You might know it as the Saturday in the fall when the somewhat homely looking Lower Grand Avenue near downtown Phoenix draws the crowds — mostly young — for visual art, performances, vendors, fashion shows and studio tours, along with a festive display of community arts and crafts along its fences and trees.
While last year’s Grand Avenue Festival seemed a bit like a gangly adolescent, this year’s event — October 20 — was more like the college-ready young adult. In its fourth year, the festival offered plenty of serious visual art from longtime Arizona artists whose names probably aren’t bounced around as often as they should be. And anyone looking for emerging artists could find plenty of pieces that were well-priced, even if some pieces were easier on the eyes than others. (I often turn to the word “funky” to describe Grand Avenue’s artists.)
In addition, there was a good helping of challenging art, and in this I need to single out Bragg’s Pie Factory, which has made a mature transition to a venue with three perfectly sized galleries. All three galleries had noteworthy shows:
— “Portrait of an Artist,” which paired a sampling of Arizona artists’ works with wonderful black-and-white photographs by Anthony J. Zeh showing the artists at work. Shot in HDR (high dynamic range), the photos have a gritty, three-dimensional quality that reveal the hard physical and mental work of producing art. Zeh visited the studios of Carolyn Lavender, David Dauncey and Linda Ingraham, among others.
— “Rinse and Repeat,” a multimedia group exhibition emphasizing minimalism and repetition. I liked the works by Dan Lam, Cameron Luft and Mary Hood, all of whom used out-of-the-ordinary materials and processes — a folded chair, bubble wrap, hot glue, etc. — to create intriguing pieces.
— “Visiones de Arizona,” showing the original art as used on the covers of Village Voice Media’s alternative weeklies during the month of June, when Arizona passed the controversial SB1070. The pieces employ powerful images of oppression and inequality. Martin Moreno’s print “Hate and Intimidation is Alive and Well in Arizona,” for instance, integrates SB1070 signage with Latino iconography. Moreno told me that the SB1070 covers by various artists were created to promote dialogue.
Although I don’t know the crowd count for this year’s Grand Avenue Festival, I assume the day was a success and that it bodes well for the future of the Grand Avenue Merchants Association and its various plans for greenscaping and street improvement and for growing the number of art studios and small businesses. Be brave and check it out next October, or sooner.
To see which shows are continuing through the fall during