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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.]

First Fridays art walk expands to downtown Phoenix’s Heritage Square

circa1900front

Circa 1900 in downtown Phoenix's Heritage Square.

[Source: Rebecca Clark, Special to the Arizona Republic] — On the nights of the First Fridays art walk, the normally quiet streets of downtown Phoenix are packed with nouveau hippies offering free hugs, Scientology protesters next to Scientology promoters, and street vendors selling everything from aprons to jewelry.  Men and women of all ages, all walks of life and from all over the Valley are drawn in by fire breathers, live bands and, of course, art.  But sometimes, amid the blocks of mayhem near the Roosevelt Row arts and shopping district, the night can seem less about art and more about an “art scene.”

That’s why Artlink, a non-profit downtown Phoenix arts organization, has partnered with the Rosson House Foundation and Phoenix artist Sean Deckert to bring a calmer, quieter, completely art-focused element to First Fridays in Heritage & Science Park, south of the Roosevelt Row area.  “People who come to downtown only for First Fridays get the wrong idea,” said Deckert, who is program coordinator and co-curator of the First Friday expansion to Heritage Square.  “On First Fridays, it is like the state fair has come to town.  There are people selling ice cream cones and T-shirts, and amidst all of that, there is an artist showing and trying to sell his own work.”

That’s why vendors and certain kinds of street performers will not be allowed in the intimate historic space near the Arizona Science Center and Pizzeria Bianco.  Instead there will be an outdoor gallery showing six to 10 artists each month, and Deckert said that number will increase as the area develops a reputation for art.  [Note: Read the full article at First Fridays art walk expands to downtown Phoenix’s Heritage Square.]

ASU students to take tour to see what lies in downtown Phoenix

[Source: Arizona State University] — The City of Phoenix, Downtown Phoenix Partnership, Artlink, and ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus are partnering on a special trolley tour to encourage and engage student leaders to take advantage of the variety of amenities offered in the city’s core.  The tour, which showcases entertainment venues, restaurants, boutiques, and cultural attractions in downtown Phoenix, starts at 5 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 15 at Taylor Place residence hall, 120 E. Taylor Place.  Three trolley cars will pick up approximately 60 community assistants, student engagement supervisors and workers, and residential college peer leaders.  [Note: To read the full press release, click here.]

Phoenix First Friday vendors change products to suit slow economy

In this Cronkite News Service report, vendors at First Friday in downtown Phoenix make changes to their product mix due to the poor economy.

“Icons of Phoenix” premieres March 6

iconsofphoenix

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.

3 must-see Phoenix galleries on First Friday, Nov. 7

[Source: Richard Ruelas, Arizona Republic] — Check out this guide to downtown Phoenix’s First Friday art scene:

The Alwun House.   This downtown-arts pioneer opened in 1971, 18 years before the first Art Detour (big brother to First Fridays).  A mile or so east of Roosevelt Row, it’s an unabashedly hippieish gallery in a historical house, complete with outdoor stages for live entertainment as well as resident pets (doves, rabbits and a sweetheart of a Doberman). Details: The Alwun House, 1204 E. Roosevelt St., 602-253-7887, website.

Bentley Projects.  This cavernous brick building once was a linen laundry, and the owners didn’t plaster over that historical character in creating this high-end gallery packed with large-scale works by nationally known artists.  This isn’t for bargain shoppers; instead, it’s the kind of gallery that rich collectors fly out to in order to buy pieces priced in the five- to six-figure range. However, it’s a friendly place with enough diverse, quality work to compare favorably with an art museum. Call first to make sure it’s open. Details: Bentley Projects, 215 E. Grant St., 602-340-9200, website.

Garfield Galleria.  You can spend an entire evening and not see everything at this single building bursting with more than two dozen galleries and studios.  This is real something-for-everyone territory, whether you’re looking for fine art, homey crafts, student work, risque alternative art or flashy jewelry.  Details: Garfield Galleria, 316 W. McDowell Road, 602-349-3049, website.

[Editor’s Note: Here’s one more!  “Lost Vegas: Color Photography 1985-2007 by Steve Weiss/Candid Landscapes” opens First Friday, 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.  Details: The Lodge, 1231 SW Grand Ave. (corner 13th Ave. and Grand), 602-265-9524, website.]

