10 Changes Coming to the Grand Avenue Arts District in 2016

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The Grand Avenue Arts District saw plenty of change in 2015. Chartreuse gallery opened inside the historic Bragg’s Pie Factory building, Palabras began creating a Spanish/English bookstore, and artists working with Colibri Center for Human Rights in Tucson painted an immigration-themed mural on the La Melgosa building. But more changes are coming, including several with an arts and culture twist. Here are 10 things to watch for in 2016.

Storefront Gallery
For 12 years, artist and historic preservation advocate Beatrice Moore presented storefront exhibitions at 1025 Grand Avenue, a practice she gave up when other projects filled her time. But Moore is reviving the art space she calls Stop n’ Look: A Visual Community Resource this year, and she hopes to present her first new site-specific installation in the storefront gallery around the middle of 2016. She’ll also put out calls for art, so other artists have the opportunity to create site-specific installations for the space. It’s a form of community outreach, says Moore, who wants to provide ways for people to experience art without walking into traditional gallery spaces.

Barrio Cafe Art
Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza plans to open her newest Barrio Cafe location inside the historic Bragg’s Pie Factory building early this year, in the space where Bragg’s Factory Diner spent two years before closing last October. Esparza says she’s hoping to secure a liquor license and then hire people for the new location in time to open around early February. Esparza says local artists Tato Caraveo, Angel Diaz, Pablo Luna, Thomas “Breeze” Marcus, and Lalo Cota have already painted murals inside the space.

Back Alley at Unexpected
Unexpected Art gallery just opened in November of last year, but principal Ben Smith says they’ve already got several new things planned for 2016. They just hired a new gallery director, and Smith says art-related changes coming this year include having regular gallery hours and First Friday exhibitions. Smith says they’ll also present more events, including a concert series in the large outdoor space they’ve dubbed the Back Alley at Unexpected.

Grand Avenue Arts & Preservation
Moore and Hill are planning to pursue 501(c)3 status this year for Grand Avenue Arts & Preservation, an organization they founded primarily to produce the annual Grand Avenue Festival. Moore says having that particular designation will make the organization eligible to apply for more grant funding, and increase the tax benefits for donors. Increased funding could help fuel exciting projects and collaborations for the 2016 festival.

La Luz del Mundo
It's been a while since La Luz del Mundo, a church with roots in Mexico, started construction on a giant silver dome in 2010. This year the church is set to be completed, according to Moore, giving people another dose of unique architecture when they explore the Grand Avenue Arts District.

Adaptive Reuse and Renovations
Several buildings are undergoing renovations or adaptive reuse, according to Moore. Mattress firm Tuft & Needle, currently located at 605 East Grant Street, will move this year into the 1917 OS Stapley building. According to minutes for the Grand Avenue Arts & Historic Preservation meeting on January 13, Tuft & Needle is getting ready to start work on one of the OS Stapley building bays, with move-in targeted for July.

Weird Garden
Last year, Moore closed her Frontal Lobe Gallery in the historic Bragg’s Pie Factory building, and Nancy Hill opened Chartreuse in its place. This year, Moore is working to clean up and renovate Weird Garden, her old studio space at 1008 North 15th Avenue, so she can reopen it. Moore says she’ll “dismantle” her nearby Kooky Krafts retail space once Weird Garden reopens, so someone else will be able to go into the space, and perhaps have a small Kooky Krafts mini-shop at Weird Garden, where she also plans to exhibit some of her own paintings.

Oasis on Grand
Art exhibits in the 3,000-square-foot space at Oasis on Grand happened far too infrequently last year, which is something co-owner Laurie Carmody expects to change in 2016. Carmody says she and her husband are eager to see that space activated more regularly this year, and may be renting the space to an artist collective starting this spring. The artist she’s talking with isn’t ready to make her plans public, but Carmody says they’ve discussed using the space as both a gallery and collaborative studio.

New Developments
Laurie Carmody says they’ve sold the lot across the street, used in years past as an entertainment area during the Grand Avenue Festival and Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts. “The lot will close next Wednesday,” Carmody told New Times by phone on January 14. Carmody also said that part of the lot will be developed as a community credit union. But Moore says several small infill projects will launch this year as well, primarily on single and two-parcel empty lots. And the Containers on Grand development should get its first tenants in 2016.

Art Cars
Jose Benavides, a Chandler artist who has created an art car, is hoping to help add an art car component to the Grand Avenue Festival in 2016, according to minutes for a January 13 Grand Avenue Arts & Preservation meeting. The minutes note that discussions are preliminary at this point, so it’s not a done deal. But ideas being discussed include having a procession of art vehicles along Grand Avenue the Friday evening before the Festival, and displaying art cars at various Grand Avenue Arts District locations during Saturday’s festival.

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