It Takes a Gypsy Village . . .

As you read this, C.R. Vavrek could be rifling through your garbage.

Don’t fret. The 27-year-old shaggy-chic painter ain’t trying to score some dirt on you. More likely, he’s hunting for funky junk to put the finishing touches on his Gypsy Village, which he’s erecting for this weekend’s Art Detour. Whatever trashy treasures Vavrek finds will be hammered on to the collection of ramshackle shacks he’s constructed from assorted wooden forklift pallets, cardboard boxes, and other scrap materials in a vacant lot next to The Firehouse.

This shantytown spectacle, the highlight of last year’s Art Detour, is back bigger and better for a second year, allowing Vavrek to take another satirical stab at the issue of gentrification in Copper Square. The message? Once there’s nothing but million-dollar lofts and upscale businesses dominating downtown Phoenix, hovels and Hoovervilles will be all that salt-of-the-Earth artists can afford.

“Artists around here are kinda forced outta neighborhoods and into a gypsy existence, because people with money around here don’t really want us around anymore, because we’ve made their neighborhood worth something,” Vavrek says. “They’ll profit more if we get the fuck out of the way.”

The Village — which opens at 6 p.m. Friday, March 7, and operates throughout the weekend — will play host to a fortune teller, plastic-bottle bowling games, works by artists such as Glen Woodford and Harley Gannon, and likely a kooky crowd of visitors. One group Vavrek hopes won’t show is the cops, who nearly shut down the Village last year after then-property-owner Wayne Rainey became miffed at the painter for failing to ask permission. Rumor has it the property’s been sold to a California developer, so Vavrek’s not too worried.

“I think the odds are better this year that we don’t get into trouble,” he says. “But I’ll have a video camera handy just in case the cops drop by or they send a bulldozer after us.”

March 7-9, 2008
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.