DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
Four Chambers—what certain members of the community are calling Phoenix’s pre-eminent literary magazine (but only in jest)—has just released its second issue. The magazine—which measures a satisfying 6” x 9”, is exactly 152 pages long, has relaxing margins, and is printed on a luxurious 70# Husky White in an pleasantly legible 10 pt font—features 13 short stories and 62 poems from 64 authors—about 50% local—including but not limited to the following names you may or may not recognize: Allyson Boggess; Dexter L. Booth; Josh Rathkamp; Jefferson Carter; Gregory Sherl; Jack Evans; Kimberly Mathes; Elizabeth McNeil; and many more.
As far as aesthetics are concerned, Four Chambers is just trying to publish contemporary work. “We don’t know exactly what that means, but I think not knowing exactly what contemporary art means is part of what it means to make contemporary art in the first place.” That’s Jake Friedman, Founder and Editor in Chief, explaining the goals of the magazine in the third person, using words he has used to other people in other places at other times. He continues, “We’re just trying to put together something that’s eclectic, accessible, contemporary, and diverse. We’re inclusive. We don’t limit ourselves. We want to provide something for everybody. We’re trying to create a market for independent / grassroots literature. We like lots of different things.”
Friedman looks off into the distance and thinks about going further than is probably necessary or appropriate for a press release. Four Chambers is a heart, after all: something central, organic, and part ofa larger body that connects, supports and circulates life. It views itself as tied to the cultural development of Phoenix more generally speaking; while it’s relatively easy for people to find and consume music, visual art, dance, theatre, and other forms of art here in the Valley, it’s still relatively difficult for people to engage with literature. There are so many people here who are already doing fantastic things for literature. But as more or less the only independent literary magazine in Phoenix with a degree of public presence and visibility, Four Chambers is in a unique position to help bring greater visibility to the literary arts and encourage their larger participation in the cultural scene. In this vein, Four Chambers also places a strong emphasis on organizing various events and programming that present literature in relatively novel forms and seeks to create meaningful and relevant public art (e.g. the Festival of Literary Oddities last March, the Literary Flash Mob on the Light Rail just a few weeks ago, a wine tasting or Valentine’s Day dance and dinner in February, and some exciting stuff for Art Detour in the Spring). Four Chambers isn’t just publishing a literary magazine. It’s legitimately trying to make this place a better a city. It’s legitimately trying to build a stronger community. But this is already too long and it’s time to move on.
Topics covered in Four Chambers 02 include but are not limited to: sex with Anne Hathaway; relationship problems created when you have a genetic condition that causes flowers to grow out of your wounds; twenty things you should know by the age of 30; miscommunications with soldiers from World War II; local churches falling in love with area libraries; Phoenix daycare children eating fake snow; Xanax; delivering bread; the Israeli-Palestine conflict; thoughts on Allen Ginsberg’s “Suffering Eastern night sweats and Tangerian bone-grindings” while listening to punk rock music / The Smiths; nervous breakdowns in the Dutch section of the art museum; basketball; team-building activities; Juggalos; Sigmund Freud; and many more.
The magazine also includes four illustrations from local artists Rebecca Green, Joseph ‘Sentrock’ Perez, James B. Hunt and Carol Roque. Cover and design are provided by Isaac Caruso.
Four Chambers 02 is available for purchase online at the magazine’s website, at select venues around the Valley, at any number of events and programs through December (First Fridays, the Downtown Phoenix Public Market every 1st and 3rd Saturday, etc etc), or by contacting the magazine directly. Review copies are available upon request. Submissions are also currently open for Issue 03.
More information and sample work is available online at http://fourchamberspress.com/issue02.
Images courtesy of Isaac Caruso.
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
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
The Grand Avenue Arts District is a neighborhood on the rise. Set along the lower section of Grand Avenue in downtown Phoenix, it is a place where arts and community converge.
Recent improvements resulting from the EPA’s Greening America’s Capitals grant have left Grand Avenue a more beautiful pedestrian and bike-friendly place. The district is home to a range of businesses, including art galleries and studios, offices, restaurants and bars. It is also a major hub of activity for Artlink’s First and Third Friday Art Walks.
Part of this activity and growth can be attributed to the efforts of property owners like Tom and Laurie Carmody. The couple have championed real estate and redevelopment projects in multiple districts throughout downtown Phoenix, including in Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue and the Midtown District.
Currently, the Carmodys’ energy is focused on Grand Avenue, with a project called The Groove on Grand, located at 1028 NW Grand Ave., in the former location of The Paisley Violin.
