Downtown is more than a grid system of streets and square miles. It is experienced in the sights, sounds, feel and tastes that are unique to the place. In this short series, DPJ contributor, Colin Columna hones in on the five senses as his guide to explore what makes downtown Phoenix unique.
The Phoenix Public Art Program was launched in 1986 through a visionary ordinance that allocates one percent of the Phoenix Capital Improvement Program to enhancing the design of public buildings, infrastructure and spaces. The program has been uniquely successful because Phoenix is a relatively new city. Unlike older urban communities, Phoenix has available open space in which to plan and build its future and a citizenry with hands-on involvement in that growth. In the last 28 years, the program has created more than 180 art installation projects throughout the city in neighborhood parks, on bridges, along canals, on public streets, in recycling centers, at airports and in civic gathering places. By bringing together artists, residents, architects, engineers and landscape designers to integrate art into the infrastructure of our communities, the program adds to the dialogue of how we relate to our urban environment.
A good starting point for discovering public art in Phoenix is at The Gallery @ City Hall on Washington St. and Third Ave. Currently on view in the gallery is Art Under Foot: Handmade Floors at the PHX Sky Train. The exhibit highlights the dynamic collaboration between the four artists and the many skilled craftspeople involved in creating the commissioned terrazzo floors at the PHX Sky Train stations. Included in the exhibit are artists’ original drawings, computerized models, hands-on displays, and a short video describing the 40,000 hours of labor required to complete the project. The exhibit makes visible how the process works, how artists are involved from the beginning, and how the art is integral to the overall project.
“Public art,” states Ed Lebow, Phoenix Public Art Program Director, “and the Phoenix Public Art Program in particular, allows us the opportunity ask the impertinent question ‘What if?’ to the blank concrete stares of most urban settings. What if we imagine new ideas for the purpose of public spaces? How can we enhance the experience of traveling through these urban places? Is it possible that an installation can improve a community’s quality of life?”
The answers involve many steps, and many hands, from artist conception to art installation. “The nature of commissioned work is site specific,” Lebow explains. “A place designated for the art piece to be conceptually integrated, to be one of the components of the fully realized project.” Within those parameters, or restrictions, “intensive problem solving occurs. Each project is completed through a collaboration of thinkers.”
The placement of artworks in neighborhoods and public spaces, and as functional elements within those environments – walkways, gateways and bridges – challenges a cardinal rule of art engagement: Don’t touch. “The joy of art is very tactile,” counters Lebow. “Each work is created by the touch of artists: molded, painted, built. They are artworks, but first they are works created by hand. I don’t believe they are something removed or special, but a part of life,” he explains.
Trained as a potter in college, Lebow confesses he “fell off the wheel” to explore other endeavors, but his personal and physical relationship with created works is evident. As a potter applies glaze, he describes the Taylor Streetscape as layers of experience. “The sidewalks are expanded and embedded with artwork to encourage strolling. So touch may be the first sense engaged. Trees are a vital part of the design and set in wide basins, capturing and reflecting water during rainy seasons. Pedestrians hear the sound and feel the cool breeze through their branches. Or they smell the plants as they respond to changes in atmosphere.” In this way, the art lives in the community.
Since its inception, the program has garnered numerous awards for design excellence, including two Design for Transportation Awards from the U.S. Department of Transportation and the National Endowment for the and, several Valley Forward Association Environmental Excellence Awards. Most recently, the Americans for the Arts Public Art Network Year in Review named two Phoenix projects, Ground Cover and Desert Spring, among the nation’s top 37 public arts projects.
“As we build our city,” Lebow says, “public art allows us to create a balance of the aesthetic and the practical…and an environment to keep our senses engaged.”
The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture manages the city’s public art program, administers a grants program, supports arts learning, provides information and assistance to artists and cultural organizations, and oversees the city’s cultural planning efforts.
One way to start your own downtown Phoenix Public Art Tour is to visit The Gallery @ City Hall, or download a self-guided map to the public art located throughout downtown Phoenix.
