One of the best things about Phoenix is our local art scene. Phoenix is full of talented, bright, passionate and creative people; those who disagree are looking in the wrong places. Right now the place to see some of the best of what Phoenix has to offer is on display at 26 Blocks, an exhibit at After Hours Gallery.
I love the idea behind this exhibit: 26 Phoenix photographers and 26 Phoenix writers were paired up and sent to 26 random city blocks in Downtown Phoenix and asked to photograph and write specifically about that block. Some had much more to work with, like old houses or buildings, while some of the artists had nothing more than dirt and weeds. The creativity that came out of this assignment and the resulting photographs and stories is truly amazing.
The main theme I saw throughout can be summed up in one word: potential. More so than any other city, Phoenix is still a place where a person has the potential to be and do anything — a city that still has the potential to define its own destiny. When my friends from other cities antagonize Phoenix, I take it personally. Their condescending attitudes frustrate me because they don’t see “my” Phoenix, and they don’t see the potential and possibilities. 26 Blocks helps deconstruct those false assumptions and will inspire Phoenicians who may not be able to see the beauty that exists here, even in vacant dirt lots.
One writer interviewed a parking meter, and I liked the photo that went with it. I was moved to tears (really) by a story written from the perspective of one of the city blocks itself, telling us about its life and history the way a grandparent might tell a story to a grandchild.
I felt proud to be a Phoenician. I left the gallery with new perspectives and feeling recharged and inspired, more dedicated to making Phoenix the best city it can be. That’s the power of creative thinking and good art, and Phoenix offers some of the best.
26 Blocks will be on display through the rest of the year at various Valley locations. After Hours Gallery is located at 116 W. McDowell Rd. in Willo (light rail station at Central/McDowell) — 602.710.2398.
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!
Like many Phoenicians, Alison and Matthew King didn’t fully realize what treasures their hometown possessed until they left the Valley to attend Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. While in New York, their education submerged them in the art and architecture of the city, and mid-century modern design through such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art. When they returned to Phoenix in 1999, not only did they come home to a city that had changed dramatically during their absence through much of the 1990s, but they also returned with an enhanced appreciation for the architectural heritage of the Valley.
According to Alison, “Our body of commercial, religious, civic, educational and residential architecture rivals that of any large modern city in the world.” Alas, much of this heritage is spread throughout the Valley, and often hidden through veils of stucco and decades of neglect. As a result, the couple engaged on aof sorts, tracking down significant houses and buildings, oftentimes based on nothing more than a rumor or a hunch.
When the Kings first arrived back in Phoenix, the only online outlet for mid-century enthusiasts was a small but active discussion board hosted by Dwell magazine. This board initially enabled Alison and Matthew to connect with other mid-century modern enthusiasts in the Valley. Being an early Web enthusiast, Alison started an online inventory of the research and photographs collected during these scavenger hunts. Soon, people started discovering the site, and the Modern Phoenix community found a new home. The site, ModernPhoenix.net, launched in 2003.
The inaugural home tour took place in 2005 to give this growing community of mid-century enthusiasts an interactive view into restored mid-century homes. It was a small affair, with about 100 people visiting five houses in the same block in Ralph Haver’s Windemere neighborhood. The tour was inspired by discussion on the nascent Modern Phoenix discussion board, and the generosity of Shawn and Tiffany Danley, who offered to open their home to visitors even though they were still in the middle of renovations.
The second tour, in 2006, was held in Paradise Gardens. It was an early turning point for Modern Phoenix. Lesley Oliver, the Marketing & Public Relations Manager for the Scottsdale Museum of Modern Art (SMoCA), attended this tour and was “blown away” at the level of effort and dedication put forth by the Kings. Lesley “couldn’t keep her mouth shut about the tour and sang every praise imaginable for Alison and Matthew.” Her enthusiasm soon convinced SMoCA’s curators that the home tour was a perfect fit for the museum, given its focus on architecture and design. SMoCA came on board as an event partner for the third tour. The museum has been a partner ever since, providing space for the expo and lectures, as well as coordinating ticket sales.
This year, Modern Phoenix is returning to Paradise Valley for its sixth annual tour on April 11. In the intervening years, the home tour has grown to 700 participants and a dozen homes. It has become a nationally recognized tour, with people traveling from across the U.S. to take part.
In addition, there is free a Modern Phoenix Expo on April 10. This full-fledged exposition features locally owned businesses that cater to the modern aesthetic and a roster of prominent speakers discussing the Valley’s endangered pool of world-class mid-century modern architecture. Alison will speak on the work of architectural partners Ralph Haver and Jimmie Nunn. Ned Sawyer, a contemporary of Al Beadle, will speak about his apprenticeship under Beadle and his own modernist architecture since. David Tyda of EATERAZ (as well as Desert Living magazine) will host his annual panel of contemporary architects and designers working in the modernist spirit, and historian and Downtown denizen Donna Reiner will share her extensive research and imagery documenting Phoenix’s impressive collection of modern-era bank architecture.
Perhaps most important, the home tour celebrates community. Alison explains:
“What really keeps me going is the opportunity to tour amazing homes and meet remarkable people who get it. When I see happy faces on our annual tour day, it fills me with such satisfaction that the appreciation is growing. Our people are doers, not lookers. I know that the ripple effect will catalyze change for the better. We have seen change magnify the last few years and many attribute it to the activism they’ve encountered on ModernPhoenix.net.”
Yes, the home tour and expo take place outside even the most generous definition of Downtown Phoenix. However, these events are of interest to DPJ readers because this community — like our readership — is based on far more than geography. It extends to all people interested in preserving the history and architecture of our recent past, much of which is included in and around Downtown.
If you would like to experience this year’s tour, you need to act fast. The tour sells out early each year — a testament to the passion of the Modern Phoenix community. At the time of publishing, there are less than 200 tickets remaining. These will go quick! If you can’t get tickets to the tour, you can always attend the expo or one of the many related events listed on the Modern Phoenix week itinerary.
For more information on the Modern Phoenix Home Tour or ModernPhoenix.net, please contact Alison King by email or at 602.923.9719.
Pictured below are some of the homes featured in this year’s tour.