Lists

The Best Things We Saw in Phoenix in 2017

Beatrice Moore commissioned Los Angeles-based Karen Fiorito to create this billboard mural after Trump's election.
Beatrice Moore commissioned Los Angeles-based Karen Fiorito to create this billboard mural after Trump's election. Karen Fiorito/Photo by Lynn Trimble

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click to enlarge COURTESY OF ARIZONA OPERA
Courtesy of Arizona Opera
Hercules vs. Vampires
It’s not every day that a trip to the opera turns into a toga party. Arizona Opera kicked off its season with a performance of Patrick Morganelli’s Hercules vs. Vampires. The opera takes Mario Bava’s 1961 film Hercules in the Haunted World, strips out the original audio, and screens the movie synced with a live orchestra and singers performing Morganelli’s score. This take offered a mix of gravitas and goofy humor — perfect for a film starring Christopher Lee as a vampiric Greek king. Some operagoers even turned up in togas and laurels to hoot at Reg Park’s preposterously ripped Hercules. Ashley Naftule

click to enlarge JB Snyder's murals always make for an interesting backdrop. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
JB Snyder's murals always make for an interesting backdrop.
Benjamin Leatherman
Lost Lake Murals
They had us at music — and murals. When Lost Lake Festival organizers put together the lineup for the inaugural three-day event at Steele Indian School Park, they included live mural painting by nine artists with vastly different styles. Festival attendees had the opportunity to talk with the Phoenix artists, see how large-scale works come together, and snap selfies in front of vibrant backdrops. We loved the bold lines and colors, and attention to detail, in murals by Kyllan Maney, Jeff Slim, JB Snyder, and Lisa Von Hoffner. And the crowds, who gravitated toward their murals both day and night, clearly agreed. Lynn Trimble

click to enlarge Entrance to the Grand Gallery at Heard Museum. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Entrance to the Grand Gallery at Heard Museum.
Lynn Trimble
“Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera”
On July 7, more than 3,000 people lined up outside the Heard Museum in sweltering 115-degree heat to celebrate the 110th birthday of everyone’s favorite unibrowed surrealist. The overwhelming response to this event prompted the museum to extend the “Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera” exhibition’s sole North American stop until September. Displaying rarely seen works from the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, including Rivera’s Sunflowers and Kahlo’s affecting depiction of her tragic miscarriage, this showcase gave Phoenix a rare look at the Mexican artists’ work. Jason Keil

click to enlarge December 2017 Light Rail Plays Platform Tour performance in Roosevelt Row. - RISING YOUTH THEATRE
December 2017 Light Rail Plays Platform Tour performance in Roosevelt Row.
Rising Youth Theatre
Light Rail Plays
For the fifth annual Light Rail Plays, Rising Youth Theatre presented its first Platform Tour, featuring eight five-minute works performed at Valley Metro light rail stations in Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe. The closing performance, held Sunday, December 10, at the Central and Roosevelt station in Roosevelt Row, was a poignant and playful nod toward shared humanity – complete with live music, movement, spoken word, and theater performed by professional artists and local youth. Co-curated by Xanthia Walker and Liliana Gomez, the tour affirmed creativity’s role in sustaining thriving civic spaces and conversations, and revealed the space’s potential as an ongoing performance platform. Lynn Trimble


click to enlarge Part of the Squidsoup installation at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Part of the Squidsoup installation at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
Lynn Trimble
Oceans of Light
For years, Scottsdale Arts has been transforming the Arizona Canal with light-based installations during Canal Convergence. This year, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art transformed an entire gallery space into Oceans of Light: Submergence. For most of May through June, the interactive LED light installation, which comprised more than 8,000 lights, was suspended from the ceiling in strands that patrons could walk through. Created by an international group of artists called Squidsoup, the installation turned perfectly mature art lovers into wide-eyed, childlike explorers. And it left us wondering – how many ceiling hooks would we need to try this at home? Lynn Trimble

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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski
Jason Keil was the Phoenix New Times culture editor from August 2019 to May 2020.
Contact: Jason Keil
Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.
Ashley Naftule
Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble