When’s the last time you loved your museum?

Posted: January 20th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Comments Off on When’s the last time you loved your museum?

One of the things I love best about living in my neighborhood is how close I am to the “arts district” here. Once a month for years I would roam in and out of every gallery and see the new works. Some I absolutely loved, a lot I was indifferent to, but the newness of it, the chance to see a new expression is what always kept me coming back.

Conversely, while I love the Phoenix Art Museum for what it tries to be, it’s more metaphor than brick-and-mortar to me. Hell, it looks like a citadel of art on the corner of a major intersection that I pass by twice a day during my commute. In my adult life I’ve been to the museum a half-dozen times, but haven’t gone to a show there in years.

Why? Because the shows they stage look better on a banner than they do inside. Not to say they are curated poorly, just that the formula of finding a big name (or semi-big name) artist to show, then hoisting their work up and expecting us to come stare at it like a bunch of yokels, isn’t working out as way of engaging me.

And it’s not just our museum. During my trips abroad this year, I’ve loved the opportunity to see world-class art up close at the V&A Museum, the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, and almost the Louvre (who closes on Tuesdays? seriously!) Some of these places knocked my f***ing socks off. All of them were great to see once, some of them I could see myself wanting to go back several times. But if I put myself in the place of a regular citizen, how often would I really enjoy them as a public resource?

With anything that represents age and establishment and order, the opportunity to grow stale and remain rigid is always present. Even with art, the subject that’s supposed to make us stay our most human, we find ourselves mired in governing boards, big named sponsors, and outdated standards.

Today I came across an opinion piece by one of my art-world heroes, Marc Schiller:

“For us, it has more to do with the fact that as time goes on, more and more of our museums fail to live up to the ideals that we have for them. We want, and expect, museums to defend our free speech. We want, and expect, museums to provide a home for provocative thought. We want, and expect, museums to provoke and inspire debate. What we should not want is for museums to be so constrained and commercial that they add very little to the public debate.”

(full piece here)

I do not have a problem with the concept of only accepting classics, or works that will persevere, but at the same time, I can tell you I’ve gone into a museum 20x more often than any of my friends, and I’ve gone into a gallery 100x more often than I’ve gone into a museum. So what’s that say about everyone else.

Let’s not allow art to turn into Nascar.

Help take a stand

Posted: October 30th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Do you hate this?

Of course you don’t. You’re not a heartless bastard. (unless you’re one of my heartless bastard readers, in which case today is not your day, sorry.)

Do you hate this ugly red square?

I know you do. Parking lots are ugly and hot and salty and probably smell like last week’s trash. Trust me, I walked through one barefoot last year and it was NOT a good place to be. It was actually the one in the top left there.

So in a world where those two pictures I’ve shown you are locked in mortal combat, which side are you on?
Are you Luke or are you Darth Vader?

Smog or puppies? (or better yet, cute ASU girls watching you walk your puppy?)

This idea is being spearhead by the energizer of urbanists, Sean Sweat.

Read more Here and Here

Better yet, follow Sean, track someone down and sign a petition. Attend the event. High-five the man with the beard himself. And help the planet be a better place in the meantime.

Where’s our Art?

Posted: September 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Where’s our Art?

“I want to sleep in a city that never wakes up / and ramble about nostalgia”

Last night was First Friday, an evening when the entire downtown wakes up and celebrates the Arts District.

It’s a great evening with new shows, extended hours, open artists studios, live bands, community, and tons of chatter about what events are going on and where to meet everyone at. First Friday was one of the first events I attended over a decade ago that made me want to move downtown.

….but it only happens once a month.

Where’s the art that confronts us outside our expected, allocated time for it?

Where’s the street art that makes us think, makes us acknowledge the problems we’ve been ignoring?

Phoenix has a lot of great artists, why can I only see them in a gallery? Art is to be shared, ingested and discussed, not hidden in a room and available only during viewing hours.

