ambling rediscovery of something natural and unique to each person… long forgotten in the urban landscape.
Calling all Volunteers! Be part of this historic first-ever event.
Register at www.feastonthestreet.org/volunteer/
Sign up & receive a T-shirt, plus discounts/offers at select food trucks
POSITIONS [& shifts]
Set-up (set-up tables, chairs, lights, décor…) 8am-noon; noon-3pm
Beverages (oversee water stations, sell drink tickets…) 1:30-5:300m; 5-9pm
Clean Team (roam event, disposing of trash, etc.) 2-6pm; 5:30-9:30pm
Guest services (distribute information to guests) 1:30-5:30pm; 5-9pm
Parking Attendant (direct guests to parking areas) 1-4:30pm; 4-7:30pm
Rover (offer assistance as needed) 1:30-5:30pm; 5-9pm
Breakdown (dissemble tables, chairs, lights, décor, etc.) 6-9pm; 8:30-10:30pm
*Please note: tasks can change. Event planners will work with you to determine best options based on volunteer preferences and positions available.
Saturday, April 13, 2013
Downtown Phoenix – First Street spanning a half-mile from Taylor Street (north of Van Buren ) to Moreland Street (south of I-10)
2pm – 9pm
Supported in part by ASU Art Museum, ArtPlace, National Endowment for the Arts, Roosevelt Row CDC and The Steele Foundation
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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.
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.