Arts & Culture
His friend is actually an art project that displays 26 Downtown Phoenix blocks from the perspectives of 52 local writers and photographers. It debuts Friday at After Hours Gallery.
Although the project has helped bring the community together, Parks says he wasn’t trying to accomplish that, or anything else, really.
“The project feels like a friend; someone I just met at a coffee house,” he says. “There’s this great person and I just want to introduce him to everybody.”
Parks adds, however, that he hopes the project will get people to look at each block from a different perspective and change their attitudes, which, he says, is how people start to change their cities.
Parks developed the abstract idea for 26 Blocks last October, but it really came together and launched in late November after his best friend passed away unexpectedly.
“I just felt like there’s no time to be afraid,” he says. “All of those ideas that were disconnected were suddenly on fire.”
He began pitching his idea to Phoenix-based writers and photographers, inviting them to be a part of his vision. He started with a few people he already knew and asked them for the names of other talented writers and photographers in the area until he had 26 of each.
“The amazing part was that I’d pitch them and I’d do all this research, and every time they’d write back and they’d say, ‘This is awesome, sign me up.’”
The photos, which are 24 inches by 36 inches, are suspended from the ceiling by steel cables with the 12-inch by 18-inch writings attached underneath. Twenty-six waist-level cinder block stacks are also part of the display, with each stack holding one of 26 wood cubes created by sculptor Rafael Navarro. Parks says the cinder blocks represent the concept of building blocks. He chose the number of city blocks for the project based on the 26 children’s building blocks, A through Z.
The project also incorporates monthly contests from now until the end of the year. Contestants will choose one of the blocks to write or photograph. The 52 project contributors will select two winners every month, a writer and a photographer, who will each receive a prominent spot on the 26 Blocks website with a biography and a headshot. At the end of the year, the public will vote to determine the grand winner, who will join the end of the tour (at another gallery to be announced) and be featured in the 26 Blocks book.
The project has inspired Parks to consider more projects in the future so he can have more friends like 26 Blocks.
“This person is great. I want more friends like this and not exactly the same,” he says. “I want to surround myself with other projects that are equally stimulating and equally challenging for me.”
Parks, who has never done an art show before, says he feels like he can do anything that is just as big as this project as long as he can find a way to set his ideas on fire and box up his fear.
“All you need is an idea that’s really interesting that you can get people excited about, and all you need other than that is just evidence that you can pull off the different components.”
26 Blocks debuts Friday from 6 to 9 p.m. After Hours Gallery is located at 116 W. McDowell Rd. (light rail station at Central/McDowell) in Willo.
Ever wonder what would happen if The Second City crew came up with a comedy revue about Arizona? Well, wonder no more, because it has happened! If you are not familiar with The Second City, it is a renowned improv-based sketch comedy group primarily based in Chicago with locations in Toronto and Hollywood. The troupe has brought countless comedians to the spotlight, including Tina Fey, Jim Belushi and Stephen Colbert. But, what exactly are we in store for, you ask? Let’s say a night full of hilarity regarding pressing issues such as snowbirds and Sheriff Joe Arpaio!
Matt Hovde, the artistic director of The Second City Training Center and director of “The Second City Does Arizona, or Close but No Saguaro,” took some time to explain the process. Two writers from The Second City spent a week in Arizona with the Arizona Theatre Company, the folks that are graciously hosting the sketch comedy act. In their time here, they researched with locals and gathered information about our state’s current events, political issues and local traditions. From there, they create and combine material with written satire to bring us a fine collection of songs, scenes and monologues that are sure to make the audience laugh.
The best part about the show is that you will know exactly what they are implying and mocking. Different versions have been performed with great success for cities like Atlanta, and we hear one is in the works for Boston. I think it is time we sat down and took a comedic look at our fair city! Truly, what is better than being able to laugh at ourselves and where we live when times are tough?
The Arizona Theatre Company is showing “The Second City Does Arizona, or Close but No Saguaro” from April 29 to May 16 at the Herberger Theater. Be sure to get your tickets and check out some all-star actors and actresses from The Second City perform as would-be Zonies!
The Herberger Theater is located at 222 E. Monroe St. in Copper Square (light rail stations at 3rd Street and Washington/Jefferson) — 602.254.7399
Just like the undeniable growth in the Valley and influx of transplants, improv seems to have found a home and a wonderfully loyal following, especially in Downtown Phoenix.
The Herberger Theater hosted the 9th annual Phoenix Improv Festival this past weekend. Although the festival has had several venues over the years, many of its supporters agree that the Herberger is a perfect fit for the unscripted, never predictable art of improvisation. Spanning over three days, there were numerous improv groups performing from all over the country, special guest appearances and droves of devoted Phoenicians.
Friday night’s showing consisted of four improv troupes. The groups hailed from New York to Los Angeles, with some homegrown talent sprinkled in. With almost every seat filled, the electricity radiated through the Herberger, and while fan participation was not specifically requested, it was certainly present and welcomed by the performers.
”The improv here is on par with anywhere in the U.S.,” said Lisa Takata, who has faithfully followed the festival since the beginning.
It’s hard to believe that only nine years ago the Phoenix Improv Festival hosted its flagship performance with just three local improv troupes on the lineup. But, while the show has expanded beyond the local comedy groups, they are still very much a key participant in the festival.
Valley natives The Light Rail Pirates were one of the two featured groups Friday night. Christopher Williams, a performer in the comedy troupe and a resident of Downtown Phoenix, said he loves being able to perform at the Herberger.
“The growth down here has been amazing,” Williams said, referring not only to the growth of the festival, but also of Downtown as a whole.
Accompanying the Light Rail Pirates were Searching for X, based in Phoenix; Dumpster Tequila out of New York and Dr. God from Los Angeles.
Dr. God surprised and pleased the audience with a guest appearance from feature film actor Matthew Lillard, who stared in movies like Scream and Scooby Doo.
Mark Jordan, the emcee of the festival, host of HGTV’s Over Your Head, local improv performer and native Arizonian, is pleased to see the growth of art in Phoenix.
“It’s amazing how far Phoenix has really come in the art scene, as a whole,” Jordan said.
Although, no longer a full-time resident of Phoenix due to filming in Los Angeles, Jordan says he is in the Valley at least once a month, not only hosting, but also performing.
“I love Phoenix, I cant seem to get away from this place,” Jordan said.
The three-day festival was packed with performances, workshops and networking for improvisers and anyone who has an appreciation of improvisation. The annual event is produced by Carefree Write Productions, a nonprofit organization that supports networks for developing local artist.
To stay in the loop for next year’s festival, go to phoeniximprovfestival.com.
Modified Arts has taken to debuting new art shows on Third Fridays, and the atmosphere is nothing short of perfect. We all know Third Fridays are the chill counterpart to their bustling sibling two weeks prior, but Modified has become an unofficial hub of Third Friday activity during the past several months. Bright, open and inviting for conversation and contemplation, this rethought space is perfect for an artist’s reception.
Tonight is the debut of Chicago-based artist Corkey Sinks’ “Check the Children,” a collection that “explores modern incarnations of mythology, folklore, fairy tales, superstition, and urban legend in horror film and teen culture.”
What makes Sinks particularly interesting, besides the name, is the vast use of mixed media: sketches, installation, sculpture, GIF animation and video. The result is an atmospheric show that engages the senses. Needless to say, the art provides a bit of spook and scare, but the tactic is meant to be a catalyst for further thought and discussion.
The artist’s reception runs tonight from 6-9 p.m., and the show will run through mid-May (gallery is open Fridays and Saturdays and by appointment).
Modified Arts is located at 407 E. Roosevelt St. in Evans Churchill (light rail station at Central/Roosevelt) — 602.462.5516
Next stop: 3rd St. and Washington!
DPJ and LightRailBlogger.com are getting off the line to explore nearby restaurants, museums and maybe a ballpark.
Which nearby destination do YOU recommend? Give us your pulse!