We’re a great, young city, jam-packed with all the elements of a great melting pot. Let’s start letting it spill over and celebrate our creativity.


The City We Deserve?

Posted: August 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Warning: plenty of opinion below.

This morning as I exited my building, walking to the Light Rail stop, I spotted a bright green flyer announcing a public hearing to discuss the razing of an old, abandoned building to make way for the creation of an interim parking lot.

Previous notices about this topic were ignored by me, because the appeal to “save a piece of mid-century history” didn’t hit home. To me this seemed like one of the several run-down, decaying buildings that dot parts of Downtown. In truth, “mid-century history” didn’t seem remarkable to me, and coupled with the intent to build a new ASU Law school in the heart of the city, it seemed VERY replacable.

However, what I do not agree with is the “interim use” for the space, another huge, likely vacant parking lot. Ignoring the arguments about how the land was bought and purposed, the concept of putting yet another parking lot in an area that needs in-fill and vitality is incredibly stupid.

What I take away from it is that someone honestly thinks we want this. Whoever has the responsibility, authority & accountability in this instance, really thinks that we, the citizens/workers/shoppers all want another parking lot.

If it’s on a 5-year plan, I’d much rather see a park, or a community garden, or hell, make the parking lot, but make it underground and make it to spec with the law school that will go over it someday.

It’s not a huge area, but it is a good opportunity, and could be a symbol, a new jumping on point of the many urbanists that our city needs in order to grow in stature and vibrancy.

Yes, I’m biased because I live downtown, but why should I want to live next to a parking lot? If that was appealing to me, I’d move to the suburbs and live between the Wal-Mart and the car dealerships along the freeway.

Instead of greenery, or history, or creativity, we’re trading a dilapidated building for a heat island. And when we all let this happen, maybe that’s what we deserve.

what we deserve

Relevant.Phx: A Billboard I wouldn't hate

Posted: July 24th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Relevant.Phx: A Billboard I wouldn't hate

A lot of times billboards are sloppy, ill-conceived printed versions of brands shouting at us, conditioning us to believe that society says we need to spend our money on their product.  The worst are when I see a billboard so low that it blocks part of a building from view, thereby adding to the crowded sense of the city and removing most options for great street art.

However, today I stumbled across a blog post by none other than Shepard Fairey, one of my three favorite street artists ever, discussing a social movement very dear to us citizens of Phoenix: SB-1070 (or as I like to call it The “hey, want another reason to hate AZ” Bill)

(For previous blog about Street Art and SB-1070, see here)

Whatever your stance on 1070, anyone who disagrees with the basic Americana of political discourse is a liar or a dullard.  It speaks to our roots as a nation that we want to be represented, we want our voices to be heard, we want government “of the people”.

It is impossible to be more American than to form an opinion and express it loudly, clearly, and concisely.

So you should see why I really liked the idea presented below.

We can’t stop now. We must keep fighting this unjust law that will effectively institutionalize discrimination against the Latino community.  Proceeds from the “We Are Human” print go to immigration reform organizations such as the one below!  Please take a second and support.

Brave New Foundation’s Cuéntame asks:
If you can help us raise $10,000 by Monday, July 26, Cuéntame will purchase a billboard on a populated street in Phoenix showing the law for what it really is. The powerful line for the billboard has already been chosen on Facebook by the members of Cuéntame. Now all we need is your support.  Please help us in our next step to send a giant message to the Arizona government.

Brave New Foundation’s Cuéntame, has made major headlines this week for its video interview with Arizona Police Officer Paul Dobsonspeaking out about draconian Arizona anti-immigration bill, SB1070. Officer Dobson is now under investigation for exercising his first amendment right to speak freely about the real effects of the law:

“I know people will not call the police in case of a real emergency. This law is purely racist and solely focused on Latinos. In my opinion, SB 1070 violates equal protection under the law.” Paul Dobson, Patrol Officer, Arizona

We are making a difference and our voices are being heard by hundreds of thousands of people across the country. Cuéntame’s work with Officer Dobson has been featured in USA Today, Arizona Republic, New York Daily News, FoxNews and more!

