I made only one real attempt to leave Phoenix. Growing up here meant I was used to the grid system (and getting lost in the grid system), tired of the mountains and sunsets, and in no way capable of parallel parking. Ultimately, my young and wide-eyed attempt to flee failed. Truth is, I'm happy it did. There's a long list of people, artwork, and community efforts that make this city irresistible. Here are my five (Okay, six. Shoot me.):
antigirl's street hearts: At the beginning of the year, bright, wheatpaste hearts started popping up on walls around downtown Phoenix. It was good timing; the city was torn between a growing sense of community pride and polarizing political protests. The street artist says she went out during the day and night to paste up her drippy hearts with two punchy, cursive reminders: "Love Life" and "Fuck Life." Perhaps it was just what we needed.
The window bench in the lobby at the Phoenix Art Museum: There's no bad spot to sit in the glossy-tiled lobby and quietly contemplate the artwork (and people) passing through the Phoenix Art Museum hallways. And though walking around and seeing the full exhibitions is part of the experience, I still find myself returning to the lobby's window bench where I first saw local artist Mayme Kratz's spine-like sculpture and resin work on panel. The two or three pieces of artwork in the perfectly lit room change every three months or so, and though Kratz's piece is long gone, you can still catch an eyeful of a large bronze sculpture by Tony Cragg.
Melinda Bergman's "Not a cloud in the sky: A meditation on the life ideal" at Modified Arts: In May, Melinda Bergman created her own universe at Modified Arts. She called her collection of playful paintings, collaged paper drawings, sculptures, and installations her meditation on the "life ideal" and reflection of the storybooks she started drawing when her grandson was born. Each fairytale-like portrait was little twisted — as to be expected — but Bergman's careful choice of color, medium, and arrangement was enough to keep gallery visitors — young and old — wandering in circles.
Art hunts by James Hunt (a.k.a. NXOEED): After finishing a series of paintings, James B. Hunt takes a bike ride through the city and hides them. Hunt, who also goes by NXOEED, has lived and painted in Tempe for more than 20 years. And he's been known to scatter his portraits (inspired by maps) throughout the Valley and leave time and location hints on his blog. Treasure hunt, indeed.
The letterpress at Hazel: You can call the letterpress in downtown's Hazel INK studio a 1922 Chandler and Price, but longtime friends and co-owners Nancy Hill and Beverly Wolfe call her "Beauty." The behemoth takes up the front display window of their studio and welcomes in visitors with live "pressing" on first and third Fridays. Stop by now, and Hill might press a card or bookmark for you to kick off the new year. I'm still holding onto the coaster she pressed in July that expressed our shared sentiment: "Hot as Hell."
"Phoenix Color Mural" at Burton Barr Central Library: If you make it past the book detectors and up the stairs at the Phoenix Public Library's main branch, you'll spot Rupp Aerial Photography's "Phoenix Color Mural." The large-scale aerial photograph and color-coded map of Phoenix (circa 1995) rests in the map section of the floor (drool) and provides a very different look at the Phoenix outside the library doors. Now, if they could just get a bench.