The city of Phoenix runs free shuttles that stop at gallery areas, including Grand Avenue and Roosevelt Row.  If you’re not a good urban parker or just don’t want the hassle of finding a street spot, drop your car off at Burton Barr Central Library, 1221 N. Central Ave., and hop onboard.  Once you explore one area, wave down a shuttle to take you back to the library. Then hop on a different shuttle to head to another area.  For a shuttle map and more information about First Fridays, call 602-256-7539 or visit their website.

Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row named one of nation’s “best secret neighborhoods”

[Source: Catrina Knoebl, Roosevelt Action Association] — Travel and Leisure Magazine recently picked Roosevelt Row as one of the best secret neighborhoods in the country.  And its signature Block Party is a can’t miss, with artists and vendors booths on Garfield Street between Fourth and Sixth streets.  Our own Phoenix New Times named it the Best Block Party.  

Roosevelt Row is home to visual and performing art spaces such as Modified arts, eye lounge, MADE Art Boutique, and Red Dog Gallery; iconic F&B hotspots Fate, Carly’s, Roosevelt Tavern, Portland’s and Lost Leaf; plus shopping destinations Spoken and Bunky Boutique.  Just to name a few.

And tonight, Friday, October 3, is First Friday.  Artlink’s art walk/ride spans several galleries and art spaces throughout the area, and most are open (at least) from 6 to 10 p.m. so there is plenty of time to check out some of the old and new, including those all in a Row.  If there was ever a day — night! — to explore your core, this is it.  Click here for more.

Downtown Phoenix First Friday is Sept. 5

The next First Friday event in downtown Phoenix is coming up, yes you guessed it, on Friday, September 5.  One First Friday venue, the Phoenix Art Museum at the corner of Central and McDowell, encourages visitors to unlock their inner Elvis for a preview of “One for All & All for One: The Jumpsuit.”  Enjoy live music from two of the Valley’s top bands and other surprises.  Free admission from 6 to 10 p.m.

Free shuttle transportation to and from other First Friday venues is available throughout the evening.

“Town & gown” work together to benefit ASU Downtown Phoenix students

A two-year effort to create access from local downtown businesses and cultural interests to ASU’s downtown Phoenix campus achieved its first positive step on Wednesday, August 13.  A team of volunteers and business owners spent three hours at Roosevelt Commons at a “stuffing party” to make over 1,500 “Welcome Bags” of information and special savings for faculty, staff, and incoming ASU downtown campus dorm residents and commuting students.

The effort was a culmination of a meeting with ASU Downtown’s Associate Dean of the College of Public Programs Deb Gullett; Local First Arizona Executive Director Kimber Lanning; Grand Avenue business owner Anna Marie Gutierrez; and Downtown Voices Coalition Steering Committee Chair Steve Weiss.  The discussion focused on the limited ability for local business to interact with the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.  The traditional “flier rack” information kiosks and bulletin boards normally found on college campuses have for two years been left out of the downtown campus, and the meeting was held to discuss options.

It was Ms. Gullett who suggested the info bag giveaway, and the three local participants rallied downtown troops to create the overflowing Welcome Bag with Artlink First Friday, Local First Arizona’s Small Wonders brochure, and Roosevelt Row maps as well as fliers for downtown and midtown restaurants, service providers, and entertainments.  Also included among others were cultural centers such as Phoenix Art Museum and Heard Museum and Urban Affairs publication, “You Are Here.”  Bags were obtained by Eric Gudiño, ASU Downtown’s Director of Community Relations/Office of Public Affairs, from both the ASU Bookstore and Downtown Phoenix Partnership.  DPP donated their soon-to-be-replaced “Copper Square” branded bags, and extra packages were filled using Devious Wig’s tote-bags.

The promise from ASU Downtown’s representatives is that this is the first of many coming innovations, including access to the electronic “bulletin boards” of the Taylor Place dorms and a flier rack for printed materials in the Administrative Building and other locations.  Upcoming meetings with ASU Downtown Dean Debra Friedman and Community Engagement Liaison Malissa Geer will focus on these and other efforts for the campus and the downtown to commingle.  Stay tuned.