According to Ferguson, Halle's money is augmented by the university and the President's Office. The result is a kind of partnership between a private philanthropist and a public university, Ferguson states, though there is no mention of Halle's funding grant or the university's financial commitment to the proposed institute in any of the ASU Foundation annual reports for the years between 2004 and 2008, which are posted online. Shelly Yocum of the ASU Foundation says via e-mail that it can't divulge the amount of the Halle grant "[d]ue to the confidential nature of donor gift agreements."

Diane Halle was unavailable for comment. However, given that F.A.R. pays for rent on its two-bedroom, two-bath office/residency condo; now supports a staff of four employees, including Ferguson and Knode; apparently pays for artists' travel expenses to Phoenix; publicity and marketing costs (such as printing); a stipend for each visiting artist; and Web site fees and maintenance, it's not unreasonable to speculate that Halle's grant was several million dollars.

With underwriting from Halle as F.A.R.'s founding donor, Ferguson says, it took about a year to organize infrastructure, including renting downtown office space, as well as determining F.A.R.'s basic areas of interest. Currently, F.A.R. is headquartered in a tri-level condo apartment it rents in Artisan Village, located at Roosevelt and Seventh Streets, close to the burgeoning downtown arts community and ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism. The space can accommodate two resident artists at a time.


It's not exaggerating to say that F.A.R. didn't know exactly what it wanted to be when it grew up, given the fact that its objectives were fleshed out and posted online for public consumption just this January. According to Ferguson, Knode, and the academic jargon-laden explanation on F.A.R.'s new Web site, F.A.R. is going to be subsidizing artists, writers, and intellectuals from around the world to engage in research for potential artistic projects here in Phoenix, whether their research is ultimately productive or not — just as, Ferguson and Knode claim, scientists do on a regular basis.

And it's been decided that F.A.R. will concentrate on three seemingly boundless subject areas: the arts as they relate to human rights and the justice system; desert aesthetics (or what Ferguson calls the "culture of the desert"); and art and technology. Additionally, F.A.R.'s director says the projects will be about Phoenix in some way, so "Phoenicians will be able to see themselves through outside eyes" — though this requirement seems to have fallen by the wayside more recently.

To date, because of its amorphous, self-described "organic" approach and ongoing quest to define the demographics of its target audience(s), F.A.R.'s borderline schizophrenic activities and programming have roamed all over the cultural map, making one wonder how effective this indiscriminate, scattershot approach really can be in the long run.

Last year, the arts research institute underwrote a number of free, feebly publicized lecture programs held at local galleries and other Valley cultural sites (a complete list of past and future imported lecturers can be found at F.A.R.'s Web site at http://futureartsresearch.asu.edu/). Among those F.A.R. brought to town in 2008 was Richard Andrews, who spoke at ASU's downtown Walter Cronkite School of Journalism on the land and light art of Arizona artist James Turrell and the work of artist-architect Maya Lin, best known for her Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington.

Quirky theater director and UCLA professor Peter Sellars, known for his unusual po-mo versions of theater, musical, and opera classics (staging Handel's opera, Orlando, in outer space and Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro against the backdrop of a luxury apartment in New York's Trump Towers) lectured at Tempe Art Center. Artist-photographer and environmental activist Subhankar Banerjee appeared on ASU's main campus to speak about how his photographic work relates to issues of environmental destruction and indigenous human rights in the Arctic, while Andrew Shoben, founder of Britain-based Greyworld, lectured at Phoenix's Burton Barr Library on the edge-pushing, often interactive urban art installations for which the group is noted.

F.A.R.'s also been involved with a fashion show at the Icehouse for a clothing designer. It's in the active process of commissioning Turrell to create a major Skyspace piece on ASU's east campus using the latest LED technology. It would be similar to one that was just unveiled at Pomona College, but on a larger scale. It's a good idea, but why does it have to be a knock-off of something Turrell has done before?

Knode adds that F.A.R. also has curated two projects that are to be part of the 2009 Phoenix Fringe Festival (PHX:fringe), during which experimental theater pieces will be performed by local, national, and international artists in non-traditional downtown spaces (see www.phxfringe.org).

Scheduled to be one of F.A.R.'s recurring events is an annual symposium that will concentrate on art-related events designed to link audiences in the Sonoran Desert to other deserts around the world. For example, its 2008 program featured a sparsely attended slide lecture on the creation (minus photos of the final product) of Solo, a 12-foot-high sculpture on the Tohono O'odham reservation that was commissioned by F.A.R. It was molded from dirt, straw, sand, and water and is designed to disintegrate over time. Solo is the aesthetic offspring of Ojibway Canadian artist Rebecca Belmore and Cuban-born Canadian artist Osvaldo Yero, who, during their F.A.R. residency, found a stereotypical "sleeping Mexican" souvenir in Ajo. Their lecture literature says the souvenir recalls ancient pre-Columbian figures and suggests loneliness or strength.

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1 comments
Mike
Mike

While the critiques of the actual work done by FAR in this article, the author of this article appears to have no intimate familiarity with the purpose of the ASU Foundation which is to orchestrate partnerships between public and private funds. The funds being used to sponsor FAR could not be used for any other purpose by the University besides the purpose for which they were donated and consequently have no effect on the budget for the school itself. If they did, that information would be publicly available because the funds would be state tax dollars. Crow sees "art" as beneficial to all aspects of the community but, admittedly, knows nothing about it. Problematic though that may be, the Phoenix art community is fortunate on some level to have a University President who is actually interested in a relationship. It seems that the Phoenix arts scene, which needs higher levels of community and financial support to remain viable, would be far better served by attempting a level of integration then by running and hiding from a collection of well-funded, connected individuals who would ultimately like to see the Phoenix art scene succeed.

 
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