The widening circle of Phoenix’s art scene

From the "Imported Sunset" series by Karolina Sussland, on view at The Hive.

From the “Imported Sunset” series by Karolina Sussland, on view at The Hive.

The Third Friday art walk of January 17, 2014, was a good reminder to myself that the downtown Phoenix art scene probably ought to be referred to as the “central Phoenix art scene,” given the many galleries that spider out from Roosevelt Row.

For example, there’s Practical Art at Central Avenue and Camelback Road, The Artery at Sixth Street and Indian School Road, and Willo North at Seventh Avenue and Thomas Road. And that’s not to mention the gallery enclaves near the Phoenix Art Museum and on Grand Avenue.

Last night, The Hive, near 16th Street and Oak, in the heart of the Calle 16 mural scene, was abuzz with activity (and crying out for a pun … ). On view was the group show “(pre)Occupation,” curated by Jo Novelli-Blasko and offering mixed-media works, photography, installations and writing projects. A Hive press release explains that when Novelli-Blasko returned to Phoenix in 2003, “she intended to finish her Ph.D. Instead, she became¬†preoccupied and so remains ABD (All But Dissertation). Her curatorial project, ‘(pre)Occupation,’ attempts to address the various distractions that competed for her attention during these years.”

The result is a curious selection of work by Arizona artists:

Casebeer, known for mixing writing and graphic elements into her work, is represented by “What Turns Out to Be Seven Etch-a-Sketches as Bathrooms One Pineapple and a Faulty Toy.” Yes, she mounted the whimsical products of her Etch-a-Sketching onto the wall.

Karolina Sussland shows “Imported Sunsets 1-3,” which starts with colored inkjet prints of “Arizona Highways”-like scenery but turns the sky into graphite drawings. Jen Urso played with plaster pieces for an installation in which the plaster shows supposed indentations from¬† the force of her breath. Also catching my eye was a comic strip by Jon Haddock and PJ Novelli, which is a bit on the R-rated side but not unexpected from the boundary-pushing Haddock.

The show continues until February 16, 2014, with related events; it has its own Webpage at

Another gallery outside the immediate sphere of Roosevelt Row is the new rendition of Arizona State University’s Step Gallery, now open as part of a spacious renovated warehouse south of Chase Field, at Sixth Street and Grant (and nice and close to the exceptional Bentley Gallery). The building, called Grant Street Studios, will house ASU’s graduate program in art, and several MFA candidates have already moved into their homes away from home. They were on hand to chat with visitors and show work in progress during Third Friday. The Step Gallery itself has a number of intriguing works on view, and I chatted with soon-to-graduate MFA student Ally Glowacki, who portrays dogs and humans in almost-ethereal works using watercolors, ink and colored pencil.

I hope that art lovers will make the effort to branch out to The Hive, Step and other galleries besides the ones clustered downtown. Now is a good time of the year to walk, drive or try the First Friday Artlink Trolley Tour … and explore.

ASU MFA student Ally Glowacki shows work in progress at the opening of Grant Street Studios.

ASU MFA student Ally Glowacki shows work in progress at the opening of Grant Street Studios.

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