Photo by Christina O'Haver.

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.