If You Go
Where: The Gallery @City Hall, 200 West Washington Street (ground floor)
When: 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, Monday through Friday.
Cost: The Gallery is free and open to the public. In addition to the exhibition, self-guided public art maps are available in the gallery and online.
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MAYA’S FARM CSA NOW ACCEPTING APPLICATIONS FOR FALL SEASON
Maya’s Farm is now accepting membership applications for their fall CSA season — which runs September 24th through December 13th. Be a part of the small farm movement – join Maya’s Farm CSA today. Save money and time while getting the freshest locally grown, organic, seasonal produce each week. Membership costs are $300/season for 12 weeks (only $25/week).
- The freshest hand-picked Certified Organic produce
- Nutrition and flavor-packed local and all Certified Organic produce
- Exclusive seasonally inspired recipes from local restaurants and chefs
- Advanced notice and early bird pricing for Maya’s Farm special offers, workshops, Farm to Table dinners and special events
- A personal connection to their food, community and local farmer
What is CSA? CSA is Community Supported Agriculture. It is a special opportunity for a community to pledge to support a local farm and farmer. Each member contributes an amount of money in order to offset the huge operational expenses small farms face. It is an excellent way to change the current food system, support community and educate consumers about the importance of small farms. Remember buying local helps to support our local economies. Please share and help Maya’s Farm grow.
Sign-up today – www.mayasfarm.com/csa
Who doesn’t love a parade? And one was held in downtown Phoenix on August 27 for the newly-crowned – for the third consecutive year – Arena Bowl Champions, the Arizona Rattlers. Another parade may occur (fingers crossed) if the Phoenix Mercury reign supreme in the WNBA Finals against the Chicago Sky. And speaking of hot streaks…
On August 26, hundreds of downtown advocates and supporters attended RadiatePHX at the University of Arizona College of Medicine’s Virginia G. Piper Auditorium. Sponsored by Downtown Phoenix, Inc. and Downtown Phoenix Journal, the RadiatePHX business and community mixer will be held on the third Tuesday of every month at an interesting downtown space with a diverse mix of programming and speakers. “This is exactly what we had envisioned to bring life back into the heart of the city,” said Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. On tap for the September 16 RadiatePHX at ASU’s Step Gallery in the Phoenix Warehouse District are Steven Tepper, new dean of the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and Councilwoman Kate Gallego.
On August 27, Downtown Phoenix, Inc. and Phoenix Parks and Recreation launched Wednesday Wind Up, a weekly lunch time event featuring food trucks, local retail business booths, and outdoor games and activities at Civic Space Park.
On August 28, TEDx Evans Churchill held its second event, “If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Kitchen,” at the downtown Phoenix Convention Center. Seven speakers spoke to a full-house on food related topics. Afterward, everyone sauntered over to FED after TED to “wine and dine” on food and beer pairings from local restaurants.
The Firehouse Gallery’s “Comedy on Fire” open-mic show is one of the most prominent places for local comics to ply their trade. Held monthly since March of 2013, the show has become so popular that out-of-state comics are being booked to perform.
US Airways and merger partner American Airlines will not be renewing their naming rights deal for downtown’s US Airways Center. First it was America West Arena, now US Airways Center. What’s next? We will know by next fall. Despite the name change we expect great things from the Suns this season!
Lux, one of central Phoenix’s most popular coffee and dining spots, will open a second location at First and Portland streets in the Evans Churchill neighborhood. Both an adaptive reuse of an existing structure and adjacent new construction, Jeff Fischer’s Lux Commonwealth and County will sport the same look and feel which has made the original North Central Avenue location so inviting and successful.
Redevelopment plans for two iconic downtown Phoenix buildings made significant progress. The city of Phoenix picked P.B. Bell Cos. and Davis Enterprises to redevelop the 1915 Jefferson Hotel (aka Barrister Building) and adjacent vacant parcels at Central Avenue and Jefferson Street into boutique-style residential and commercial space. In addition, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors agreed to work with developer CSM Lodging on tax incentives to repurpose the 1931 Professional Building at Central Avenue and Monroe Street into a boutique hotel.
For the last eight years Richard Adkins, our city’s forestry supervisor, has labored to keep trees from falling victim to business and neighborhood development, street widenings, and storm damage — all without a single budget line item for replacement trees. Now, with the support of the new Downtown Phoenix, Inc. Tree & Shade Task Force, comprised of a dozen community leaders and city employees (including Richard), new trees will be added and existing trees will be better maintained in and around downtown Phoenix, all in time for Super Bowl XLIX.
The Grand Avenue Members’ Association and Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts are are teaming up to bring even more live music, art, and local businesses to downtown Phoenix at the 6th Annual Grand Avenue Festival.
Only in Downtown
Phoenix Union Bioscience High School in the Evans Churchill neighborhood was named one of the top 30 “Most Amazing High School Campuses in the World” by BestEducationDegrees.com.
At historic Trinity Cathedral in the heart of the Roosevelt Row Arts District, the Grammy Award-winning Phoenix Chorale holds open rehearsals for anyone who enjoys listening to great music.
The Duce, a kick-back restaurant, lounge, vintage shop, and boxing gym located in a 1928 brick warehouse at Central Avenue and Lincoln Street, was recently named as one of the 12 most “Unusual American Restaurants” in the U.S.
Congratulations to the board and staff of the Arizona Science Center at Heritage & Science Park for receiving a $246,000 grant by the APS Foundation to continue ASC’s Rural Expansion Project that brings valuable teacher, leader, and community professional development along with student programming to school districts in our rural communities.
As more and more bicycles take to the road (and sidewalks) in downtown Phoenix, the State Press reports that cyclists balance legality and safety under the watchful eyes of police officers on downtown’s busy city streets.
On the first Monday of every month between 4 and 7 p.m., individuals with legal questions can stop by Songbird Coffee and Tea House on E. Roosevelt Street for “Cafe O’Law.” There Phoenix attorney Lora B. Sanders of the Sanders Law Firm provides free legal advice to anyone who drops in to purchase a cafe au lait or other snazzy drink refreshment.
Early September Activities
- 9/11 Week of Service & Remembrance, Valleywide, Sept. 6-14
- WNBA Finals, US Airways Center and UIC Pavilion, Sept. 7-17
- Fridays in the Park, Civic Space Park, Sept. 12
- Arizona Diamondbacks MLB baseball, Chase Field, various dates in Sept.
On Thursday, August 28th, some of our city’s brightest ideas were presented live during Tedx Evans Churchill, a local edition of the popular TED lecture series, held at the Phoenix Convention Center.
TED talks are public lectures based on the concept of presenting “ideas worth spreading.” TEDx events are independently organized talks meant to showcase ideas and stimulate conversation on the local community level.
The theme of TEDx Evans Churchill, “If You Can’t Stand the Heat, Get Out of the Kitchen,” focused on the many ways that food is a part of Phoenix’s cultural and community landscape.
According to event organizer and president of the Evans Churchill Community Association, Kevin Rille, the theme was an obvious choice: “Phoenix’s food, on a national scale, is really high quality and getting better, so it felt like a natural fit.”
The emcees for the evening were Megan Finnerty of the Arizona Republic and Dave Tyda of Affordable Food Festivals and the EaterAZ food blog. The co-hosts guided a sold-out audience through seven passion-filled presentations from a range of voices from Phoenix’s food scene.
Local restauranteurs like Brad Moore of Short Leash Hot Dogs and Aaron Pool of Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soups talked about what it takes to successfully open and operate their respective food trucks and restaurants.
Highlighting the healing properties of food, Kelly Watkins of Juby True juice bar discussed the holistic benefits of juicing, while chef Payton Curry of Brat Haus delivered his case for “weediatrics,” or the medicinal use of cannabis.
