When most people think of public art, the usual images of street festivals, sculptures, and decorative fountains come to mind. But for the minds behind Four Chambers Press, public art can be so much more.
For its latest endeavor, the year-old literary journal continues reaching out into the community with the Flash Your Fiction: Literary Flash Mob, a public reading taking place on the light rail, scheduled for Saturday, September 13. Beginning at the Central and Camelback light rail station and running all the way to the end of the line in Mesa, before returning to Central and Roosevelt, the event is both a sprint and a marathon for prospective participants.
As the journal prepares for the release of its second issue in October, Four Chambers co-founder and editor-in-chief Jake Friedman explained the magazine's public arm as simply another half of its mission, with the light rail being yet another realm of accessibility to broach in reaching the broadest audience possible.
"One of the things that inspired me, or us, to think of a reading on the light rail was just that I was using it sort of infrequently, but every time I would go on, these really significant things would happen," Friedman explains.
"It seemed like something that people were writing about. And since one of our goals here at the magazine is to try to bring people together, create public art, build community... we were thinking that public transportation would be a good topic to see if people were ready to start writing these sorts of thematic works in Phoenix."
Then, in building the foundation for the event, Friedman looked to current happenings on the light rail to see how that public energy might be harnessed into something that produces a public good.
A point of comparison is the annual "No Pants Light Rail Ride,". "That's great to get on the light rail and not wear pants," Friedman says, but is that really building a sustainable form of community, is that going to give back to the culture here in Phoenix?"
Friedman continues in stating that rather than intentionally being different, Four Chambers has simply sought to not replicate any of the community events and groups already in existence.
Rubber Brother Records and its "round robin" concerts in particular served as an inspiration, as the label has moved outside traditional shows in presenting its artists, which Friedman says directly inspired Four Chambers' Festival of Literary Oddities at Bragg's Pie Factory.
While the event sounds amusing enough to attend, submissions for public readings are open through August 29. And in comparison to the journal's rigorous selection process, with the Literary Flash Mob Four Chambers seeks to include as many voices as possible.
"We are trying to open up these other spaces in the community for authors, or just people who write... We're trying to open up spaces where [authors] can come in and connect with us, and connect with each other. For something like [the flash mob], it's much more celebratory," he explains.
As for the thread tying the event together? It's loose at best, which is good news for prospective readers.
"We're really trying to encourage people to respond creatively. We're not looking for pieces about public transit, per se," Friedman says.
"We're more interested in tone and quality of art, rather than directness of response."
Taken broadly, the Literary Flash Mob is something Friedman and Four Chambers see as an opportunity for the Phoenix arts scene to shine.
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"I think the event more or less speaks for itself, and is really indicative of what we're doing, not only with literature, but for public art here in Phoenix."
Four Chambers Press' Literary Flash Mob takes place Saturday, September 13 beginning at 1 p.m. at the Central and Camelback light rail stop. Submissions for public reading are open through Friday, August 29. More information on submissions and the event as a whole is available at the Facebook event page.
Editor's note: This post has been modified from its original version.