Artist Sarah Hurwitz on the Great Canal Monster and Why Sky Harbor Is Her Favorite Place in Phoenix

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Arizona native, artist and new mom Sarah Hurwitz brought her singularly imaginative style to this year's Quick PHX (our annual pocket guide to the city) -- and answered a few questions, too.

See also: 9 Favorite Things We Saw at Art Detour 26

What made you want to be an artist? I never have a great answer to this question! As a kid I never really thought of art as a "job." Even in college I decided to major in art without ever having taken an art class. It wasn't until I applied to graduate school that I thought, "So I guess, I'm going to do this art thing." Still at that point, it wasn't out of a place of passion but out of a "I like art a whole lot more than my crappy, post-college job" type of place. Regardless. Glad I made the decision!

How does Phoenix inspire you? Everything inspires me, but mostly the people around me. The real truth is, Phoenix really motivates me! There are so many cool people doing cool stuff, and it feels very easy to catch that entrepreneurial spirit, in art, food, and craft in this town.

What's the coolest project you've worked on? Probably a project for someone else! Where I get to contribute fun tid-bits but don't feel too much emotional connection! Also right now I am installing a sculpture for Round 4 of Influx (It will be On Roosevelt and 5th streets), as well as projected piece. It is an award stand, for completing everyday [tasks], such as folding the laundry, walking the dog, or driving your grandma to the dentist. Sometimes participating is hard! I am excited to see the project go up because I have never made an outdoor installation and I am pretty curious to see how it fairs the elements and looks in the sun!

Image courtesy of Sarah Hurwitz

Tell us about the legend of the Great Canal Monster. Speaking of how Phoenix inspires me!

I grew up close to Encanto Park and would often fish and throw back the catfish that lived in the pond there. Since it is a man-made "lagoon" there are large bubbly spots where, I assume, the water gets circulated with air. I was convinced this was the resting place of the great canal monster. A serpentine creature that cruised the canals around town and would sleep at night in the park.

I made a plate for New Times' Best of 2013 "Hot Plate" show based on this "legend. " I'm a firm believer that every big city needs its own urban legend. And the more people I told this story to, the more friends told me they thought something similar. One friend even told me that he and his brother would swim in the canal looking for it! (Not recommended.) Likewise my brother once told me, as a child, that Phoenix has more miles of canals the Venice, Italy! The canal monster is a reminder to celebrate some of Phoenix's pretty cool features that often get overlooked.

What's your favorite place in Phoenix? Sounds odd, but the airport. First of all, Sky Harbor is such a romantic name for an airport. Secondly, it also means I'm about to go on an adventure, come home from an adventure, or pick up a long-lost friend. All great things. That being said, I don't go to the airport all that often.

If we are basing my favorite places based on frequency or level of merriment it would be: Hotel Valley Ho spa for facials, Vovomeena for coffee and pancakes, Dreamy Draw for hiking, and Jordan's Restaurant for Mexican food that I grew up on!

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