Showing there are many ways that food can sustain a community, Dr. George Brooks, Jr. detailed his initiative to eliminate food deserts in the valley through aquaponics, a farming method that combines raising fish with the growing of plants in water. Johnny Garippa shared the fruits of his labor with Hope House Farms, an urban farming program in downtown Phoenix that teaches youth about farming, food and leadership.
And to wash it all down, Chuck Noll, master of fine beer for Crescent Crown distributors and certified cicerone, took us down the path of his discovery of and love for craft beers.
After an hour of talking about the many ways food permeates Phoenix’s culture, attendees were able to sample some of the goods at FED after TED. This portion of the evening featured a collection of the city’s best restaurants offering samples of their favorite creations, paired with local and regional craft beers.
The selections ranged from comfort foods to more adventurous fare, but all equally delicious. Some of the offerings included ICON Lounge’s braised lamb tongue tacos paired with New Belgium’s Tour de Fall pale ale, Squid Ink’s seared Japanese scallops paired with San Tan Brewing’s SunSpot Golden Ale, Short Leash’s brat sliders and mini doughnuts paired with San Tan’s Devil’s Ale and Kincaid’s teriyaki tenderloins paired with New Belgium’s Fat Tire amber ale.
With full bellies, hearts and minds, the feeling of inspiration and pride in their city was palpable for attendees. It was clear that Phoenix is a place where great ideas are planted, cultivated and sustained.
Kevin Rille and the Evans Churchill community believe in the importance of amplifying these ideas. Says Rille, “It’s doing cool stuff in a simple way. A lot of the national news about Phoenix is really negative, really terrible, but there’s a lot of cool stuff going on. It’s fun to see all these people engaged and to celebrate that.”
With the successful turnout and the buzz surrounding the event, Rille is hopeful it can become a more regular occurrence: “It was cool to see people excited about it even before we did the advertising. People were engaged. Hopefully we can build this into something we do more often.”
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
7th Avenue Streetscape – Call to Literary Arts Teaching Artists
The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture is seeking two (2) experienced and accomplished Literary Arts Teaching Artists to work with a classroom of youth to write poems that broaden public thinking about reuse, recycling and a greener environment. The poems will be featured as part of an annually-changing outdoor exhibition of poetry and art at 7th Avenue and West Glenrosa Street.
Literary Arts Teaching Artists will lead 6-8 workshops with students (ages 10-18) to create poems that will be read at a culminating community event and exhibition at the Public Art Program’s 7th Avenue site of changing art and poetry panels. Literary Arts Teaching Artists chosen for this project will be expected to:
- Work with the special recycling initiatives of the City of Phoenix Public Works Department to develop a project curriculum.
- Teach creative writing and build mentoring relationships with young people.
- Develop poems that feature student writing on the topic of recycling and a greener environment.
- Select poems to include in the art panels displayed at the 7th avenue site.
- Participate in a community poetry reading of works created during the project.
- Use assessment and evaluation tools given to document impact of residency.
Selected works will be enlarged and displayed on three double-sided translucent Lexan panels at the project site. A graphic designer will be hired to design the layout of each poem and panel. The Office of Arts and Culture will purchase reproduction rights, not the original works created through this project. The city will retain rights to reproduce the art and poetry on the Lexan panels and use them for promotional and educational purposes.
The Office of Arts and Culture encourages applicants to visit the site at Seventh Avenue and West Glenrosa Street to view the current art panels. A project description is also available online at https://www.phoenix.gov/arts/public-art-program/public-art-tours/7th-avenue-streetscape.
There will be a presubmittal meeting held on September 11, 2014 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Burton Barr Library auditorium, 1st floor, 1221 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85004.
To learn more about this project please go to www.phoenix.gov/solicitations/93. For more information about this project please contact Jeanine Garcia, Public Art Project Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org, 602-534-5084. Go towww.phoenix.gov/arts to learn more about the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, or call 602-262-4637.
Image courtesy of the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture.