DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
Networking reception and ribbon cutting ceremony in celebration of the recently completed Phase 1 of the Roosevelt Road public art and streetscape improvement project in the Evans Churchill Neighborhood of the Roosevelt Row Arts District in Downtown Phoenix.
Representatives from the city of Phoenix will gather with community members to celebrate the recently completed pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly improvements on East Roosevelt Street. The Roosevelt Street Improvement Project started as part of a community-driven effort to enhance the pedestrian environment in the heart of the Roosevelt Arts District.
The project demonstrates the city’s shift to create “complete streets” that are designed to enable safe access for all users; including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.
East of Central Avenue, the Roosevelt Street corridor was vastly improved through the addition of bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks on the north side of the street, wheelchair-accessible sidewalk ramps, new curbs and gutters, curb extensions at intersections to narrow the pedestrian crossing distance, energy efficient LED street lights, shade trees, decorative planters and tree grates, a new asphalt overlay and roadway striping.
Additionally, the triangle between Third and Fourth streets was significantly upgraded to create a unique downtown gathering space for area visitors and residents to enjoy. The newly transformed space features the art piece “Shadow Play” by Meejin Yoon, a solar-powered shade structure that lights up at night created and includes decorative seating benches, and new landscaping.
The second phase of Roosevelt Street improvements will span Fourth to Seventh streets, and is currently under design. The project entails similar improvements. Construction for phase two is anticipated to begin later this summer.
WHEN: Wednesday, July 8
Reception: 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Ceremony: 8:00 p.m.
WHERE: Roosevelt Triangle – between Third and Fourth streets
Mayor Greg Stanton
Councilman Bill Gates, District 3
Councilman Michael Nowakowski, District 7
Representatives from the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture and Street Transportation Department
Local community representatives
DPJ’s Wire series delivers news and information straight from the source without translation.
“Ground Cover,” a public art project by Arizona artist Ann Morton (pictured right) will be installed Friday, Dec. 6, and dedicated at 9 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at a vacant lot at First and McKinley streets in downtown Phoenix.
The project temporarily will beautify a vacant lot in downtown Phoenix and provide 300 handmade blankets for homeless individuals. Mayor Greg Stanton and District 7 Councilman Michael Nowakowski will speak at the Saturday morning dedication.
The project will be located and displayed for two days. Created by Phoenix artist Ann Morton with the help of blanket makers – affectionately called “blanketeers” – from 22 states and two Canadian provinces, the 300 finished blankets will be assembled into a 116-foot-by-50-foot “ground cover” featuring a colossal image of lush desert blooms. Each of the smaller blankets measures 40 inches by 70 inches. They are made with up to 28 squares, each 10 inches by 10 inches, which serve as “pixels” of the overall image (see the rendering below).
Crews of volunteers will work with Morton to assemble the monumental blanket at the vacant lot on Dec. 6. The blanket will remain on view until 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 7. After the two-day installation, the large blanket will be disassembled into smaller ones and given to agencies that serve homeless people in the city.
The “Ground Cover” public art project was commissioned by the city of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture Public Art Program. It is supported in part by an “Our Town” grant from the National Endowment for the Arts as part of “Cultural Connections” series of temporary artworks sponsored by the city of Phoenix, the ASU Art Museum and Roosevelt Row CDC. The project is also a part of Mayor Stanton’s PHXRenews initiative to activate vacant lots and spaces in Phoenix in conjunction with Keep Phoenix Beautiful.
Images provided by City of Phoenix
It happened again — another announcement in my inbox about a show where artists explore the concept of space or place.
Last week there was one for a panel discussion, one for a workshop and one for an international symposium. Then today, I received an announcement for A Space Called Public that includes “diverse works by twelve artists from different countries with the aim of generating a new conversation about the concept of public space today” that takes place in Munich. I also found one called the Home Base Project: a site-specific residency in Berlin that explores the notion of home and even has an aptly named “Nomadic Residency” that takes place in different locations around the globe every year. One thing about these events is that they never seem to happen in the same place twice.
All of the these events and shows have us scurrying around to different locations in order to learn about a sense of place. We end up having to dislocate ourselves in order to figure out where we are. I begin to wonder why this is now such a prevalent issue with contemporary artists.
Within the globalized, internet-ed world, it is no longer really necessary for artists to uproot themselves and permanently move to a cultural center. It could definitely help to be entrenched in an active community but plenty of artists find it sufficient to stay at their home base to network themselves and their work out into the world. In order to do this, many find themselves applying for artist residencies which have increasingly become the method in which we can temporarily connect with other artists, institutions, critics, curators, and writers while having the time to concentrate on a solid body of work.
As we uproot ourselves for a short while to become familiar with foreign territory and accustomed to a new way of doing things, it’s no wonder we might begin to think about where the hell we are. What is “home” after all? Who is your “community?” How does a person feel comfort in a new place and then become capable of making a new, meaningful work? The first thing that might come to mind is “Where am I?” as well as “Who am I in this space?”.
Even for those who stay put and apply to calls for work increasingly find projects and shows questioning our concept of space. Take the City of Phoenix’s recent call for Cultural Connections (made possible through an Our Town grant from the NEA). This is a project intended to connect our underutilized spaces and “revitalize” them through a series of art pieces. The IN FLUX project that began in 2010 (which has now joined forces with other Valley cities) has worked towards reinvigorating vacant spaces and storefronts while providing programming that connects people to them. Both of these projects focus our attention on how the spaces that we regularly traverse might have meaning to us. They attempt to tie us into our environment.
Why do we feel so lost?
