Alwun House is home to so many things: bizarre concerts, erotic art shows, stripped-down acoustic performances and so many mediums of art hanging on the walls it could make your head spin. But, its most important quality: It’s all about the community. Just check out the house’s Third Friday show, “Salon des Enfants,” for further proof.
The artists in question are our neighbors. They’re Phoenix Elementary School District students, and their legit talent can’t be denied. The 15th Salon des Enfants event showcases nearly 300 total pieces of art, each priced at $20 (100% of profits go straight to the students), sold right off the walls salon style. All works were created by students from fifth to eighth grades, representing 16 schools in the district and 18 art teachers.
The goals are twofold: Students become involved in the local arts community at an early age (priceless, really, when you think of all those budget cuts affecting school arts programs) and are given the self-confidence to keep learning their craft. The hope is by bringing the young artists to the Alwun House, they can be inspired by their peers to work harder, explore further and create often.
Prizes will be doled out — First, Second, Third and honorable mention winners — but the presentation itself is really what matters. Adding to the festivities, the Capitol band, Kenilworth Choir & Band, Bethune music and Folklorico dancers will be on hand to perform.
The show runs from 4-6 p.m. on March 19 only. Alwun House is located at 1204 E. Roosevelt St. in Garfield — 602.253.7887
What do acting, graphic design and social awareness have in common?
They are three things Downtown Phoenix resident Nina Miller is passionate about and spends most of her time doing.
Miller is an improvisation and main-stage actress who performs at local theaters, a graphic designer in Michael Crow’s office at Arizona State University and a contributor to community projects in the Phoenix area.
“(People) always say do for a living what you did for play when you were a kid,” Miller says. “My three favorite things to do were playing with the typewriter, coloring with crayons and making up stories with my friends. I ended up being a graphic designer and an actor, and I think it makes a lot of sense.”
Miller, who grew up in Minnesota, started acting when she was 15 years old. With no stage experience, she auditioned for and landed the role of Dyslexia, an eccentric secretary, in the comedic murder mystery Death by Chocolate.
In 1995, Miller left Minnesota and headed to ASU, where she decided to pursue a theater degree after experimenting with theatrical set and costume design. When she graduated in 1999, Miller had no desire to leave Arizona. She used her theater degree to work at the mall, but soon realized she needed to find another way to make a living.
“Being an actor in Phoenix for a living is really, really difficult, if not impossible, which is what I learned quickly after graduating,” Miller says. She adds that she wanted to be able to choose her acting projects based on what interested her rather than when her rent was due.
Miller went back to ASU in 2001 to study graphic design and obtained her degree in 2005. That same year, she began working for Crow. Miller has also taught design courses at ASU, and is currently working on her master’s degree in graphic design at the university.
Miller says she has noticed a big change at ASU since she first attended about 15 years ago.
“When I got here, I guess I perceived people not really valuing education as much,” Miller says. “When I went back to school, I was noticing that energy was shifting a little bit.”
Although she does not act for a living, Miller says it is a great hobby to have and she believes it will always be part of her life.
“For a while, I was really thinking that I was walking away from it and rejecting it entirely because it just wasn’t what I was expecting of it,” she says. “But, I think I’ve really embraced the fact that I don’t want to be a star.”
Miller has done main-stage performances at Stray Cat Theatre in Tempe, but says it is a tremendous time commitment. She performs improv at The Torch Theatre, which she says is a little more flexible with her schedule. Improv may be less time consuming, but Miller says it is still a challenge.
“Acting is hard in a totally different way, but improvising makes your brain work,” she says. “It’s like working out for your brain. It’s fantastic.”
Miller also participates in a training program at The Torch Theatre, which she entered into last summer. In the first level, her teachers encouraged her to start performing because of her previous stage experience. She realized she was learning just as much from performing, and began searching for more ways to do so in Phoenix. She is now in the process of starting a Herald-style improv troupe that currently has five members. She hopes to increase that number to about seven or eight.
When Miller isn’t designing or acting, she spends her time getting involved in the community. One of the projects she is involved with is the MADPHX (Making a Dent in Phoenix) podcasts, which she started with a group of people from the Phoenix area.
“All of us were just really concerned about Phoenix, and about what the community is and the direction it’s going,” she says. “Our whole point is, let’s not just complain about Phoenix and what isn’t happening, let’s talk about what is happening and the proactive ways things are changing.” The group tries to meet every other week to record its conversations and has released eight podcasts at press time.
Miller says that whatever activities she decides she wants to do, she’s finding ways to do them in Phoenix.
“Social awareness, design, performance; if I can mash all that up, I’m a pretty happy person.”
From the Arizona Room is a weekly column examining the historic, reuse and infill structures in Downtown Phoenix. The inspiration for this column stems from the ever-expanding resources in Burton Barr Central Library’s Arizona Room (located on the fourth floor). For further information on this and other historic structures in the area, visit the Arizona Room during normal library hours.
1210 N. 5th Ave. in Roosevelt
It’s impossible to miss from several thoroughfares — 3rd, 5th and 7th avenues and I-10, in particular — the massive Neoclassical building teetering on the edge of the former Kenilworth Historic District (now part of the larger Roosevelt Historic District). It is the Kenilworth School, and it has been enriching Downtown elementary students since 1920.
The columned Neoclassical Revival façade of the building is demanding, towering in scope and just plain impressive to see. The front portico features six 35-foot Roman Ionic columns, an entablature with a pediment top proudly proclaiming, KENILWORTH.
Construction of the school began in 1919 using architect Verne Wallingford’s design, heavily influenced by Revival-style lines that were popular in the 1910s and ’20s.
Remarkably, the building is in fantastic condition and still operating as it was in 1920, despite 90 years of children running through its halls. A major renovation occurred in 1981, but perhaps the most remarkable feat is its current location: mere feet away from the walls of I-10. The school was spared from the freeway expansion, which cut through neighboring buildings to the south and through parts of the F.Q. Story neighborhood to the west. The school now has convenient 5th/7th Avenue entrances off the interstate.
One of few A++ schools in the area, Kenilworth has a proud tradition in Roosevelt. Famous alumni include Margaret Hance (namesake to the neighboring park across 5th Avenue) and Barry Goldwater.
Sources: Staging a Comeback — The Arizona Commission on the Arts by Gerald A. Doyle & Associates, P.C.; National Register of Historic Places
Is there a historic property in Downtown Phoenix you’d like to see in From the Arizona Room? Email me at email@example.com with the address and a brief description.
If you’ve never seen Brian Williams outside of watching him host NBC Nightly News, the first thing you should know about him is that he’s very, very funny.
You can watch his funny side on old episodes of Saturday Night Live or The Daily Show, or hear him on Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! Or, you can show up at an awards luncheon where he’s speaking.
In front of a crown of more than 1,000 journalism and business professionals, he was entirely too willing to make a penis joke about Walter Cronkite.
“Walter Cronkite was the first of the Mad Men,” Williams said from the podium, referring to, well you know exactly what show he was referring to. Williams went on to talk about how shirts, and those in any kind of power, only came in white back then. And, that pants were huge.
“Walter’s (pants) came up to his chin. At times, you could see the real Cronkite endowment.”
The crowd lost it. Members of the Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees were present and had been introduced earlier, making Williams’ deadpan even better.
This black-suit-and-tie audience was assembled at the Sheraton Hotel in Downtown Phoenix on Wednesday, November 18 to celebrate Williams receiving the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism.
“This honor that you’ve given me today, all the jokes aside, is the highest honor I’ve recieved above all in my career — I get to have my name mentioned alongside Cronkite, in the same sentence as the man I grew up wanting to be,” Williams said during a more serious moment as he reflected on receiving the award.
Williams had a great admiration for Cronkite, both as a journalist and as a person. He called him incredibly kind, devoted to his craft and the cutest man on God’s green earth, complete with fluffy white hair and bushy eyebrows.
“Professionally, the day he died is the day I lost my North Star,” Williams said. “I learned all I know about the world from Walter Cronkite.”
For all the awards and accolades Williams has received, and considering the 9-million-plus pairs of eyeballs that watch him host the news every night, Williams is a genuinely humble broadcast journalist.
He’s quick to offer that he was just a hard-working kid who got some lucky breaks. He never earned a college degree.
“I insist, and I promise you that I’m the least qualified of the 26 recipients [of the Cronkite award so far],” Williams said. “And, even the next 26 recipients of this award.”
The Cronkite Award has been presented annually by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University since 1984 to journalists who stand out as superstars in their field. Previous recipients include George Will, Helen Thomas, Andy Rooney and Tom Brokaw, whom Williams inherited Nightly News‘ anchor chair from in 2004.
This was the first time the award was given since Cronkite’s passing in July of this year. Cronkite, along with the Endowment Board, would select the recipients each year. Williams is the last whom Cronkite had a hand in choosing.
“Think of that ratio — 26 of us, one Walter Cronkite. The way I see it, that’s they way it should be. More importantly, that’s the way it is,” Williams said, ending his acceptance speech with the same trademark signnoff of the man who Williams said brought him the world.
October 15 is Blog Action Day, and this year’s topic, climate change, got me thinking of how Downtown Phoenix is trying to make a difference. I started making a mental list of all of the innovations in recent years, and kept coming back to one place: ASU’s Downtown campus.
It’s no secret that ASU president Michael Crow has green on the brain, and he has made it the university’s mission to pursue any and all green innovations full throttle. What initiative could be more important smack in the middle of the Sonoran Desert than water conservation? Luckily, ASU is already helping us conserve every day. Just take a look at the collection of new buildings that focus on conservation, preservation and reuse.
Arizona Biomedical Collaborative
A lot of water flows through a building that is more than 85,000 square feet. So, when ASU and U of A drew up plans for this massive biomedical facility, keeping water use to a minimum was high on the list of needed features. Up for LEED designation, the Biomedical Collaborative reduces potable water by 40% with low-flow and dry fixtures. Outside, in the dry desert air, the conservation is even more important. The Biomedical Collaborative utilizes high-efficiency irrigation, along with the use of native and adaptive plants to reduce potable water usage for landscaping by 63%.
Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication/KAET 8 Building
The Cronkite School building has quickly changed the Downtown Phoenix skyline, and it’s trying to change the way we conserve water as well. The building, set to be designated LEED Silver, is designed with the same low-flow and dry fixtures as the Biomedical Collaborative, but it also has a rooftop rainwater retrieval system that stores the rain that falls on the Valley, allowing for reuse within the building at a later time. We don’t get much rain here, so we might as well keep it!
The Downtown Phoenix campus’ dormitories, Taylor Place, may look like a typical high-rise residential unit, but the desert climate was a big factor in the towers’ design. Drought-tolerant plants, watered by a condensate byproduct of the air conditioning system, were planted throughout the grounds. Dual-flush toilets and low-flow fixtures were installed in every restroom. Even the major appliances in Taylor Place are Energy Star approved, conserving both water usage and electricity.
This is just the beginning. The newly finished Nursing and Healthcare Innovation building will soon be up for LEED designation. Civic Space Park, adjacent to ASU, will reach 70% shade coverage upon vegetation maturity. And, you can bet any and all future improvements and new builds by the university will have this same conservation approach in mind.