Culture News

Grand Avenue Festival 2016: A Field Guide to Saturday's Event in Downtown Phoenix

The 2016 Grand Avenue Festival happens Saturday, November 12, from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., along seven blocks of the historic, slanting stretch from 15th Avenue to Van Buren Street. After-hours activities run from 8 to 10 p.m.

The festival is presented by Grand Avenue Arts & Preservation, along with Production Agency for the Participatory Arts. Both organizations are headed by locals who engage fellow community members in making Grand Avenue an interesting place to live, work, or spend time.

Grand Avenue Arts & Preservation was founded by artist Beatrice Moore, a preservation activist who owns several Grand Avenue properties with her husband, Tony Zahn, and Nancy Hill, who owns the Hazel & Violet letterpress and operates Chartreuse galley.

Grand Avenue has seen several changes during the last year or so – including openings for Barrio Café Gran Reserva inside the historic Bragg’s Pie Factory and the Grand ArtHaus studio and gallery space.

Nancy Hill announced her plans to close Chartreuse gallery at the end of the year – but not before she presents exhibitions of two renowned Phoenix artists, including Laura Spalding Best, whose work will be on view during the festival.

This year’s Grand Avenue Festival marks the official grand opening for Palabras bookstore, which started as a community gathering space, but now also serves as a community library specializing in Spanish-language literature.

This time last year, Unexpected Art Gallery opened its eclectic space filled with art and artifacts. Now, it’s serving as a hub for Grand Avenue Festival festivities, and the site of the outdoor PAPA stage hosted by the Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts.

The PAPA parade, organized by Sahar Mitchell and Stephen Strange of the Strange Family Circus, is one of downtown Phoenix's many time-honored traditions. This year’s parade, which has a superhero theme, leaves Unexpected Art Gallery at 6 p.m., then circles back for post-parade entertainment.

This year’s Grand Avenue Festival includes an entirely new component – a celebration of art cars and exhibition of car-inspired artworks. But popular traditions, including the Untrashed Recycled Fashion Show and Trashy Hat Promenade organized by Babs A’Delic, are also part of this year’s lineup.

For people who like to get involved, there are plenty of options – including helping to create funky artwork for street-side displays. Or you can just show up and start exploring. For those who like to know a bit about what to expect, and where it’s all going down, we’ve put together a field guide of festival highlights – including details about what’s happening when, and how to make the most of it all.

First, a few basics.

Getting around
Look for free, on-street parking along Grand Avenue between Roosevelt and Van Buren streets – and along various side streets. You’ll find parking lots at Bragg’s Pie Factory, south of Oasis on Grand, and on the east side of Grand Avenue across from Tuft & Needle.

You’ll find bike racks at several locations – including Unexpected Art Gallery, Bikini Lounge, Trans Am Café, Oasis on Grand, Bragg’s Pie Factory, 11th Monk3y, Fushicho Daiko, and the Lodge.

Find free pedicabs at Oasis on Grand, Bragg’s Pie Factory, or Unexpected Art Gallery – or just hail one as you’re walking your way down Grand Avenue. They’re free, but peddling all day is a tough gig, so tips are appreciated.

Keeping your cool
Dress for comfort, and prepare for the heat, even if you’re just planning to pop in for a short festival stint. Chances are, you’ll end up staying longer – and needing essentials like walking shoes and an ample supply of water. And, of course, it never hurts to wear sunscreen and a hat.

Festival guides
Get your bearings with a free festival guide that includes a map showing participating venues. You’ll find them at information tables located by Bragg’s Pie Factory, the Fushicho Daiko, and Unexpected Art Gallery.

Some activities happen at particular times, so take note if you have your heart set on making these part of your day.

Under the Vintage Roof: Tour several buildings with guides well-versed in Grand Avenue history and lore. Tours organized by Jim McPherson, president of the Arizona Preservation Foundation, and Jill Johnson, manager for Phoenix Rising Tour Company, are being led by four knowledgeable guides: Johnson, McPherson, Tim Eigo, and Louisa Stark. Each tour lasts about two hours, and starts from the sidewalk in front of the Lodge and {9} The Gallery. Tours start at 9, 10, and 11 a.m.

Automorphosis: Screenings for this art car film happen at 2 and 4:30 p.m. at Unexpected Art Gallery, where Harrod Blank, director for Art Car World in Douglas, will be sharing his insights about art car culture. You can meet the art car artists at Unexpected between noon and 3 p.m. on festival day. And be sure to look for a pair of large-scale art vehicles dubbed “Big Red” and “Mona Lisa” by their creators at Walter Art Gallery.