The apparent availability of everywhere via the internet and the ability for more people around the globe to access the internet creates a flattened illusion of place accessibility. We can see more and be in touch with more people, as well as the perspective of their work, so that it no longer feels satisfactory to stay in one place. With the whole world out there, it seems provincial and limited to want to become established in one spot. Additionally, artist residencies and curators from around the world have tapped into this desire for artists to expand their scope and be involved in the larger network that becomes the art world. The sacrifice just might be not knowing where you are when you wake up in the morning.
Naturally, it seems the dialog and the work itself might turn to thinking about the very fundamental question of where we are. While these shows, discussions and symposiums aptly question how we look at the spaces we occupy, they also crave for us to come from different perspectives and locations — a confusing and ironic twist. We must be diverse and adaptable enough to remove ourselves from what we might consider to be our “place” in order to step back and assess it for others.
For the artists of Phoenix, this stepping back and forth — moving away for a residency and coming back after three months — might actually help with the identity crisis this city has been accused of having. Or, all this running around and flying to different locations might just give us perpetual jet lag and a hazy sense that this place is like that place. Or, it’s very possible that all these discussions and exhibits might just be pushing at the sense that we’re not really sure what a “place” is anymore.
Hugo Medina is a force to be reckoned with; he’s not just a talented muralist and the winner of the Public Art Award category in the newly announced Mayor’s Arts Awards, he’s someone who can rally a community and make things happen.
In this case, that “something” is an extraordinary public mural that will emerge over this weekend at the inaugural Phoenix Festival of the Arts. The mural will be extraordinary in both size and scope and it took a dynamo like Medina to make it all work.
Using Facebook, Medina put out a call to artists to participate in the project. “I wanted a diverse group of artists to get involved,” said Hugo. “Everything from accomplished muralists, to fine artists, students, graffiti artists, and novice painters.” Over 80 artists responded to his call.
Medina’s concept created a simple but elegant way to bring artists into contact with each other and the public. Each of the 80 artists will have a 4’ X 8’ wooden panel (donated to the festival by Home Depot) to make their own. In between each artist panel will be a blank panel where the community will be invited to participate. The two artists working on either side of the blank panel will collaborate on an idea for the community to realize.
This allows for each artist to make their own work, but also gives artists who may have never met previously the chance to work together. The only restriction on the work is that it not be negative and that it is in some way focused on Downtown Phoenix. By placing the blank community panels between the two artist panels, Medina is hoping that a natural flow will develop from one panel to the next.
The mural will be completed during the three-day festival and when done, will consist of 160 four-foot high panels, stretching for 1,280 feet. There will be several mural stations throughout the festival where the public can watch the artists work, or grab a brush and participate. Everyone is invited to lend a hand and make their mark, including kids.
Bring the whole family down to Hance Park this weekend to the Phoenix Festival of the Arts to make your mark on this unique public art project that is bringing artists and the public together to create something everyone can be proud of and enjoy.
“Come Monday morning, I’ll be working with the City of Phoenix to pack up the panels and move them to the corner of Central and Indian School,” said Medina. This is the new PHX Renews site at Indian School Road and Central Avenue; a large empty space that has been activated into temporary multi-use public space. “I’ll curate the placing of the panels around the park,” he continued. “Some will be placed along the fence to make them visible from the street, and others will be scattered along the paths within the fenced space.” The panels will remain at the site for the next three years.
If you go:
Event: Community Mural at Phoenix Festival of the Arts
When: Friday, Dec 7 through Sunday, Dec 9
Times: Friday 2 to 9 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
What’s required: Your creativity. Paint, brushes and wood panel canvasses will be provided.
There are a lot of things out there in the world. There are a lot of spaces. Some of those spaces come very neatly constructed in organized grids with obvious purposes and expectations. They come provided to us by the organizers and planners of our city. Some other spaces are a bit looser—falling into a bit of chaos and uncertainty. In this city, they may be the vacant lots, the alleys or that little bit of land between the sidewalk and the place you want to get to. It could be the space in front of an office building or a traffic median or it could even be the area where a group of undesirable-looking people are standing. What is there to do with these unadorned, underutilized spaces?
To hem in the chaos of this nameless, frightening void enters the potential for a public art piece. A call is produced. A panel is convened. Submissions are gathered and submitted. Finalists are selected. Committees drink coffee and consider the possibilities. Suddenly, the artist has become a part of creating a sense of order and experience that is being dictated and organized by a system whose purpose is to manage the populace. The artist becomes part of generating a landscape or panorama and perhaps gives them an opportunity for their work to be seen by more people.
In the pre-film era, people came to experience moving panoramas painted onto long scrolls that illustrated historic scenes or faraway places. Moving panoramas provided an escape, much like film. Public art replaces the mundane with a more spectacular vision. Both instances fill a void with a more beautified version of what was once there and create a pleasant image on the horizon.
So, what’s wrong with things being nice? More appropriately the question might be, what’s wrong with what was once there? An artist will jump at the opportunity to conduct an ambitious project with financial support. It is the philosophy behind adorning and filling our world that is interesting. An artist, entering into a space and identifying an appropriate location of meaning is different than an institution identifying an unattractive segment of their overall urban design and its need for adornment.
Overall, we enjoy a more human-constructed beautified alternative of our landscape. The moving panorama shows us a version of our place that perhaps we’d like it to be. Meanwhile, the concept of beauty is altered from the nuances of our natural landscape, however nameless, undefined and potentially icky it may be, to a worked-over, planned presentation of our place. The vastness of the desert can be kind of scary.
Featured image: Laurie Lundquist’s “Mountain Pass Pedestrian Bridge”
Photos courtesy of the City of Phoenix Office Arts & Culture