Hip-hop culture haven and studio Cyphers: The Center of Urban Arts has always been an old school kind of place, from the vintage decor like boomboxes and classic Chuck Taylors adorning its digs to the throwback b-boy moves getting busted on its dance floor.
So it seems only natural that its organizers would eschew new-fangled fundraising methods like Kickstarter in favor of a more old school kind of crowdsourcing cash: a good ol' car wash. On Saturday, Cyphers' staff and students will bust out buckets and sponges outside of the building in North Phoenix in hopes of raising enough money to send a crew of its graf artists to a prestigious competition in the Bay Area this fall.
According to co-owner Danny "Scooby" Morales, around a dozen of Cyphers' resident artists and students, ranging from teens to 20-somethings, are hoping to travel to Oakland in late October to attend Estria Battle, a high-profile three-day graffiti and urban art festival taking place in Oakland at the end of October.
It's an esteemed invite-only street art event that was founded by renowned muralist Estria Miyashiro and has been taking place at parks in cities such as Brooklyn, San Francisco, and Honolulu annually since 2007. Typically coinciding with a few other urban culture events (like the Living Word Festival and National Poetry Slam), the Estria festival brings in graf and street artists from around the United States to compete and create works inspired by a unique theme each year and engage in both graffiti and black book battles.
"There are art programs and artists that come out from all over the world to Estria, so it's a big battle," Morales says.
Students and participants from Cyphers' graf art program, which is overseen by old school Phoenix spray paint-slinger Mario Durok and is one of the many urban art forms taught at the center, got an invite to compete at Estria after participating in a group mural project at Valley Youth Theatre earlier this year. Morales says that some of the people involved with creating that mural, which was inspired by the issue of water rights in Arizona and featured many local artists, are connected with Estria and helped land the opportunity to participate.
Given that Cyphers, which opened early last year, and its art program is relatively young (as are its students), Morales admits that their crew may not be as seasoned as other Estria participants. But that doesn't mean they're not hesitating from attending the event. It's an honor to be invited to such a battle, he says, and the experience helps artists develop their talents.
"These guys got only three months to prepare and hone their skills and make 'em better, which means they still have a lot to learn, but you learn by going to these battles. And if they don't win this time, we're gonna continue to take 'em out there 'til they bring home the win. But I think they'll represent well," Morales says. "It's still a really big opportunity. But with the trip comes expenses to get us out there to compete, show off our stuff, and hopefully bring home some glory."
Hence this weekend's car wash at Cyphers, which Morales says will involve more than dusty automobiles and dirty rides getting doused, as a dunk tank will also be set up and a few water balloon fights may occur. Power 98.3's Flavor Unit and DJs will also make an appearance, b-boy dance cyphers will also occur, and various prizes will be given out.
"So we'll be washing cars and keeping it fun with the goal of raising enough funds to get our crew to Oakland to compete," Morales says.
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Morales estimates they need to raise approximately $1,500, which would cover the rental of a 15-passenger van, as well as the cost of gas, lodging, and (of course) food, although he has a plan on how to save a few bucks there.
"It's gonna be dollar menu for three days to feed everybody," Morales says, laughing.
Cyphers Graf Art Car Wash fundraiser takes place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 3, at Cyphers: The Center of Urban Arts.