Jake Friedman on the State of the Arts in Metro Phoenix

When Jackalope Ranch issued a survey asking Phoenicians (and anyone with an opinion of Phoenix) to sound of on the state of the arts in the Valley of the Sun, dozens provided insights on what's happening in the city's creative realm. We'll present a selection of survey responses here over the next three weeks. Up today is Jake Friedman of Four Chambers.

What are three words that describe the arts in Arizona? Rich, fragmented, diverse

See also: Kara Roschi on the State of the Arts in Metro Phoenix

Describe your role in the Arizona arts scene (including "observer" -- a very important role!) and how it came to be. I think my role in the Arizona arts scene is basically a facilitator (in that most of what Four Chambers does is provide a showcase / venue for authors within the local arts scene where they might not have one, and that a lot of people who are looking to get more involved in literature in the Valley often find us first). I occupy this role because, when I started trying to do Four Chambers a few years ago, around 2011, there were a lot of writing groups and open mics but there just wasn't anybody around who was doing something like this (i.e. maintaining a more or less active presence on a grassroots level and publishing local work)

Who is making the biggest impact on metro Phoenix's art scene and how are they doing that? Honestly it's hard for me to say, one of things I'm trying to do lately is to stay more in touch with and participate in the arts scene as a whole (rather than working so hard on simply producing) but my bet would be Arizona Art Tank and the Commission on the Arts (in that they are not only enabling a lot of artists to produce work via fiscal support, but are turning the funding itself into a cause celebre / huge public event)

Where has metro Phoenix made the biggest strides in the arts in the last 10 years or so? I haven't lived here very long, but my bet would be First Friday (insofar as establishing Downtown Phoenix as a place where culturally significant things are taking place). My other bet would be in the fact that Phoenix continues to develop in a real economic sense while still maintaining affordable rent (such that artists can not only continue to devote time and energy to their work while still being able to live, but also that they might have easier times of finding a market)

What are Arizona's most underused arts resources? Consumer spending? Like my feeling is that there are a lot of people with money here who would probably support / buy art if those products were available to them (my suspicion being that lots of artists simply lack product--e.g. authors without books, artists without prints, so on and so forth)

How can artists and institutions better connect with audiences? Besides producing art in a way that is culturally relevant + interactive / engaging, I think the best thing we can do is to empower people to create art themselves (since people who create art are probably the ones who are most likely to support it, and then they'll be able to participate in the scene.

What are the biggest roadblocks in metro Phoenix's art scene and how can we get past them? I mean, I know everybody says it over and over and over again, but lack of foot traffic / population density. Not only does it make staging public performance really difficult, but I think it makes it hard for people to do things spontaneously--meaning that we need to be more active about promotions, marketing, media, etc. Maybe it means we need to move away from the idea of performance generally and into product / presence? Who knows.

Metro Phoenix's art scene needs __________. More large scale public art. Beyond murals.

In three years, what three words do you hope describe the state of the arts in Arizona? Rich, Pluralistic, Aware

See also: Beatrice Moore on the State of the Arts in Metro Phoenix

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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski