After a week of mild (well, for September in Phoenix) temperatures, the mercury soared yet again just in time for the Grand Avenue Festival. Phoenix’s notoriously anti-conformist diagonal roadway, however, proved to be a worthy draw for thousands who braved the heat. From the Trunk Space all the way down Jordre Studio, the day was a scorching success. The lure of free snowcones probably helped, too.
As a group of about 25 people congregated on the grounds of the Tilt Gallery at 9:30 a.m., it was already 102º, but that didn’t stop them from crisscrossing Grand Avenue for an hour-and-a-half, learning about adaptive reuse processes in several key buildings that line the avenue.
The leisurely adaptive reuse tours slowly snaked northwest along Grand, popping in and out of buildings erected from the early 1900s to the 1950s — structures that were once groceries and mechanic garages that now house artists, office spaces and cafés. Three separate tours throughout the morning hours accommodated a total of 80-some people, each learning a bit about Grand’s storied past. At Jordre Studio, painter Kyle Jordre openly told attendees to head into his living quarters in back of his studio to see his “cute ruby red” (his words, not ours) bathroom. Up the street at Paisley Town, listeners heard tales of the colorful cottages moving from Papago Park to 17th Avenue to their final spot in the quaint courtyard.
As the morning rolled into the afternoon, most galleries and eateries were reporting strong foot traffic, often first-time Grand Avenue visitors. By late afternoon, side streets along Grand were lined with cars and bikes chained to fence posts. More than a few houses nearby were enjoying raucous parties, clearly welcoming the attention on the normally quiet avenues.
Music could be heard rounding nearly every corner. On the rooftop of the Loft, bands such as Bolt and Haunted Cologne rocked patrons sitting outside Sapna Café (which, by the way, had long wait times the entire evening). The PHiX hosted two stages: raucous indie bands inside the cavernous space, and the more subdued River Jones PRESENTS! stage just to the north of the building. A makeshift stage popped up in a lot next to Jordre Studio, while the Paisley Violin hosted tunes for 12 hours straight.
At the Bragg’s Pie building, a packed house came to see “trashy” art on display, and stayed into the evening hours for the recycled wearables and local boutique fashion shows.
It’s tough to say just how many people were on Lower Grand throughout the day, but the first Grand Avenue Festival was an undoubted success. We have something to build on for next fall’s festivities — Grand has once again proven that it is a relevant, important and constantly budding cultural landscape in Phoenix.