Untrashed Recycled Fashion Show and Trashy Hat Promenade: Show off your fashion and recycling prowess by making something fun to wear in the fashion show and hat promenade that starts at 3 p.m. at Unexpected Art Gallery. Model your fashions runway-style on stage, then parade along Grand Avenue to ThirdSpace for judging and prizes at 3:30 p.m. Forget being on trend. This fashion show is all about being creative.

Super PAPA!: Take part in this year’s Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts (PAPA), which has a superhero theme. Pre-parade entertainment starts at 3 p.m. on the outdoor PAPA Stage at Unexpected Art Gallery, then revs up again once the parade wraps up and prizes have been awarded. Show up in costume at 5 p.m. if you want to register so you’ll be eligible for parade prizes such as best costume or float. Or be there at 6 p.m. if you just want to join the parade, but not worry about winning any awards. Festival-goers can walk or bicycle the parade route, and non-motorized floats are welcome.

Fashion by the Movies: Watch a movie-inspired fashion show presented by Marshall Shore and WEARizona, which starts at 8 p.m. at Unexpected Art Gallery. You’ll see fashions by Redhead Sadie, Hamati Design, and Hell on Wheels Couture. But take note, the movies that inspired them are more Blade Runner than Bambi.

More than three dozen art spaces and small businesses are taking part in the Grand Avenue Festival – giving you a chance to try letterpress printing, make your own hand puppet, watch a guitar being made, try Japanese drumming, explore local artist studios, and more.

Pop into Goat Heart Studio at Bragg’s Pie Factory to meet artist Bill Dambrova, then sneak a peek at the studio’s wickedly creative bathroom – recently named best bathroom in metro Phoenix by New Times.

Several galleries will be showing works by local and national artists:

[9} The Gallery is showing “Urban Abstraction” featuring works by Miami-based artist Jel Martinez.

Abe Zucca Gallery inside Bragg's Pie Factory is featuring “Perspectival 4.0” with new works by Zucca, an artist whose influences include the French Barbizon School.

Chartreuse is showing Laura Spalding Best’s solo exhibition titled “Inferior Mirage,” which includes landscape oil paintings on found objects.

Grand ArtHaus is featuring works inspired by Day of the Dead in its “Dia de los Muertos” group show.

The Lodge is showing works by Abbey Messmer, Joe Brklacich, and Rafael Navarro.

Of course, you’ll also find plenty of art at Unexpected Art Gallery. But the biggest must-see is the Chocolate Factory, the studio and gallery space for local artist Hector Ruiz. It’s rarely opened to the public except during Grand Avenue Festival, and it's typically filled with intriguing works by both Ruiz and other renowned artists working in the area.

For those who favor street art, there’s plenty to explore in the festival’s “Hanging Gardens and Woven Fences” installation featuring eclectic, offbeat offerings by artists and other creatives including Corey Best, Tom Cooper, Carolyn Watson Dubisch, Beatrice Moore, Lara Plecas, Kristin Harris Wolfe, Tony Zahn, Eric Babcock, and Sara Matlin and Tato Caraveo.

Murals along Grand Avenue make great backgrounds for selfies and other photos. Our favorites include Joseph “Sentrock” Perez’s You Can Fly Higher located across from {9} The Gallery, Rebecca Green’s The Painted Desert at the Lodge, Beatrice Moore’s Between Innocence and Understanding near Bikini Lounge, and Colibri’s immigration-themed mural on the side of the pastel-colored La Melgosa building.

If live music is your thing, look for bands playing at various locations throughout the day (as well as festival “after hours” that start at 8 p.m.). You’ll find them at sites including ThirdSpace, Bragg’s Pie Factory, Unexpected Art Gallery, Oasis on Grand, Trans Am Café, Misconstrued Gallery and Boutique, Fushicho Daiko, and La Melgosa.

Foodies have more than a dozen restaurants, cafes, and coffeehouses, plus food trucks, to choose from. Options on Grand Avenue include Mel’s Diner, Trans Am Café, ThirdSpace, Grind Coffee House, and Grand Avenue Pizza Company. If you want to check out Barrio Café Gran Reserva, where the walls are filled with art by local muralists, it’s best to get a reservation ahead of time.

Look for food trucks near Oasis on Grand, Bragg’s Pie Factory, {9} The Gallery, the Chocolate Factory, Fushicho Daiko, Unexpected Art Gallery, and Tuft & Needle.

And if you're bringing kids along, look for a hands-on arts and crafts area outside Lady Luck Tattoo, and puppet-making workshops at Puppet Pie. Shannon Youse of the Bergamot Institute will have supplies for making trashy hats set up on tables outside Bragg's Pie Factory. And you can head to the Lodge to make puppets with the Puppetry Guild of Arizona, or color artist-made coloring sheets at a Girl Scouts coloring booth.

The Grand Avenue Festival takes place Saturday, November 12, from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Find more information on the event Facebook page.
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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