No strangers to the neighborhood, they were part of the force behind the development of the Oasis on Grand, a vintage motor lodge transformed into an arts-focused residential community.
With The Groove, they hope to create a gathering place for people in the neighborhood and beyond. “We’re very engaged in the revitalization of the arts district on Grand, and we think that this can be a part of that— a place where the community could come together and meet, with food and wine, and where artists can participate,” says Laurie Carmody.
The layout of The Groove on Grand forms its own little neighborhood, with its main building facing the street, and a cluster of historic cottages situated around an expansive tree-shaded patio in the back.
The collection of brightly-colored cottages was once part of the World War II POW camps at Papago Park before they were salvaged and relocated by the Carmodys. In their new life, they house a variety of small businesses and studio spaces.
One of these is the Red House Pub, living up to its name with a small bar in a bright red cottage. The Red House serves beer and wine Tuesday through Saturdays, with different musicians and DJs every night.
Other residents of the Groove on Grand include Kustumz Hairshop; Grand Ol’ Optics, a vintage eyewear and eyeglass repair shop; The Citizen Royal, a women’s clothing and personal style boutique; Muse Gallery Boutique; artists’ studios and soon, a retail/wholesale coffee roaster. The historic 1930s main building houses an art gallery and designer chocolate shop, ib2 Chocolate.
On First and Third Fridays, The Groove hosts live music, food trucks and displays different featured artists throughout its buildings.
With the arts as the linchpin for Grand Avenue, The Groove is focused on supporting the artists who work and live in the neighborhood. “The more artists we have that are thriving, then the street thrives,” says Laurie.
“It’s a dynamic place. It has a lot of energy and people like to be involved in it, to be around it. And I think it’s creating a nice atmosphere to promote collaboration and communication between the neighbors and the street and the community.”
Last month DPJ visited a downtown building undergoing renovation for its new tenants in Warehousing ASU’s School of Art: Part One. The second part of this story explores the warehouse’s history from the perspective of its owner, developer Michael Levine.
Over the past century, many of the warehouses of Phoenix have been either demolished or disappointingly modernized. All too often, they acquire a regrettable aura of Brutalism reflecting the utilitarian design of structures like Symphony Hall and its surrounding skyscrapers.
But a handful of these venerable buildings are slowly regaining their ageless appearance, re-emerging as majestic, enduring dowagers anchoring the architecture of downtown, thanks to preservationist-developer Michael Levine. “I’m very protective of the properties,” he says. “I try to look at the long-term effect and where they’re going to be in a hundred years.”
As a handful of graduate studios from Arizona State University’s School of Art prepare for the Third Friday opening reception on January 17 at Levine’s 605 East Grant Street warehouse, the School’s director, Adriene Jenik, is full of enthusiasm. “Our gallery and critique space will present greater opportunities to engage with [the public],” she says. Later, as Jenik describes the adaptive construction, she adds with a laugh, “It’s like an artist’s wet dream.”
The School of Art’s move comes as a new dean prepares to lead ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts beginning July 1. Steven J. Tepper comes from positions at the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise, and Public Policy and Vanderbilt University, where his research and teaching focus on creativity in education and work as well as conflict over art and culture.
Graduate painting and drawing programs will move downtown with the Step Gallery, followed by sculpture, fibers, and intermedia, ultimately occupying 26,232 square feet including plenty of mouthwateringly spacious 250-square-foot individual studios. One large room, built in 1959, features a 15-ton A/C unit and seven studios with LED lighting and no ceilings, allowing vast expanses of natural sunshine through overhead windows.
“Spatially, it’s been really fascinating,” says landlord Levine. “Because the [warehouse] ceilings are so high and you have ten-foot-high [studio] walls, you feel like you’re three years old. For the artists…to stand back…they’ll have no claustrophobia — they’ll have all the light they’ll want.”
CCBG Architects and Kitchell [construction company] have been working at a rapid pace to accommodate ASU risk management concerns while maintaining historical integrity. “They overbuilt,” says Levine with some satisfaction as he surveys the gallery. “This is a building inside a building…so they don’t touch the existing building.” For example, in one area an interior glass wall simultaneously protects and reveals the beauty of restored brick. “Conceptually, for historic preservation, it’s the same outcome,” he says, adding with a laugh, “Everything has been like a really beautiful puzzle — I’m watching all the pieces nest together, but it’s not a 2-D puzzle…it’s like a weird 3-D puzzle.”
Levine, who fabricated a Batmobile and a steampunk balloon for his family in the warehouse, has found it somewhat painful to give up his own “dream” creative space to provide fire egress for the new ASU construction. ”It was like the worst seller’s remorse I’ve ever had, because this is the perfect studio,” he says with a sigh, still grinning. “Having two cranes is like having two employees…two employees I don’t have to talk to.” He’ll move Levine Machine into the oldest warehouse in Phoenix: the Seed & Feed building at 411 South Second Street, built in 1905 by Swedish immigrants.
His other renovation successes include The Duce (at 525 S. Central), Arizona Cotton (at 215 S. 13th St.), and Bentley Projects (at 215 E. Grant St.), along with the 2007 grand prize in the Arizona Governor’s Heritage Preservation Awards.
Levine attended art school himself, studying architecture and drafting. He moved to the Valley 23 years ago and established his AAARDVARk AARMAdILLO Corporation for design and construction. As he points out features of the warehouse, Levine’s boundless enthusiasm for industrial restoration is palpable.
“This site’s really interesting,” he says, pointing toward the southwest area of the property. “The back corner…goes back to 1895 as the Phoenix Cotton Oil Company.” Levine gestures toward Grant, indicating original windows and concrete openings. “This corner building was built [around] 1909…this was McCall Cotton.” As Phoenix grew, so did the warehouse.
In 1917, as the United States began to prepare for war, a young vice-president of Goodyear Tire named Paul Litchfield came to the Valley. “With the power of the U.S. government and Goodyear Tire he buys…everything,” says Levine. “He buys every cotton field down here, he buys all the cotton gins, and he buys the entire ecosystem. Then they came and they built this two-story building…and as far as I can tell this was the headquarters for Goodyear.”
The warehouse operated under the subsidiary Southwest Cotton Company, Levine says. “The construction methodology that they used was board form and they had slits in the wall for the belts to go through and all the pulleys,” he describes. “And all that stuff is still there — all the slots are there, all the bolts. If you look at the very top you can still see the ghost [sign painted on the brick], and it says ‘Pure and uniform in quality,’ and on the left near the door it says ‘The best is the cheapest.’” He smiles and adds, “I try to leave all that history, all those scars.”
Levine learned that Andrew Karlson, an undocumented Norwegian immigrant and the first certified welder in Arizona, worked on the Roosevelt Dam before purchasing the warehouse in 1943, according to his granddaughter Mikelene Karlson. In tribute to the longtime owner of Karlson Machine Works, Levine hung a black-and-white photo of Karlson and his wife Marie on one of the structure’s restored brick interior walls.
“I had a Robin Hood mentality about saving these buildings,” Levine says, explaining his history of reinvesting in downtown warehouse preservation. “I’ve been holding on to these things against my own economic interest….” He continues, “The theme that runs through everything I do is…site-specific, so it’s all about…deconstructing and peeling things back.”
“I’ll try to do the restoration based off of the history, to find out what the character is,” Levine adds. “When you’re dealing with industrials…they’re living documents — they’re living buildings.”
He says matter-of-factly, “The greenest building is an existing building, and the best historic preservation is neglect, and that’s really what saved this building. Demolition’s easy to see, but historic equity disappearing by a thousand small cuts will still kill you.”
- ASU’s School of Art grand opening and open studios in downtown Phoenix
- Friday, January 17, 2014, 7 p.m.-9 p.m. (more information at ASU.edu)
- 605 E. Grant Street
- Michael Levine and Levine Machine, including past and ongoing warehouse projects
Update: An earlier version of this article referred to Michael Levine as an art teacher in Peoria, which is incorrect.
As part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts on ASU’s Tempe campus, the School has found its development somewhat hindered by geographic constraints.
“The School of Art is actually in 13 different buildings,” says Adriene Jenik, professor and director of the School. Student and faculty facilities have historically been scattered haphazardly, sometimes occupying leased off-campus venues.
“We have a space…called the Community Services Building, and it’s on Curry and Mill,” describes Jenik. “It’s an old children’s hospital, so we have two wings and the upstairs…they used to be patient rooms.” She continues, “We also have studios in…University Commons…between 7th and 6th [streets], kind of just tucked north of campus. And then we have other students…in what we call our Cornerstone Building, which is at the northeast corner of Rural and University, tucked back behind the comedy club. They’ve been all over the place.”
Jenik adds with a rueful smile, “A lot of the spaces are actually not proper studios at all — they’re just sort of a closet…areas that people took over. All these different crazy places…you know, you make do. I mean, artists — we’re good like that.”
“But…everybody knows that every artist needs a studio space of some kind,” she continues. “They have different…ways of working, but you make use of that studio space for different things. And…also the field changed, so now…basically everybody expects to have a studio when they come in — it’s a general requirement of any baseline MFA program.”
As the School of Art grew, so did its reputation, giving it a ranking among the top five public university art programs. “I think there’s been…conversations…for a long time…at the upper administrative levels,” says Jenik. “for the concept of…having some downtown presence for the arts.” Not long after the School’s faculty asked Jenik to work toward a more unified, cooperative space, she explains, “we were told that there was another need for a building that we were occupying [the Art Annex]…we would be relocated into another space.”
She says, “That was a concern for me because…I just didn’t want to be another mile and another building.” Working with Herberger Institute interim dean Michael Underhill — himself an architect-planner — Jenik seized the chance to expand into downtown Phoenix, increase the School’s appeal for prospective applicants, and benefit current students.
“Instead of just going ‘woe is us’ and having a pity party,” she continues, “I said, ‘Hey, is there a way that we can use the opportunity of getting kicked out of a building to think about the bigger issue of how we need to be consolidated?’” Jenik adds, “We really wanted to develop the school as a cultural hub for the region…and I felt charged…by the faculty…to move quickly.”
ASU’s solution was to rent warehouse space from Michael Levine, a developer renowned for his commitment to the preservation and restoration of historic industrial buildings and the downtown Phoenix art scene. Levine counts The Duce (at 525 S. Central), Arizona Cotton (at 215 S. 13th St.), and Bentley Projects (at 215 E. Grant St.) among his renovation successes, and he won the 2007 grand prize in the Arizona Governor’s Heritage Preservation Awards. He agreed to adapt a turn-of-the-century structure housing his own offices and studio space, Levine Machine, at 605 E. Grant Street, leasing 26,232 square feet to the School of Art.
The first phase moves ASU’s painting and drawing graduate programs and studios, together with a critique space and the Step Gallery. The second phase, due to be completed in May, adds the programs for fibers, sculpture, and intermedia. “What’s particularly unusual and interesting about that space as it will be configured,” says Herberger Institute communications and media staffer Deborah Sussman Susser, “is…MFA students in their studios making work, then being able to immediately display it in a gallery setting.”
Students will work in fifteen studios, each sized expansively at 250 square feet. Other areas are designated for a computer lab, project space, a wash-out sink, a flame cabinet, storage for chemicals, and “a little nest for…faculty,” says Jenik.
The move was spurred in part by ASU’s plans for the Art Annex, the historic building currently housing the Painting and Drawing programs on College Avenue in Tempe, but another impetus was the pending massive development taking over the southeast corner of Mill Avenue and University Drive. Both catalysts led to a compressed timeline: preparation for the warehouse move spans only 11 months from its inception last spring to its opening event on January 17. Concurrently, the Ceramics Research Center is moving north on Mill Ave. into the former Borders bookstore in downtown Tempe.
“It’s sort of nutty,” says School director Jenik with a smile, “but on the other hand it feels like it wouldn’t have happened if a whole bunch of things hadn’t fallen into place. Obviously the construction’s on the fast track, but…if the upper university administrators and leaders hadn’t already been thinking about this…if Michael [Underhill] hadn’t been interim…there were a lot of pieces that kind of fell together.” She continues enthusiastically, “This is really a quantum leap for us…it’s raw space, but it’s fantastic. We’re really thrilled.”
“A common practice in grad programs that’s really nice is that usually once a term or at least once a year they have an open studio…and donors, collectors, the public, other artists…can come through,” Jenik adds. “So maybe we’ll do that with Art Detour but also we might just have our own…we’ll tour the space.”
“One of the great things about having the open studio tours is then they can be part of First and Third Friday,” says Sussman Susser, “and there can be advantages for both…the whole arts community that’s thriving down there…and for the students.”
Undergraduate classes and some graduate studios will remain on ASU’s Tempe campus. “Other art programs…have done this same thing,” says Jenik, “outgrown their facilities and had a satellite facility specifically for grad students.” She continues, “There’s a history of it actually working out well…not just for the program but also fostering activity in the area…so that’s what we’re hoping for downtown Phoenix.”
Part two of this article will explore the warehouse’s venerable history and Michael Levine’s vision for historic preservation and adaptive reuse.
If you go
- ASU’s School of Art grand opening and open studios in downtown Phoenix
- Friday, January 17, 2014, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.
- 605 E. Grant Street
All photos by K Becker.