Hugo Medina is a force to be reckoned with; he’s not just a talented muralist and the winner of the Public Art Award category in the newly announced Mayor’s Arts Awards, he’s someone who can rally a community and make things happen.
In this case, that “something” is an extraordinary public mural that will emerge over this weekend at the inaugural Phoenix Festival of the Arts. The mural will be extraordinary in both size and scope and it took a dynamo like Medina to make it all work.
Using Facebook, Medina put out a call to artists to participate in the project. “I wanted a diverse group of artists to get involved,” said Hugo. “Everything from accomplished muralists, to fine artists, students, graffiti artists, and novice painters.” Over 80 artists responded to his call.
Medina’s concept created a simple but elegant way to bring artists into contact with each other and the public. Each of the 80 artists will have a 4’ X 8’ wooden panel (donated to the festival by Home Depot) to make their own. In between each artist panel will be a blank panel where the community will be invited to participate. The two artists working on either side of the blank panel will collaborate on an idea for the community to realize.
This allows for each artist to make their own work, but also gives artists who may have never met previously the chance to work together. The only restriction on the work is that it not be negative and that it is in some way focused on Downtown Phoenix. By placing the blank community panels between the two artist panels, Medina is hoping that a natural flow will develop from one panel to the next.
The mural will be completed during the three-day festival and when done, will consist of 160 four-foot high panels, stretching for 1,280 feet. There will be several mural stations throughout the festival where the public can watch the artists work, or grab a brush and participate. Everyone is invited to lend a hand and make their mark, including kids.
Bring the whole family down to Hance Park this weekend to the Phoenix Festival of the Arts to make your mark on this unique public art project that is bringing artists and the public together to create something everyone can be proud of and enjoy.
“Come Monday morning, I’ll be working with the City of Phoenix to pack up the panels and move them to the corner of Central and Indian School,” said Medina. This is the new PHX Renews site at Indian School Road and Central Avenue; a large empty space that has been activated into temporary multi-use public space. “I’ll curate the placing of the panels around the park,” he continued. “Some will be placed along the fence to make them visible from the street, and others will be scattered along the paths within the fenced space.” The panels will remain at the site for the next three years.
If you go:
Event: Community Mural at Phoenix Festival of the Arts
When: Friday, Dec 7 through Sunday, Dec 9
Times: Friday 2 to 9 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What’s required: Your creativity. Paint, brushes and wood panel canvasses will be provided.
It’s Friday afternoon and half of your office has joked about cutting out early and having a beer. You daydream about it but you stay at your desk. Our unwritten rules about when we drink are ingrained. We’re supposed to cram it into a happy hour, often Thursday or Friday. The drinks are big, the food is small. That’s our workplace culture–the larger culture.
Welcome to Beer Culture.
The Phoenix Brewers Invitational (PBI) in Phoenix Heritage Square is a new event for Arizona and it is billed as, “an opportunity to provide the Arizona craft beer scene and the City of Phoenix with a signature event to help generate awareness of our developing craft beer culture.” Craft beer culture says that it’s OK for your local community to be involved in beer and beer events and this extends to our city leaders.
In most parts of the country, it wasn’t politically acceptable for politicians to be seen with a glass of beer. President Obama is credited with changing that thinking with his beer summits. He’s been photographed raising a pint of Guinness. He’s bought a round of Buds at the Iowa state fair. He’s had his chefs brew beer in the White House kitchen and famously shared them on the campaign trail.
The Mayors of beer culture-centric cities have always embraced beer. In San Diego, Mayor Jerry Sanders openly courts breweries to locate in San Diego County. Former Denver Mayor and now Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper once owned a brewery and is heavily involved in the Great American Beer Fest. Portland’s Mayors have traditionally opened the 25 year old Oregon Brewers Festival (OBF) by tapping the first cask following a downtown parade. On Friday, December 7 at Noon, Phoenix Mayor is slated to open the Phoenix Brewers Invitational with a toast.
Did you miss that? Noon. Friday.
Famously, Postino Winecafe has a bumper sticker that reads, “Drinking Wine at Lunch is not a Crime.” That is true of wine culture and it is also true for those that enjoy good beer. If you’re not able to make the leap from work culture to beer culture you can still check out the fest with your worker-bee cred intact. The PIB is free to enter. You can check it out during your lunch hour and see what is being offered without paying. The PIB will have Food Trucks on hand and there is craft root beer.
If you want to partake, there will be over 60 breweries each offering a single beer. Over 25 styles will be represented. You need to purchase a commemorative mug and drink tickets. The glass will cost you $10. Tickets are $1 each for a 3 oz sample. The mug and the tickets can be used when you return after work on Friday, or Noon to 10 p.m. on Saturday.
Another tenet of beer culture is that beer should be enjoyed with food. Often at a festival, you’re enjoying great food with a tiny beer. The PIB will let you trade in four tokens for a full 12 oz serving. You can wash down the fare from Aji Mobile Food, Ole Dixie Southern Food, Torched Goodness, Emerson Fry Bread, Luncha Libre and Epic Hot Dogs with a hearty pour! Beer was meant to be enjoyed by the glass.
The Invitational is patterned after Portland’s Oregon Brewer’s Festival and it is one of the reasons that the city is referred to as Beervana. We expect that type of an event from such a beer city. Will Phoenix rise to the challenge? Will your Downtown Beer be a Friday afternoon one?
If you go:
Location: Phoenix Heritage Square, 115 N. Sixth St., Phoenix, AZ 85004
Dates: Friday & Saturday, Dec 7 & 8
Times: Noon to 10PM
Cost: Admission into the festival grounds is free, In order to consume beer, purchase of a 2012 souvenir mug is required & costs $ 10.00. Beer is purchased with wooden tokens. Tokens cost $ 1.00 per. Patrons pay four tokens for a full 12 oz. mug of beer or one token for a 3-oz. taste.
Friday, December 7th:
Headliner – Bird City,
Support – Versions of You, Cartoon Lion, We are Searchers, Inept Hero, Cosmic Goat, Libertine Social, Johnny Lee
Saturday, December 8th:
Headliner – 80 Proof,
Support – Black Bottom Lighters
Proceeds of the event benefit The Beer for Brains Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises money for the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.
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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.