Culture News

ASU School of Art to Expand Program in Phoenix's Warehouse District

Back in June, Arizona State University bought Grant Street Studios from developer Michael Levine. Now, the university is expanding the number of ASU School of Art programs based there, says Adriene Jenik, outgoing director for ASU’s School of Art.

Levine bought the 1917 building, which was home to a cotton company and later a machine works company, in 2004. He completed renovations in 2007.

Grant Street Studios is one of many buildings Levine’s company, Levine Machine, has purchased and turned into adaptive reuse projects. He also renovated and sold the buildings that now house the Duce and Bentley Projects. Currently, he’s renovating Beth Hebrew Synagogue in Roosevelt Row.

Before Levine sold Grant Street Studios, a cavernous two-story warehouse, he leased out several of its spaces. ASU started leasing space during the fall of 2013 and relocated its Step Gallery from the ASU Tempe campus.

Step Gallery presents group and solo exhibitions by ASU masters of fine arts candidates, many of whom have gone on to show works in other metro Phoenix galleries including monOrchid and {9} The Gallery.

It’s become a must-see space for First Friday attendees, who have recently explored works by Kara Roschi, Jace Becker, and Travis Ivey there.

ASU also created studio spaces for students in the MFA program at Grant Street Studios as well as shared production spaces with equipment such as 3D printers that have significant benefits for each artist's practice.

Before the move to Grant Street, students working in different buildings on ASU’s Tempe campus could go three years without meeting one another. Now, they can easily share resources and skills. “It creates a healthy dialogue across disciplines,” Jenik says.

ASU always planned to bring every graduate-arts program to the space, continues Jenik. But it’s been happening in phases.

In 2014, ASU moved its graduate painting and drawing program to Grant Street. Fiber and intermedia followed, then sculpture. Photography made the move during the fall of 2015, and ASU moved the Northlight Gallery from the Tempe campus to Grant Street.

Northlight Gallery, which was recently renovated, primarily shows works by ASU student, faculty, and alumni artists. Currently, it’s showing an international group show titled “Take Aim,” curated by photographer and ASU graduate William LeGoullon.

The ceramics program recently opened “Exchange: A Group Ceramics Exhibition” at Step Gallery. The show, which continues through November 19, features works by ceramics graduate students from ASU and San Diego State University.

The closing reception happens from 6 to 9 p.m. on Third Friday, November 18. But you can still see the show on Saturday, November 19, when ASU's School of Art is celebrating the relocation of the ceramics program to Grant Street Studios with a 6:30 to 9 p.m. open house complete with a silent auction of works created by ASU art students.

A final phase will involve renovating the second story at Grant Street Studios. ASU has yet to announce how that space will be used, but Jenik says that final piece will come online during fall 2017.

Having ASU graduate art programs at Grant Street Studios also benefits the surrounding community, Jenik says. It gives locals easier access to art created by ASU students and adds to the downtown arts scene’s vibrancy.

Grant Street Studios is located in the Phoenix warehouse district, where other art spaces include Bentley Gallery inside Bentley Projects and the Icehouse, a longtime staple of the Phoenix arts scene. Both Step Gallery and Northlight Gallery participate in First and Third Fridays and keep additional hours during the week.

But other notable things happen there, as well. A group called the Art Grads (TAG), comprised of ASU graduate art students, hosts lectures by visiting artists, faculty, and other artists. This fall’s lineup includes Anthony Pessler on November 17.

Every Spring, TAG hosts an open studio event that gives community members a chance to explore the studio, exhibitions, and production spaces at Grant Street Studios.

This success of Grant Street Studios is arguably one of Jenik’s most significant contributions to ASU’s School of Art. During her tenure, several of its programs have advanced in nationwide rankings.

Jenik announced in September that she’s leaving her position as director for ASU’s School of Art in December, although she’ll continue to teach here. The change will mean more time for her own art practice, part of which involves a data humanization project.

The project includes a performance piece called The Sky is Falling, which Jenik performs from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, November 12, at the ASU Art Museum in Tempe in conjunction with an exhibition titled “Energy Charge: Connecting to Ana Mendieta.” Her song "Why I Can’t Write a Song About Hillary Clinton," which was recorded at Grant Street Studios, is part of the “Push Comes to Shove” exhibition exploring women and power that continues through January 8, 2017, at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.

Both Jenik and Levine are featured speakers for Local First Arizona’s “Preservation & Teardown Culture” happening Thursday, November 17, from 6 to 8 p.m. at Beth Hebrew Synagogue.

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble