Hundreds of area residents walk through the doors of The Parsons Center for Health and Wellness monthly to undergo HIV/AIDS tests, but with its recent decision to participate in First Friday art walks, Facility Manager Barry Wilson also wants the center to be known as a showcase for local artists.

Parsons Center for Health and Wellness

Parsons Center for Health and Wellness

“I want to be that location for local artists only, so that they can get their art seen and be a part of the First Friday Art Walk,” Wilson says.

The current artwork will remain until after Third Friday in September, but then the goal is to change it out each month. The West Gallery now showcases the work of Alex McDonell and Jennifer Hoffman. Works by Dani Fisher and Nicolas Rascona brighten the Parsons Gallery. Also featured is art by John McNamara, a participant in the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS art therapy program.

On First Fridays, the sliding glass doors at 1101 N. Central Ave., Suite 200 — the former Channel 12 News building just north of the Roosevelt and Central light rail stop — will be open from 6-10 p.m. to let the public enjoy the art, music, and informational booths with its community partners. Food trucks will also be on hand. In this way, Wilson hopes to let the community know the wide range of services the center offers to the general public.

Barry Wilson

Barry Wilson, facilities manager at Parsons Center for Health and Wellness. Photo by Jackie Young.

While many may know it as the one-stop shop for the HIV/AIDS community in Phoenix, it also offers public meeting spaces at a variety of reasonable rates, depending on whether an organization is for-profit or not-for-profit. For example, the Big Box Studio on its first floor can accommodate tables for about 200 people. Its Gila River Training Room, arranged with modern classroom-style tables, overhead projector and screen, seats around 40 people.

Recently, the Metropolitan Men’s Chorus made the center its home for rehearsals and events.

Although its main focus since opening in September 2013 has been serving the health and service needs of the HIV/AIDS community through the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS, which marked its 25th anniversary last May, many of its health services are available on a free or sliding fee scale to the wider public, Wilson says.

These services include Carolyn Fuller, a naturopathic physician. As a naturopathic doctor, Fuller explains she has the same basic medical training, but offers patients a longer initial appointment time, giving her more time to detect the causes of a medical problem in a holistic fashion, while offering full prescriptive abilities. Also available to the public are nutritionists and a vitamin and herb shop offering pharmaceutical-grade products.

The light, airy and cheerful spaces at The Parsons Center for Health and Wellness represent a social as well as a health care facility for the many clients of the Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS, many of whom struggle with poverty and social isolation, Wilson says.

Parsons Center 1

The center, which receives federal funding as well as generous private donations, offers educational men’s luncheons and women’s breakfasts for those infected with HIV/AIDS and those affected by it to offer a social outlet and advice from long-term survivors. Services clients receive include access to a special pharmacy, behavioral therapy, nutritional counseling, case management, laboratory services, wellness services (reiki, massage therapy, acupuncture), and food vouchers when appropriate, Wilson says.

Some 13,300 Arizonans are infected with HIV/AIDS, according to the latest available statistics. About 80 percent of those people reside in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Around 500-700 HIV/AIDS tests are performed at the center per month. All tests are free and available to the public.

In a written statement, Laura Mitchell, Executive Director of The Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation said, “The Bob & Renee Parsons Foundation is proud of the space that has been created here at The Parsons Center for Health and Wellness.  It brings organizations together under one roof to collaborate, better serving those who need it most, and it does it in this remarkable and beautiful urban setting.”

Photos courtesy of Parsons Center for Health and Wellness.