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Grand Avenue Festival: In Review

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Weather-related misery aside (let's be real, sweating in September's not unprecedented), we imagined the Grand Avenue Festival would be a pretty stellar way to spend a Saturday afternoon, or evening. And for the most part, we were absolutely right.

We set out on Saturday with a mission to check out everything we could -- there was a ton -- and we've come back with a few notes and suggestions for next year.

Check out our Grand Avenue Festival slideshow here and thoughts on the art, fashion, food, tours, people, and so much more after the jump ...

"Hanging Gardens, Woven Fences"

Our first stop was the "Trashy Sculpture Show" at Bragg's Pie Factory. The idea here was for artists, non-artists, kids and, well, anyone who
could cough up the $10 entry fee to fashion art pieces out of throw-away materials.

It was easy to tell which pieces were created by experienced artists -- simply put, they were better-looking than the ones clearly made for fun.

The  stand-out pieces included welded metal sculptures by Ernie Nickels, a  wall tapestry made from felt die-cut scraps by Kate Benjamin of Moderncat.net (her studio was also open in the Bragg's Pie building), and stacked pieces of random-shaped wood by Eric Babcock.

By Eric Babcock.

On to

Devious Wigs & Things

, a super funky wigs, vintage clothing, and accessories retail space. No A/C doomed this space to just a two-minute walk-through but the racks of vintage threads looked somewhat promising -- although it's not the best vintage in town. Just as they do on a First Friday, the spot rotated a group of models to pose on pedestals in front of the store.

One big disappointment was the lack of participants for the "Hanging Gardens, Woven Fences" exhibition that was to take place along Grand Avenue throughout the day. It was an open invite to anyone to set up temporary "guerilla gardens" made from living things or materials to mimic living things. By the time we arrived, we only spied two -- both were wonderful. Colorful strands of fabric, tissue paper, plastic fringe and other vibrant scraps hung from the tree branches in front of the Bragg's Pie building while cornucopias that contained bursting with flowers made from painted masking tape lined the archway into the La Melgosa building.

Double thumbs-up to Tilt Gallery with their "Beyond Measure" exhibition (and their glorious air conditioning). The curious works by Rachel Woodburn featured deconstructed and manipulated utilitarian objects; altered to a point of uselessness. A small child's dress with entire strips of fabric removed hung from the ceiling. A dinner table fork was mounted to the wall and its prongs were tightly woven with fishing line. The pieces were accompanied by small photographs. Unfortunately, most were forgettable or distracting from the rest of the show.

(And now for fashion ...)

Without Apologies Designer Show

Good music (complements of DJ Kris the Fist), a full house, and an interesting (and interested) diverse crowd are not necessarily the norm at Phoenix fashion events, but that was the scene at the Without Apologies Designer Show.

Four local lines walked the Bragg's Pie Factory runway (Artepuro, Mle Jean,
Sticker Club Girl
and Wicked Wear) showing a variety of looks. The collections were wildly different: one featuring retro shapes and thigh-highs, another "I Dream of Jeannie"-esque ensembles.

While the fashion and styling were the draw, the models (or designer's friends?) kept the entertainment value high with animated walking/posing styles resembling deranged dolls and show ponies.

Starting on time and clocking in at about 30 minutes, the show hit another high point: knowing when to quit.

(Next up's the ReDapt Tours ...)

The Festival started off with their second annual Re-Dapt Tours, walking tours that would highlight and explore some of the adaptative re-use projects happening on Grand Ave. There were three tours that morning, each led by a group of Phoenix historians. Among the guides was Marshall Shore, who does a monthly slideshow of local history at Metro Retro, and standup comedian Will Novak.

We went on the last tour, the 10 a.m., led by blogger and Jane's Walk Phoenix organizer Yuri Artibise. The Re-Dapt Tour met inside the Rodriguez Brothers Boxing Club, and it was no surprise to see that the majority of people taking the tour were over the age of forty.

The tour started with a talk by Boxing Club founder Al Rodriguez, and it set the tone for how the rest of the tour would be: whenever Rodriguez would discuss local history (like how his Club used to be a Piggly-Wigglys), it was fascinating; whenever Rodriguez would begin talking about his own personal history and business, it got very boring very fast.

The tour crossed over to the barred and shuttered Oasis Hotel (what used to be the locus point of junkies and prostitutes on Grand until it got closed down in 2007).

From there, we wandered down Roosevelt, passing by closed down National Guard buildings and residential homes that used to be churches, stopping by Gonzales Heating and Cooling and the Light Of The World Church.

After watching a bizarre montage film of steel being shipped into Phoenix as soaring operatic music played, we got escorted to the back of the church, where we were treated to a free lunch hosted by the El Mana restaurant (who is affiliated with the church).

At this point the tour dissolved, with folks drifting off to nearby cars, or ambling over to the Trunk Space's Shop & Swap. From what we were told, the tour was supposed to end with a look at Kooky Krafts, Sweets & Beats, & Trunk Space, but after the free meal what little direction the guides had on the tour vanished and people scattered. It was an interesting experience worth the $10 ticket and full of interesting facts about the past (that Grand used to be the rest stop for people passing through Phoenix) and future of Grand Ave (that they might put in a trolley!).

But here's to hoping that for the next round of tours they take a cue from the Oscars and use "play them off" music the next time a business owner regales us with the ins and outs of their family tree.

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