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Opinion: Why Artlink Should Let Go of Art Detour

The following op ed is being posted here for information only and does not represent an endorsement by the Downtown voices Coalition.

[Source: Claire Lawton, Phoenix New Times’ Jackalope Ranch]

Art Detour 23: Why Artlink Should Let Go of Its Own Event … and Itself

In an effort not to smash the piñata or prematurely blow out the birthday candles, I waited until Artlink‘s 22nd birthday was officially over to say it:

It’s time to go.

Art Detour's still on for the Third weekend of March, sans trolleys. Photo Credit: Artlink

By go, I mean disband, fizzle out, cut the losses. Take your much-deserved bows on your way out the door, Artlink — recognize that you’ve served a purpose in the local arts community and brought a large number of downtown galleries into the spotlight.
And face the fact that you’re no longer needed.

It’s a good thing. Phoenix is lucky (yes, lucky) to have the arts community that it does –Roosevelt RowGrand Avenue and the Melrose District, to name the largest three, strongly support their galleries and are working together to connect their audiences (hopefully by staying open during normal business hours), and to bridge the small distance gaps between each other.

This partnership was never more obvious than at an arts community meeting over the weekend to discuss and game plan for Artlink’s pay-to-play Art Detour, which is NOT this weekend.

Art Detour works like this: Galleries pay Artlink $100 and in exchange are included in official Detour marketing and advertising. This fee used to include shuttle services between galleries and placement on a fancy map, but Artlink President Sloane Burwell says there will be no trolleys this year and representative Mike Oleskow says the map will depend on time and resources (read: unlikely).

Um, so what are galleries getting for $100? And just what is Artlink doing to earn it? The truth is that the organization simply isn’t needed any longer.

Blame the bad economy or simply maturation, but “rogue” is in, and galleries throughout Phoenix have begun to participate in the event without paying – they simply create facebook events, pass out fliers, and open their doors with art on the wall for a weekend. Gallery owners have even agreed to use their own Detour artwork to promote the upcoming event and are using uniform yellow balloons to indicate participation instead of relying on a map.

Burwell says Detour is like First Friday, in that galleries host art openings, and unlike First Friday in that it’s meant to introduce people from all over the state to different galleries during the day, for a whole weekend.
OK. But one of the biggest things Art Detour had going for it (along with maps and trolleys) was the fact that people knew to expect it on the first weekend of March. Now that’s gone, too.

This year, Artlink decided to change the dates of Detour from the traditional first weekend of March to the third weekend. Seems like a small enough change, but if you’ve been in this city for long enough, you’ll know change is hard to make and the new dates have regular Detour attendees and artists alike confused (just see the slew of events posted for this weekend that still read “Detour Opening!”).

Art Detour is one of Artlink’s main functions, though Burwell insists that the nonprofit is looking to expand in education efforts. And Art Detour is a great idea, which is why it’s been around for such a long time. But in the meantime, Artlink has changed — membership numbers have dwindled, they no longer coordinate shuttles for detour or First Friday, and the only maps they provide are now printed in the Downtown Journal.

And as Artlink has evolved (or devolved, really) the Phoenix art scene has grown up too, and what it doesn’t need anymore is a supervisor.

It’s Artlink’s downtown/central Phoenix Art Detour #22, March 6-7

[Source: Rebecca Clark, Arizona Republic] — This Saturday and Sunday, about 15,000 people from across the Valley are expected to experience Phoenix’s art scene when they take part in the self-guided art walk and studio tour during the 22nd annual Art Detour hosted by Artlink.  “We have such amazing artists that are now producing art in the Phoenix area, some of which are now receiving national and international attention,” said David Appleby, an Artlink spokesman.

Jane Reddin, owner of Practical Art, on Central Avenue, has been a part of Artlink’s Detour since the first in 1989.  Once a volunteer guide for the event, she has seen how it has expanded across central Phoenix.   “Art Detour highlights that we have this extensive (arts) community that is all working together.  It’s not just focused in one area.  It’s not just Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue, or Seventh Avenue/Melrose.  It’s all of those things and more,” said Reddin.

More than 100 artists and 60 galleries are expected to participate this year.  A free shuttle will run through the weekend stopping at galleries along Roosevelt Row, the Melrose District, and the Grand Avenue area, and a few satellite locations, originating from the walk’s headquarters at Phoenix Center of the Arts at Third and Moreland streets.

Art Detour is designed to reach a broad audience, and as such, hosts a Kids’ Detour where children can create artwork.  Kids’ Detour begins at Phoenix Center of the Arts where children can create art projects and enjoy story time.  There are also a designated number of kid-friendly art galleries on the art walk where they will stamp “passports” for the children as they pass through and earn a gift bag at the end of the walk.   Some galleries contain adult content; kid-friendly galleries will be marked on the maps that can be picked up at Phoenix Center of the Arts.  [Note: Read the full article at It’s Artlink’s downtown/central Phoenix Art Detour #22, March 6-7.]

Art Detour, park fate on tap for Feb. 10 Grand Avenue Merchants Assoc. meeting

The next Grand Avenue Merchants Association (GAMA) meeting will be held on Wednesday, February 10, 5:30 pm at Moderncat Studio, Bragg’s Pie Factory, 1301 Grand Avenue (enter through the gray hallway door on McKinley). Here’s the agenda:

  • Introductions and Sign-in
  • Review of Minutes for the January 13, 2010 GAMA meeting
  • Request for reimbursement for web and domain expenditures incurred by Kate Benjamin, GAMA Communications Director
  • GAMA Logo, Kate Benjamin, GAMA Communications Director
  • Outdoor Advertising Structure Permit, Adam Baugh from Withey Morris
  • Proposed “Gift and Thrift Boutique Gallery-Studio”
  • Art Detour Plans and Suggestions
  • University Park/GAMA Letter of Support, Beatrice Moore
  • Old Business
  • New Business

Note: GAMA meetings are always the second Wednesdays of the month at 5:30 p.m. and take place at varying locations.  If you would like to be on the GAMA e-mail list, contact Beatrice Moore or Kate Benjamin.

