By now most have heard the news that broke yesterday that Kimber Lanning is stepping down from her helm at Modified Arts, and the indie music that is oh so loved here is going with her (see her statement below). Though it’s certainly not a shock due to her massive commitments elsewhere (Kimber is the closest thing Phoenix has to Superwoman), it is also certainly the end of an era.

Right off the bat, I want to say that I’ll continue to fully support Modified and its new owners, Kim Larkin and Adam Murray, in whatever direction they choose to take. But, I must also say that it’s tremendously sad that Downtown Phoenix (well, the Valley, really) is losing its independent music mecca, whether the space continues to throw one-off local shows or not.

Phoenix has struggled with its music identity for decades now, as evidenced by the sheer number of venues that have come and gone in recent years (off the top of my head: the Nile, Nita’s Hideaway, Long Wongs on Mill, Bash on Ash, the Paper Heart, Onespace, the Mason Jar, Fat Cats, Neckbeards, etc.). Put Modified at or near the top of that list. Over its decade-long run, that little hole-in-the-wall art gallery, creaky floorboards and all, put on some killer shows, and brought in talent from all over the world — much of which has graduated to the likes of major music festivals, theaters and arenas. No one can argue that Modified allowed Phoenix to be on countless tour itineraries. Sure, someone will come along — hopefully in Downtown Phoenix, although there are whispers of an all-ages music renaissance about to crop up once again in Tempe — and open a new space that will one day reclaim the booking prowess that Modified earned over its years of service. But, it won’t happen overnight. And, until then, the independent music scene here is at a serious loss.

From Kimber:
Hello Phoenix,

I think you all know how much I love this town, right? Maybe some of you know me from Stinkweeds, or Modified Arts, or some of my newer friends know me from the work I’m doing with Local First Arizona. Well, I want to talk to you about some upcoming changes that you should know about. It’s important that you hear this from me, and that you know that you can ask me any question you may have at any time.

A brief history of Modified Arts: we opened in January of 1999 as a dedicated art space, providing a place for painters, musicians, actors, dancers, and poets to share their work in an affordable and welcoming environment. As you know, Roosevelt Street has blossomed over the years and is now home to an astonishing array of galleries, shops, and restaurants. I am proud to have been part of what has been nothing less than the complete transformation of a community.

Over the past 10 years, I have changed as well. I am now actively involved in community development, and work extensively on both city and state initiatives that I believe will be for the betterment of us all. Encouraging density and infill, sustainable policies- rather than suburban policies of the 50’s, local procurement, economic development, and entrepreneurship are my top priorities. Many of you who know me know that I have worked hard to walk the line between indie rock shows and city council meetings, between stocking the fridge and public speaking engagements.

It’s time for something to give.

I am pleased to introduce you to Kim Larkin and Adam Murray, a husband and wife team who will be the perfect people to carry on the Modified banner without me. I am overwhelmingly happy to have found a solution to a difficult situation. I will never give up that building, but I didn’t want to place a business in there that wouldn’t actively contribute to the neighborhood, and in particular to Roosevelt Row. Kim and Adam will be able to advance Modified in a way that I am unable to do with my current work load.

Kim’s background is in arts management, and she has already run a gallery of her own in Salt Lake City. Adam is a sound engineer whom some of you may know as a sound guy at Modified now. They have big plans for Modified Arts and I expect you all to get behind them and show support.  Modified Arts will be more of a traditional gallery, though Adam will still be doing shows. However, we must tell you that the big, indie rock shows you’ve come to know and love at Modified will have to find another home. The programming will be changing to better accommodate a gallery, so the slant will be more experimental and progressive.

We will be closing Modified Arts as it exists right now the second weekend in December and re-opening with a new look for Third Friday in January. The stage and green room will be gone, giving way to a cleaner look that will better suit the artwork.

I know some of you will have a hard time with the change but I am asking you to embrace it the best you can and recognize that for almost 11 years we did something no one thought we could do. We ran in independent music venue and art gallery with volunteers from the community and kept the rent at $160 so that bands could play and make some money, and promoters could still bring the small bands and make ends meet. We provided the stepping stones for most of the bands playing at the Rhythm Room today. In fact, some of the bands playing at the Marquee or Cricket Pavilion got their first show in Phoenix at Modified. If you were there for one of those shows, please hold the memory dear.

As a city grows, things change. Be proud of what each of you contributed and be grateful you were there. Looking forward, Modified Arts will be something new to explore and yet familiar. Kim and Adam have promised to keep working with many of the mid-career artists I’ve worked to develop over the years, and I feel the situation could not be better. They will give the website a new look and have lots of plans for better events. I’m sure they will be in touch with many of you in the coming weeks to introduce themselves and to communicate their plans to you directly. You will like them a lot, I promise. Kim and I are collaborating on a show in January (my last, her first) that will document the history of the Phoenix arts scene going all they way back to the early 70’s.

I could talk to you all for days about the ways Modified has changed over the years- some good and some bad. The community has changed, too. I know I have certainly been distracted with all of the policy work I’ve been submerged in, but I will save that discussion for a book one day. Suffice to say I am happy I was able to be a part of it, and I’m happy I found someone to carry it on.

For all of you who were there along the way: thank you. Modified is a shining example of what a community can do when we work together. I look forward to whatever we decide to do next.

Kimber


  • How many people over 21 actually frequent Modified Arts? For years it’s been attracting younger and younger crowds of kids, which is great, but they don’t have much money to spend to be able to support the place.

    What’s stopping bands from starting up regular concerts in any one of the many galleries across downtown? Why not play at Civic Space?

    • Actually, Modified has always attracted those over 21 and beyond. It simply depends on the show. It was all ages for a reason, and was happy to be so. It was volunteer run… the goal was never to make money, but simply to keep it afloat and try to get the artists the most money they possibly could.

      I’m not saying bands won’t be playing elsewhere. But, in order to attract well-known touring bands, it takes a strong booking agent with a nationally known reputation. That will take a while to surface again Downtown. The shows at Civic Space have had varying levels of success. You can’t bank on an outdoor amphitheater-type venue to support independent music, especially when it’s 100º+ half of the time.

  • Emo Phillips

    TRANSLATION: Im cashing out. Thanks for all your energy and input idiots! Peace, Kimber.

    • Russ

      wow, you obviously have never met Kimber.

    • Stephen Chilton

      That is so the opposite from what this is. You think the best financial offer she could get for that building is from a couple who want to do a alternative art gallery?

  • Well, who knows, they are from Salt Lake City. The hot bed of alternative art galleries that it is.