DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
Mayor Greg Stanton will present the first-ever “Mayor’s Arts Awards” at the Phoenix Festival of the Arts this weekend.
Stanton launched the awards to highlight the cultural richness of Phoenix and recognize excellence from the visual and performing arts in the community. A panel of distinguished members from the arts and culture areas selected awardees in five categories based upon excellence and community impact.
Stanton will present the awards Saturday, Dec. 8 at 1 p.m. on the main stage at the Phoenix Festival of the Arts at Margaret T. Hance Park, 1202 N. 3rd St. in Phoenix.
“Arts and culture are vital to the social and economic well being of our city,” Stanton said. “They improve our quality of life, uplift our spirits and help attract and keep talented employees and innovative businesses in Phoenix. The Phoenix Festival of the Arts is an important opportunity for all of us to celebrate the breadth and depth of the arts and culture community in Phoenix.”
The winners of each category include:
Dance Organization Award
Scorpius Dance Theatre
Formed in 1999 by choreographer, Lisa Starry, Scorpius Dance Theatre is observing its 11th season in operation. The contemporary dance company has been a constant presence in the metropolitan Phoenix arts community since its inception, combining the motifs of humor, drama and both organic and technical movement to form a very distinct brand of dance theater.
Music Organization Award
Downtown Chamber Series
The Downtown Chamber Series brings chamber music to distinctive art spaces in downtown Phoenix, showcasing professional musicians and the works of local artists.
Public Art Award
Born in La Paz, Bolivia, Medina immigrated to New York as a child, where his interest in art was fostered by his architect father. While completing his undergraduate work in New York, Medina volunteered to teach classes at a summer program at the Kumayya Indian reservation in San Diego, Calif. His experience at the reservation is what led him to become an art teacher. Hugo’s desire to give back to the community and his love of children led him to a teaching career. Medina’s great appreciation and admiration of the southwest brought him to Phoenix, where he has been the mastermind behind some of the city’s best murals.
Rising Youth Theatre
Rising Youth Theatre is Phoenix theater company founded by ASU grads Xanthia Walker and Sarah Sullivan to create youth driven theatre that is riveting and relevant, challenging audiences to hear new stories, start conversations and participate in their communities. Recently, the diverse company of students has created plays based on immigrant youth.
Visual Artist Award
Grigsby, 94, came to Phoenix following World War II to teach art at Carver High School. He joined the faculty at Arizona State University in 1966 and served as a Trustee of Phoenix Art Museum. His public collections are on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Printmaking Workshop in New York City, the Library of Congress, the Cape Coast Museum in West Africa and Philadelphia’s Brandywine Workshop, as well as art centers and galleries in leading universities and public venues across the nation.
This weekend’s Phoenix Festival of the Arts runs from Dec. 7 to 9 at Hance Park and is the city’s first signature arts festival. The free event features three days of live entertainment, arts vendors, a hands-on community mural, food trucks, Kidz Korner and more. Celebrate artists and arts organizations from across Phoenix’s cultural landscape. Hosted by Phoenix Center for the Arts and sponsored by Lou and Evelyn Grubb, this free festival will become an annual tradition.
Image of Eugene Grigsby by Dee Dee Woods
Far more than a friendly group of birdwatchers, Audubon Arizona offers a surprising range of outings for all ages from its little-known home on Central Avenue near the Salt River.
The opening of Audubon Arizona’s Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Center in October 2009 was the culmination of seven years of fundraising efforts, says Valerie Ramos, the organization’s development and marketing associate. “A lot of people still say, ‘I never knew this was here,’” she explains, so a primary goal is greater awareness of the Center’s existence.
Part of the 600-acre City of Phoenix Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, which stretches over a five-mile former industrial dump site, the Audubon Center welcomes visitors to a riparian region of astonishing natural wealth. More than 200 species of birds have been spotted, along with beaver, muskrat, coyote, jackrabbit, and javelina.
“It used to be a flowing river, and over time it became a landfill,” explains Ramos. “Then the federal government and the city were able to build a flood control channel…they restored the area by planting 70,000 plants and trees.”
The Center itself is certified Platinum LEED, which means that the United States Green Building Council considers it a high-performance, sustainable green building. Rooftop solar panels, wastewater reclamation, and recycled building materials all contribute to the rating.
Offering free admission year-round, the Center not only maintains interactive exhibits and acts as a gateway to 16 miles of trails through the Habitat, but also provides classes. “Our mission, in a nutshell, is to connect people with nature,” Ramos says, “primarily through children’s education programs. A lot of the kids who come for one-time field trips come back with their families and stay engaged with Audubon.”
