Finding Art in a (or El) Mirage

One new idea for every day in 2011. We're talking big, small, local, international, in action and on the drawing board. Here's today's -- what's yours?

Thomas Schultz followed his photography passion to El Mirage.

The West Valley city -- barely 10 square miles with 40,000 residents -- was, at first, a hard sell for the artist. It was a community trying to find a new identity in the midst of a crime-ridden reputation. As Schultz moved in, officials were working to revamp local culture, and were rezoning houses to create opportunities for local business people and artists.

There was hardly an art scene at the time, but Schultz (and the community) had a plan.

Schultz began photographing the city's residents in the middle of everyday activities, which he describes in a fourth-generation farming town meant coming home from the fields, polishing boots, and shaving with handfuls of cream and straight razors in the front yard.

Economic Development Coordinator Marianne Archibald and the Arizona Commission on the Arts gave Schultz an arts grant to pursue what became the "El Mirage" project -- a portrait profile of the community. They also set him up with an artist in residence gallery on Thunderbird and El Mirage roads, where he's currently working to showcase local artists and Phoenix-based artists' work to create a West Valley arts scene he hopes with revitalize the area.

Schultz opens his doors every Third Thursday with an artist reception and live music. He says the Incubator Gallery across the plaza puts on a similar event on the same night with emerging artists and live art demonstrations.

Tonight (and throughout this month), the gallery will feature a series by Schultz titled "Mysterious Light" -- mostly photographs taken under full moon conditions with exposures as long as four minutes in junkyards, farm houses, and interstate cafes. Future months will include the works of Dante Maritano Navarro and Sean Rohde.

For more information on Schultz' opening and gallery, visit the El Mirage Gallery blog and the Arts Move El Mirage Facebook page.

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