Artlink and Roosevelt Row Weigh in on Phoestival Summer Cancellation

(Note: This piece has changed from its original version.)

Roosevelt Row's street closures won't happen in July and August -- the two most miserable summer months. "The truth is that it's too hot," says Roosevelt Row Board member, Cindy Dach. "We as a Roosevelt Row board don't want to put our volunteers through the scorching heat during the set up of the street closure."

However, it's not just triple-digit summer heat that's throwing a wrench into First Friday as we've come to expect it. Dach admits that the future of the First Friday street closures on Roosevelt Street "is still open for discussion." It could move to another location, such as First Street.

In November 2009, First Friday took on a new personality when Roosevelt Street, from 7th Street to Central Avenue, was closed to automobile traffic. The closure lasted from 3 p.m. to midnight.

With food and retail vendors lining the street, Roosevelt Row's "Phoestival" hosted a mob of people. But was this a good thing?

The debate filled the room at the open-to-the-public Artist Task Force Meeting, which takes place monthly on the Thursday after First Friday at Phoenix City Hall.

Dach attends on a regular basis. "[It] is a room that's very divided," she says. "There are the police who say it is a public safety issue and recommend the closure of Roosevelt. There are the business owners who complain that the pre-festival street closures hurts their business. And there are attendees who say that it's awesome that 20,000 can walk in the streets once a month."

Dach says, "We will basically get together and decide to see how the summer goes before deciding where [the street closures] will be."

According to Artlink President Sloane Burwell (Burwell is also a New Times contributor), Artlink fully supports the summer plans. "The street closures happened so quickly and hastily," says Burwell. She also mentioned that local businesses like Red Dog Gallery, Bunky Boutique, and Restaurant 905 suffered. "You just can't keep pissing off your neighbors."

Burwell says the original idea was to close off the street in order to include local vendors that sold original art, crafts, and food. But Roosevelt Row had to open to other vendors (like the folks who sell cheap sunglasses or reheated frozen pretzels) in order to afford the closure.

She anticipates that the summer will bring attention back to the art galleries  -- what she calls the "heart and soul" of First Fridays. In the meantime, Artlink wants to work closely with Roosevelt Row to decide what's best for fall 2010.

"Anybody who thinks First Friday will be the same every year isn't paying attention," says Burwell. "It's an organic thing that changes. It's part of a living city -- it's never going to be stagnant."

Phoenix New Times editor Steve Jansen contributed to this post.

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