Multiple after-school sessions like River Keepers and the high school program called River Pathways, in which teens collect field data for the Bureau of Land Management, encourage kids to think of the Habitat as their own beloved resource.
Ramos smiles enthusiastically. “We really are building a community of stewards, developing a love of nature — we’re getting them when they’re young. How can we expect people to care about the environment,” she asks, “unless we expose them to these experiences when they’re at an impressionable age?”
Adults have been finding their way to the Center through events like Birds and Beer, a monthly Thursday evening program. “We sell Four Peaks beer,” says Ramos, “and we recruit a wildlife biologist to give a punchy, enlightening, entertaining talk that usually involves some aspect of mating and wildlife reproduction.”
She laughs. “So you can see how that program would draw the professional audience — we’re just two miles south of downtown Phoenix.” It’s sort of a naturalist’s happy hour, a wilderness getaway in the heart of the city.
Financial support for the Center continues through innovative fundraising events like this weekend’s Gifts from Nature, an annual art sale and festival. “It’s an opportunity for Audubon Arizona to engage art lovers,” says Ramos. “With every item that’s purchased, a portion of the proceeds benefits our nature education and conservation programs.”
30 artists offer jewelry, wearable art, home décor, photography, paintings, ceramics, and garden pieces, all chosen through a juried process – if you’re an artist interested in participating, contact the Center next July.
The $25 ticketed kick-off event Friday night gives guests a preview of the exhibits and an artist meet-and-greet plus wine and hors d’oeuvres. Admission on Saturday and Sunday is free, and this year’s event features food trucks like Luncha Libre, Pizza People, and Burgers Amore as well as live music performed by students from Arizona School for the Arts, acoustic guitarists, and Ensemble Indigo (full disclosure: I’m a member of this chamber group).
Kristel Nielsen is one of the show’s newest artists, bringing a connection to nature through ceramic bells and wind chimes. “I want my work to look as though it belongs in the natural world,” she says. “I enjoy making forms that are organic and have a splash of color.”
Nielsen continues, “My style is slightly ‘Arizona primitive,’ very folkloric…some bells look archeological, as though they came from a temple ruin.” Along with outdoor art, she creates plates, jewelry, and holiday ornaments, including terra-cotta angels.
“I use a one-step firing process,” she explains. “It’s an environmental practice to not use that much energy, to not have to fire twice on one object.” Nielsen developed her technique when Taliesin West opened its clay studio for employees to use after work, and began selling her creations at the Desert Botanical Garden and Southwest Gardener.
The show’s artists, including Allison Shock, Caren Gomez, and Nathaniel Smalley, are all local. “The bottom line is that you’re contributing to a non-profit whose mission is to connect people with nature and provide opportunities for inner-city kids,” says Audubon’s Valerie Ramos emphatically. “Every dime spent at the event contributes toward our programs.”
If you go
Event: Gifts from Nature
When: December 1 & 2
Where: The Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center, 3131 S. Central Avenue, Phoenix, 85040
Artists participating in Gifts from Nature: Joan Baron — Jacqueline Benard — Cynthia Eral — Dos Damas Designs — Julius Forzano — Lynn & Mark Gardner — Caren Gomez — Wendy Goodma — Nora Graf — Pam Harrison — Sue Laub — Mary Lavan — Michael LiPira — Regina Lord — Brenda Lovejoy — Devon Meyer — Daniel Moore — Kristel Nielsen — Barbara Pohan — Arlene Powers — Rebecca Rush Profeta — Walter Salas-Humara — Christina Scherer — Amanda Scheutzow — Allison Shock — Nathaniel Smalley — En Chuen Soo — Vivian Stearns-Kohler — Genie Swanstrom
All photos courtesy of artists and/or Audubon Arizona.
“There are artists in Las Vegas?” was the first thing I thought, without having a moment to realize how presumptuous I was being, as we turned the corner from Las Vegas Boulevard onto Charleston. My next thought was “Is that how people think of Phoenix?”
Up to this point, the most interesting sort-of cultural thing I knew and liked about Las Vegas was the Pinball Hall of Fame. I had spent many hours there and suffered the sore forearm muscles because of it. But here we were—driving through what looked like an area of galleries, studios and art spaces where just steps before were advertisements for nudes, weddings and, well, everything else.
I wondered how, in a world “slush bars”, miles of lukewarm buffet food, rampant gambling, and signs with instructions on how to operate a door, could there be a committed arts community? Regardless of all my prejudices, amidst all of this, it exists: a healthy and now corporate-sponsored First Friday event filling spaces and drawing crowds with future plans to bring in artists from outside the region. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh believes in it so much that he and a few others purchased the trademark for the event. Even still, I thought “how cute”.
Maybe this is how my artist friends in New York think when I tell them that no, really, there is this great artist community in Phoenix. We take care of each other and have purchased property, put on regular events, organized and raised money and draw crowds of thousands every month. Really, I swear, we’ve done all this. Maybe, while they smile their supportive smiles, in their minds they are patting me on the head and thinking “how cute”.
Maybe that is the same thing people in cities like Paris and London thought when artists in New York said “No, really, we have this great thing going on over here. The rent is cheap and we can put up a show anywhere we want.” Or maybe it’s what artists in New York later thought about how Los Angeles was developing a little bit of an art crush in a surfer town that would never be taken seriously.
Maybe the reality is the one I always tend to believe in: art and artists happen pretty much everywhere. Good art and artists can be found within that everywhere. It shouldn’t be a new idea that we can find all kinds of amazing artists living and working in obscure places. It’s not about the name of the city and its reputation. It’s about the work you do. So, when someone asks “There are artists in Phoenix?” you don’t have to answer them. You can just show them.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
One Hundred Community Sponsors Contributed to Holiday Decoration Fund
Earlier this fall, community members representing the greater downtown Phoenix community, including the City of Phoenix, METRO Light Rail, Phoenix Community Alliance, neighborhood organizations and local business owners, created the Holiday Decoration Fund, and put out a call for contributions to help bring seasonal sparkle back to our city’s grandest boulevard.
Last year was the first time since light rail construction began that the holiday streetlight decorations on Central Avenue were installed. By the end of that season, however, it was clear that the decorations were too deteriorated to reuse and a solution needed to be found.
In just a few short weeks, the organizers of the Holiday Decoration Fund have gathered enough community-wide support to decorate 219 streetlights, 184 of those sponsored by 100 financial sponsors, with a few salvaged decorations from last year. Streetlights on Central Avenue, ranging from North Central to South Central, will be decorated with candy canes and poinsettias with LED lights adding some sparkle.
“This says so much about what the community can do when it comes together,” said City of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. “Holiday decorations are an important aspect of vibrant community. Thanks to Phoenix Community Alliance for their leadership, and to all the participants who are brightening Central Avenue.”
“South Mountain area residents and businesses really get in the spirit of the holidays, with many events and celebrations for families to enjoy,” said Councilman Michael Nowakowski. “The opportunity to have Central Avenue – the main route connecting the central city and our downtown to the South Mountain area – decked out in holiday lights would really add that extra layer of excitement for families and children. Let’s turn Central Avenue into a holiday wonderland!”
“I am thrilled to see holiday decorations come back to Central Avenue. These decorations foster a sense of community among Phoenix residents, and help build a festive holiday spirit for downtown shoppers, diners and visitors,” said Councilman Tom Simplot. “I applaud the leadership of Phoenix Community Alliance and the Midtown Museum District Neighborhood Association in making this happen.”
“Holiday decorations along Central Avenue are one of our greatest community traditions,” said Mo Stein, Chairman of Phoenix Community Alliance’s Board of Directors. “Growing up in Phoenix, this was always a family activity. What better way to continue to bring families together and celebrate the Heart of our City, with new restaurants, shops, housing and light rail happening daily. We thank everyone who is helping this great tradition.”
“The Downtown Phoenix Partnership is very excited about the prospect of holiday lights along the entire length of Central Ave through the central city. This is our signature street and it deserves to be the showcase of our holiday festivities,” said David Roderique, President and CEO of Downtown Phoenix Partnership.
Central Avenue will twinkle with spirit from Thanksgiving through the MLK Holiday. ‘Tis the season to bring your family and friends to Central Avenue, ride the light rail and take in the beauty of the season.
The following is the list of 100 participating sponsors of Holiday Decoration Fund:
A Tropical Concert
Aragon Real Estate Group
Arizona Central Credit Union
Arizona State University
Artisan Lofts on Central
Barron Collier Companies
Best Buy Insurance
BMO Harris Bank
Brophy College Preparatory
Central Park Square
Central United Methodist Church
Chateaux on Central
City of Phoenix Industrial Development Authority
Dick’s Ace Auto Repair
DOXA Central, LLC
DWL Architects & Planners
Evergreen Commercial Realty LLC
First American Title Company
FEZ Restaurant & Bar
Friendly House/Unity Way Fire Star
Gaedeke Group LLC
Habitat Metro LLC
Hon. Ruben Gallegos and Kate Gallegos
Hon. Tom Simplot
Goodwill of Arizona
Grandview Neighborhood Association
H-M Investments LLC
Hazel and Violet Ink
The Heard Museum
H-M Investments LLC
Hula’s Modern Tiki
Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona
Investors Warranty of America/Jones Lang LaSalle/Security Title Plaza
Irish Cultural Center
JP Morgan Chase
Just You Transportation
La Canasta Restaurant
La Bodega Furniture
Laura Crosby and Cat Sweetsir, 2800 Tower
Lawrence and Geyser, Geyser Management LLC
LBA Realty Fund II – Company V, LLC
L.D. Schneider & Associates
Marcos de Niza Tenant Council
Maricopa Integrated Health Systems
McCormack Baron Salazar
McCarthy Cook & Co. / Viad Corporate Center
Metro Realty LLC
Midtown Museum District
Native American Connections at Devine Legacy
Native American Connections/Phoenix Indian Center/People of Color Network
One Camelback Office Building
One Thomas Building
Parallel Capital Partners/City Square
Park Central Mall
Pastor Consulting, Inc.
Pavilions Apartments/Gray Development
Phoenix Art Museum
Phoenix Financial Center/Robert Knight and Associates
Phoenix Revitalization Corporation
Pierson Place Historic District/Charley Jones
Pinnacle Property Management
Place by the Park LLC
Carol A. Poore, Ph.D.
RAZA Development Fund
Red Development LLC
Regency House Condominiums
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Parish
Security Title Plaza
Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS
Switch Restaurant & Wine Bar
Tapestry on Central Condominium Association
The Comisar Collection/TV Museum Phoenix
The Foundry Hotel
The Great American Tower Office Building
The Mueller Family
The One Thomas Building
The Phoenix Plaza Association
Trinity Episcopal Cathedral
Urban Affair LLC
Valle Del Sol
Westward Ho Associates, L.P.
Special Thanks to: Ali Avey – Premiere Volunteer; Joseph Benesh – Phoenix Center for the Arts; Margaret Deitrich – Midtown Museum District; Susan Engstrom – The Great American Tower; Steve Banta and Hillary Foose – Valley Metro; Luz Enriquez and Councilman Nowakowski – City of Phoenix; Don Keuth and Jo Marie McDonald – Phoenix Community Alliance; Jim McPherson; Catrina Kahler – Urban Affair; Dave Roderique and Terry Madezska – Downtown Phoenix Partnership; Eva Olivas – Phoenix Revitalization Corporation; Kurt Schneider – LD Schneider & Associates; Olga Soto; Victor Vidales – REMAX Real Estate; All of the team at WESCO – Mark Forman, Geoffrey Kay, Michael Knoblock, and Christmas Light Decorators Doug Topham and Aaron Farrelly.
About Phoenix Community Alliance:
Phoenix Community Alliance (PCA) is a 501(c)3 non-profit corporation and a collaboration of over 250 major business corporations allied with government, education, research, health & science, as well as arts & cultural organizations. The organization, formed in 1983, is the major, private sector catalyst for the urban renaissance in Downtown Phoenix and the Central City. For more, visit PhoenixCommunityAlliance.com.
Meet Nathan Simpson, new DPJ contributor, and now designator of all that is Bike Chic. You may see him scouting locals who not only ride their bikes but look dapper doing it.
When I first saw Bike Chic, I spent the next few weekends dressing in my sharpest duds, hopping from coffee shop to coffee shop searching for someone with a camera who would ask me what I was wearing. For a sharp-dressing, car-free, downtown-dwelling Phoenician, it seemed like a pretty cool thing to be a part of.
When asked to take over the feature for DPJ, vanity ensued. I have decided to take this opportunity to feature myself, for introduction purposes only of course.
Who: Nathan Simpson
Occupation: Writer (who makes a living working at the Amazon.com warehouse)
My Neighborhood: Garfield
What do I enjoy about downtown? It’s a strong community where everyone is connected in a small town way with a big city energy.
Where do I like to explore? You will find me cruising downtown coffee shops, especially Lola.
What is my typical biking ensemble? On my work days, I make the 12 mile trek in a ratty t-shirt so I like to get my hipster-chic on on my days off.
• Cole Haan wingtips
• Bow tie from Last Chance
• Owned the vest since junior high knowing they would eventually come back in style
• Coat from my favorite thrift store Maggie’s Thrift
• I have prescription glasses for when I need to see good and fake hipster glasses from Urban outfitters for when I need to look good.
• I own four bikes. I chose the old beater Free Spirit for the photos because DJ William F****ing Reed once said to me, while I was on it, “Nice bike, man.”
• I almost always have a bandana tied to my wrist when riding. It’s good for sopping up sweat, or wiping tears from the face of a damsel in distress, and you never know when you might have to tourniquet someone.
Look for me all over downtown, but be on your fashion A game if you want a shot at Bike Chic glory.
Photography by Tyson Crosbie