March proclaimed “Phoenix Arts Month”

Every weekend during the month of March, arts events will be hosted in downtown Phoenix and surrounding neighborhoods, along with events, exhibitions, and performances on other days throughout the month.  In recognition of the local arts community and these public festivals, Mayor Phil Gordon has proclaimed March as “Phoenix Arts Month” and invites everyone to attend and celebrate.

  • March 7-8, Art Detour: The city’s First Fridays art walk of local galleries and art spaces organized by Art Link.  Free shuttles run beginning at Phoenix Center for the Arts, and take guests to destinations throughout downtown Phoenix.
  • March 7-8, Heard Museum Guild Indian Fair & Market: One of the nation’s most acclaimed gathering of Native American artists. 
  • March 12-15, West of Western Culinary Festival: Celebrating Arizona’s chefs and culinary arts at the Phoenix Art Museum
  • March 15, Phoenix Art Museum: Spring exhibition “In Contemporary Rhythm” opens.
  • March 21-22, Valley Fever Art Festival: Phoenix’s newest festival celebrating visual and performing arts, including music, dance, poetry, theater, street painting, and more at Heritage Square.
  • March 28-29, Phoenix Fringe Festival: Innovative, experimental and provocative theater by local, national, and international artists.

For a full calendar of events during the month of March, click here.

“Icons of Phoenix” premieres March 6


Local artist Jason Hill will premiere “Icons of Phoenix,” his latest series of handcrafted prints during Art Detour in March at Practical Art in Phoenix.  View Jason Hill’s new hand-printed silkscreen editions of iconic architectural landmarks in Phoenix, including Arcosanti, Taliesin West, Luhrs Tower, Westward Ho, Security Building, Rosson House, Hanny’s, Phoenix Towers, and the Phoenix Financial Center. Each image will be available in signed & numbered editions of five, printed with pearlescent pigments on 21″ x 17″ 80 lb. Neenah Environment paper.

A reception for the artist will be held Friday, March 6, 2009, beginning at 7 p.m. Refreshments will be served.  The event is free and open to the public.  No RSVPs are necessary.  The exhibition will continue until March 31.  Practical Art is located at 5070 N. Central Avenue in Phoenix, just a block and a half north of Camelback. During this show, Practical Art will be a stop on the annual Art Detour route, March 6 -8, 2009, sponsored by ArtLink.

Invite a non-Phoenician to Art Detour, March 8-9

Art Link, Inc., is one of the oldest artist-run, all volunteer arts organizations in downtown Phoenix.  Since 1989, it has organized Phoenix’s biggest annual artwalk, Art Detour.  This year’s facts and figures:

  • What: Free self-guided tour of 60 downtown Phoenix galleries and studios.
  • When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 8, and Noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, March 9.
  • Where: Free shuttles will run three routes during event hours.  The hub is Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave.  Maps available at participating art spaces.

In 1994, Art Link created First Friday, which has grown to become the largest monthly artwalk in the U.S.  With dozens of arts venues open free to the public each month, Art Link’s First Friday succeeds in bringing people back to downtown Phoenix.

Downtown arts thrive in shadow of potential development

Jefferson Todd Photography,[Source: Kerry Lengel, Arizona Republic] — In 1989, Phoenix looked more like an urban wasteland than the beating heart of a growing metropolis.  Back then, Art Detour was all too apt a name for a trek into downtown to visit galleries and studios.  An Arizona Republic report called the five-hour self-guided tour, with 18 stops, an “unusual scene”: “Women in sun hats and men in walking shorts ambled along usually empty city streets. Some said they hadn’t been downtown for years.”

Next weekend, the non-profit Artlink Inc. hosts its 20th annual event in a very different city — although the Detour tag still fits, thanks to a proliferation of construction zones ranging from high-rise hotels to light rail.  The current building boom is the latest stage in a two-decade-long process of revitalization, one that the art community has nurtured and simultaneously has been threatened by.  The pattern is familiar: Artists move into blighted urban areas to rent affordable spaces where they can live, create, and show their work.  The art attracts visitors, who in turn attract cafes and other small businesses. Property values rise, developers take notice, and soon the artists are priced out of a community they helped create.

It’s a perennial paradox, but it’s one that gallery owners and public officials are working to reconcile as they make plans for a diverse downtown where art has a permanent place.  “We have the best relationship now than we’ve had in the past 20 years with the city of Phoenix,” says artist and activist Beatrice Moore, who owns a studio on Grand Avenue and rents several spaces to other artists.

No one would know better.  Moore organized the first Art Detour in March 1989 as a coming-out party for the budding art scene in the warehouse district.  A month later she was spearheading a protest of city plans to develop a basketball arena that would level her studio on South Second Street, as well as Madison Studios, home to 10 art spaces.  She lost that fight to the future home of the Phoenix Suns, America West Arena (now renamed after US Airways).  After she set up shop farther west, real-estate speculation in the district persuaded her to move again in the mid-’90s, this time to Grand.  There she repeated her role as pioneer of urban revitalization. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]