Phoenix Recognized for our worst possible contribution.

Posted: June 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off on Phoenix Recognized for our worst possible contribution.

I’ve written multiple times about my love for Street Art and how much I dig Wooster Collective.

Not too long ago Phoenix artists Mac & Kofie was featured on Wooster for this piece, as documented by Light Rail Blogger.

So imagine my surprise, when, as I was writing last week piece “Something else we need in Phoenix“, I noticed that Wooster had featured the horrible PBR mural that was put up on Roosevelt, only a few feet from the Mac & Kofie piece.

My Objections are this:

  1. 25-cent beer should sell itself
  2. The owner the building this is painted on also ripped all the street art and posters off the front of the building, while allowing this billboard to go up
  3. Roosevelt Row is clearly the “Arts District”, so placing this faux-mural here has only one purpose, to mis-appropriate the slowly growing reputation that so many legitimate artists have toiled to build here over the last two decades.
  4. It took weeks to do and looks like crap.

I agree completely with the tagger.

Also, to point out a quote from LRB:

“..tagging work by respected artists is a no-no in the world of vandalism.”

Guess what, hack; that checklist means nobody respects your billboard.

Something else we need in Phoenix….

Posted: June 4th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | 2 Comments »

Larger, fully-developed Street Art.

On a nice day last week, I took my own walking tour of the Roosevelt neighborhood, and liked the amount of stickers and back-of-building murals I saw (pictures coming as soon as I find something better than Flickr for mass uploads).

What I did not like, however, was how the average image size to average square footage available is still a horribly improper faction.

Stickers, simple tags, small flyers.  Where’s the bigger wheat pastes?  Where’s the adventurous art that forces common bypassers to raise important questions about society?

Let’s stop trying to throw up our stamp and start trying to make our mark.

Of course, I’ve been a fan of street art since I read about Swoon being shown in MOMA years ago, and promptly stumbled upon Wooster Collective to expand my viewing horizons.

So, yes, what I’d really like to see is more work in Phoenix that is on scale with what gets done in NYC, London, or even this piece in LA from JR:

Earth Day: Congrats, Now Do More!

Posted: April 22nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Earth Day: Congrats, Now Do More!

(image from GOOD.is)

There we are, Phoenix.  Number 12 on the survey for Least Wasteful Cities.

Not too bad.  Let’s see some of the details:

Ranked 12th in the nation as America’s Least Wasteful City
Ranked 20th in 2009

Phoenix’s high rankings:

  • 5th Never driving their car for trips that are less than one mile from home
  • 7th Participating in their city’s sustainability/environmental programs
  • 7th Turning off the water when brushing their teeth

Phoenix’s low rankings:

  • 23rd Shutting the lights off when not in the room
  • 23rd Hanging their clothes out to dry when possible
  • 24th Buying locally grown/produced foods

So oddly we’re good at walking for short trips, which I’d expect us to be awful at because of the heat, and we’re awful at hanging clothes to dry, even though it only takes 0.8342 seconds to dry off here.

But here’s the part I loved best:

Efforts/Decisions to more environmentally friendly

  • 84 percent recycle
  • 78 percent use energy efficient bulbs
  • 75 percent shop locally

Hooray for shopping local!

So we moved up from 20th to 12th in one year.  No reason we cannot crack the top 10 next year.

To learn more about Phoenix’s environmental and sustainability efforts, visit http://phoenix.gov/greenphoenix/index.html

(This is Day 29 of the 30 Day Blog Challenge, be sure to check out the other participants at #30DayBC)

I love cities

Posted: March 28th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

I do.  I love living in the city.  Not only because it fits my lifestyle, but because I love the promise of it.

Urban areas are traditionally the cradles of great ideas.  Think of Socrates, Cyrus, Solomon, Alexander, Magellan, Edison; democracy, art, opera, literature; all ideas born in cities, because cities allow us to know our fellow man in ways that yards & freeways & Cost Co’s don’t.

This got me thinking if there was an easier way to express my love of city life.

I hear people use the word “Urbanist” more and more lately, (or perhaps I’m just tuned into those types of channels more and more…) and I wondered if it’s a term that would apply to me.

So I Googled it.  But I had difficulty finding a clear definition.  I also learned that apparently there is some disagreement between “urbanism” and “new urbanism”.  Hmmm, well here’s the most well-written thing I could find. Wikipedia (pfft, great source, right?) defines New Urbanism as;

“an urban design movement, which promotes walkable neighborhoods that contain a range of housing and job types.”

Well that seems easy enough.  I love walkable neighborhoods, though my idea of walkable is probably a little more aggressive than most peoples.  Walkable for me just means “has flat-ish areas” and “hopefully few hobos and/or feral animals”.

Then I read a quote from the Congress for the New Urbanism:

We advocate the restructuring of public policy and development practices to support the following principles: neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population; communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car; cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions; urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.

So what do we have here?

  • Neighorhoods?  Great
  • Accessibility?  Indeed!
  • Diversity?  Always good.
  • Public Policy?  Can always use help.
  • Pedestrian and Transit?  I’ve BEEN on-board with that for decades.

Alright, so this sounds like an agenda to get with.

As you know from my previous post about freeways, urban sprawl is something I definitely cannot get with.  In truth, even when I lived miles away from my job and school, I still took public transit, and as opportunity presented itself, I moved closer and closer to the core.  Now I live 1.5 miles from my office, right next to a light rail stop, and withing walking distance of parks, museums, great restaurants, pubs, a farmer’s market, the full gamut of culture in Phoenix, AND my favorite coffee shop.  I don’t see how a car would improve my life.

We really COULD improve my life, and the lives of thousands of people around me, is a good healthy dose of Urban ReUse.

I don’t say Urban Renewal, because Roosevelt Row and many parts of Downtown Phoenix are already vibrant and thriving in their own way, so I don’t want to solicit the type of “renewal” typically thought of.

No, what I would like to see is more redesign and reuse of existing structures, filling in the empty store fronts and repopulating the vacant lots that leave gaps in our neighborhood picture.  Just like an MRI, you can have 90% healthy areas, but if you have 10% missing, then you’ve got a problem.

So I was decently intrigued to see this post by fellow #30DayBC participant (and RDJ doppleganger) Tony A.  I’m interested to see how his series turns out, and perhaps add a few spots to the list.

(Ironically, for 5-years I used to live next-door to the first place he mentioned, and didn’t know that it had since turned into a vacant shell.)

So, in closing, give cities a boost, for all they’ve done for you.

…and be kind to the planet while you do it….

(This is Day 5 of the 30 Day Blog Challenge)

“You said to never take the freeway”

Posted: March 25th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Sorry, any chance to use a Matrix quote has to be capitalized on, right?

So, to follow-up on yesterday’s blog, I thought I’d take a look at one of the most ridiculous inventions of the last century: freeways

Before I give my opinion, let’s list some facts:
1.)  Freeways cost money to build and maintain
2.)  Freeways cost more money for highway patrolmen and/or the nefarious speedcam
3.)  Freeways are often noisy and unsightly
4.)  They don’t accomplish their stated goals

That last one may have been a surprise to some, so I’ll back it up.

A recent study by Brown University economist Nathaniel Baum-Snow shows that building a freeway to serve the residents of a community actually reduces that population by 18%.  No, the massive concrete beast didn’t eat up the area that those people’s houses used to be in.  But by creating a new tool for their commute, you’ve now told them that with a few adjustments, they could live somewhere else and still make their same commute.

If suburb A builds a highway to connect to suburb B, that’s going to effect the distribution of commutes not only between those suburbs but also the commutes in the region as a whole. So there are going to be these externalities where someone in suburb C has a faster way to get to work, so they’re going to start using it and filling up this new highway. And a business downtown might say, hey, there’s this new infrastructure, let’s go locate out there and I can have a lot more space to work with. So anytime one part of a region changes something, it’s going to effect population and employment throughout the metropolitan area. So I think it’s important to engage at the regional level.


For some anecdotal evidence, consider our freeway growth in Phoenix over the last 15 years, and how our suburbs look now.  More than once I’ve turned slightly to my left or right and asked Anie “why the hell are there business out here”.  Well, the answer of course is because there are people living out here.  So then you consider why do people live out there.  Certainly nobody moved to the suburbs in the hopes that someone would come along and build a Wal-Mart out there for them to work at.  No, of course, they moved there because they were working in the “city” and were okay with commuting from the suburbs to their jobs.

So lets consider the radius each of us would drive for a commute in terms of a number of minutes instead of miles.  Myself, I don’t like the idea of a commute that’s over 30 minutes at most.  Spending an additional hour of unpaid time just to get to my job and back comes out to an entire day I’d lose each month just in commuting.

To me that’s not worth it.

But let’s just work with that number.  In 30 minutes, I could drive X number of miles on surface streets.  30 Minutes = X Miles – W wait at lights.  Well now, that’s a second variable and sometimes I might be late if I lived exactly 30 minutes away from my work.  Plus I wouldn’t have time to get my coffee or chat up someone I met in the hallway… Better idea to give myself a buffer.

Then along comes the freeway.  Well now, if I take the freeway, I don’t have to wait for traffic lights.  Now I can get my coffee, flirt with Suzie in reception, and even check my fantasy baseball team before my boss gets in.

Except after a little while I realize that the freeway is SO FAST, I could move a bit further out and still get to work in the same 30 minutes.

Then later on, another freeway gets built that connects to the first one, and now I can live really far and maybe my commute only increases to 45 min, but I get to live in a “new” neighborhood and have a slice of the suburban dream.  Plus I’m sure my kids don’t mind that besides the 10-hour days at work, I’m spending another couple of hours on the road to and from.  Plus errands.  Those are always fun to run late at night.  Or pawn off on the spousal unit.

And best yet, I can always look back and chuckle at the years when we had to live in “the city”.  Oh, how dirty it was, being a train rider.  Running to the corner shop instead of the Galleria.  And imagine trying to parallel park our mini-van in those old neighborhoods.  Oh my, that WOULD be terrible!!  Ha ha, the comedy.

Yes, the suburbs are my distopia.

More from Baum-Snow:

A lot of people think that decentralization is about fleeing to the suburbs out of central cities, but if you look at the change in the spatial distribution of the population across large metropolitan areas, you find that it’s really much more of a spatial phenomenon. You see that the population density in the more peripheral regions of central cities actually went up quite a bit over the last 50 years, while the population of the central business districts went down.

Of course, as Baum-Snow admits, there has been a welfare gain from the implementation of major roadways in several cities simply by allowing industrial workers to not have to live so close to the plants they worked at.  If they worked hard, they could save up and move out of the slums into one of those great George Bailey houses and raise their kids there.  This is true in places like Detroit, Chicago, Pennsylvania, etc.

This was never true in Phoenix or most of California.  Here, our use of freeways is only to supplicate the developers and consumers who were enticed by the allure of “cheap” land.  If we’d been interested in using a decent amount of urban planning 50 years ago, we could have avoided a large chunk of the sprawl we have.  Instead, we’re spending more and more money to build freeways to neighborhoods that:

1.) don’t need to exist
2.) aren’t “neighborhoods”, just a collective of houses and commuters.

In part 2 of this, I’ll look at how freeway-related sprawl impacts our neighborhoods.

(this is Day 2 of the 30 day blog challenge. )