Grand Avenue Festival 2015 and Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts: A Field Guide

Creative types in the Grand Avenue arts district in downtown Phoenix have big plans for Saturday, November 14 – when the seventh annual Grand Avenue Festival gives locals and tourists alike all sorts of cool ways to get to know the historic neighborhood and the people who give it life.

Unlike other streets in Phoenix, which are laid out in grid-like fashion, Grand Avenue cuts across the city on the diagonal. It’s a little odd that way – a fact that’s celebrated by the artists and other creatives who live, work or play there.

The Grand Avenue Festival channels the area’s quirky side – delivering experiences that can't be found in other parts of the city. Think recycled fashions, gardens hanging in planters suspended between treetops, and fences woven with crafty artwork.

The free festival is presented by Grand Avenue Arts & Preservation along with Production Agency for Participatory Arts. Each organization is operated by Grand Avenue locals eager to celebrate arts and culture, small business, community, history, and adaptive reuse.

The festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., primarily along Grand Avenue from the corner of Grand and 15th avenues, and south to Polk Street. It’s a mix of art, music, food, funky fashion, and more. The Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts (PAPA), a community affair organized by Stephen and Sahar Strange, joins the festival again this year.

You can pretty much show up anytime during the festival and find something cool going on. But for those who like to plan ahead, we’ve got the scoop on what happens when – plus tips for making the most of the day.

First, a few basics:

Getting around
There’s free, on-street parking along Grand Avenue between Roosevelt and Van Buren — and along various side streets. You’ll find bike racks by The Lodge Art Studio, La Melgosa, and a lot located at the intersection of 15th Avenue and Roosevelt Street, which is called the “PAPA lot” for festival day. Snag a free pedicab at the PAPA lot, or by the Fushicho Daiko Dojo. Be sure to wear your favorite walking shoes.

Festival guides
Start at one of three information tables, where you can pick up a festival map and guide. You’ll find them at Bragg’s Pie Factory, Fushicho Daiko Dojo, and the PAPA lot. When in doubt, look for a human festival guide. They’ll be wearing “red aprons and crazy hats,” so you’ll know them when you see them.

Some activities happen at particular times:

Under the Vintage Roof: Starts at 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m., and noon. Meet at the Milum Textile building at 333 North 7th Avenue. Take a free tour of historic, vintage, and adaptive re-use commercial buildings along Grand Avenue.

Planter Tours: Meet at Bragg’s Pie Factory. Starts at 11:30 a.m. (east planters) and 1:30 p.m. (west planters). Take a tour of artist-decorated planters along Grand Avenue, led by local artist Laura Plecas.

Untrashed Recycled Fashion Show and Trashy Hat Promenade: Starts at 3 p.m. (Judging 3:30 p.m. on the PAPA stage). Leaves from La Melgosa (1023 Grand Avenue). Watch or participate in a fashion procession for anyone who wants to rock their recycled fashions and/or trashy hats using Grand Avenue as their catwalk.

Big Top PAPA Parade: Starts at 6 p.m. Register at 5 p.m. (PAPA lot) to be eligible for judging (categories include float, group, bike, costume, and cute). The parade leaves from the PAPA lot. Watch or participate in a circus-theme parade for anyone who wants to join the festivities. Non-motorized floats and costumes are encouraged, but not necessary. The parade includes a grand finale complete with stilt walkers, fire performers, circus artists, and live music.

Here’s a rundown of festival activities happening throughout the day:

Hanging Gardens & Woven Fences: Find art installations created using recyclable materials placed on fences and other unexpected places. Participating artists include Beatrice Moore, Laura Plecas, and many more.

Rubbish Crew Project: Look for young artists, led by Ishmael Duenas, painting dumpsters at several locations, including Bragg’s Pie Factory, Trunk Space, 11th MonK3y, and more.

Fantasy Flowers: Check out flowers created with recycled materials by students from local schools and youth organizations, including Arizona School for the Arts, Metropolitan Arts Institute, and more.

Live music: Listen to Tucson funk duo Mik and Scott, as well as Mexican ska punk band Los Lerpes, on the PAPA stage – where more music will come from Walter the World’s Largest VW Bus, which was forged from a vintage fire truck.

Kids' activities: Check out craft- and jewelry-making tables in front of Lady Luck Tattoo, a coloring station (with designs by local artists) at The Lodge Art Studio, and puppet-making workshops at Puppet Pie studio inside Bragg’s Pie Factory (every 30 minutes from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.).

Other cool options include making letterpress coasters at Hazel & Violet, checking out vintage motorcycles at Love Cycles, exploring a record and media swap meet (noon to 5 p.m.) at Trunk Space, watching drumming demonstrations at Fushicho Daiko Dojo, touring shipping containers transformed into homes at Containers on Grand. Look for vendor booths, food trucks, "mini" art appreciation classes, and an organic market at Unexpected Gallery's Back Alley.

You’ll be able to see works by several artists as well. Look for murals by Rebecca Green, Beatrice Moore, JB Snyder, Luster Kaboom, Carlos Rivas, artists who worked with the Colibri Center for Human Rights of Tucson, and others.

Also look for art in local galleries and less traditional spaces. Explore art by Bill Dambrova (who designed the 2015 Grand Avenue Festival poster) in his studio at Bragg’s Pie Factory, or check out exhibits at Chartreuse and {9} The Gallery. Head to the new Unexpected Gallery to see a group show featuring 20 artists.

Festival organizers will present an 8 to 10 p.m. “After Hours” portion of the festival:

Under the Big Top: Check out a circus theme fashion show at Unexpected Art Gallery presented by Marshall Shore and WEARizona, which specializes in Southwest historical and contemporary fashion.

Live music: Hear local bands perform on the PAPA lot stage and additional locations including Thirdspace, Bragg’s Pie Factory, Unexpected Art Gallery, Trunk Space, and Oasis on Grand.

Find more information about the Grand Avenue Festival and PAPA Parade on the Grand Avenue Arts and Preservation website.
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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble