Best of Phoenix

Monsters Ink

Baron Gordon is a monster, but not the creepy-crawly kind. As the founder of the Alpha Monster artist collective, which comprises major players in the Valley's growing live painting scene, Gordon is more Monsters Inc. than Frankenstein. When he started the collective in 2003, he wanted to help other artists learn how to market their work (he's got a background in marketing and sales) and find a way to give back to the community. Since that time, the collective has hosted hundreds of live art shows — events where the artists create a work from scratch in front of an audience — donating part of the proceeds to local charities.

The Naming of Things
We came up with the name Alpha Monster. Most people think it's alpha male, but it's "alpha" being first — this is a test, and we didn't know if it was going to work or how far it was going to get — and "monster" being larger than life. Monstrous.

Gathering Momentum
I was intrigued by this movement of live art. It's cool to see the art community as a whole has really adopted that. You go outside the Valley and it's not as prominent. We have so many talented artists here, so the idea was, we're doing live shows, let's donate some of the proceeds from the work we sell. Last year as a collective, we did over 70 shows in the Valley and across the nation.

It's Alive
It's really interesting to hear people talk about live art who aren't artists, because they say, "How do you do it in front of a room full of people?" It's like, "How do you breathe?"

Mini Monsters
We've been doing an artist-in-residence program with Greenway Middle School. We're collaborating with 40 kids around a canvas. They have no idea about complementary colors, and at the end of the program, they're on it. I really had no idea what direction it was going to go. I had no idea how they were going to react. As a live artist, you do a lot of improv — you may not have all the tools, but you have to make it pretty. I shared improv with them. I shared negative and positive energy. The art was definitely cool, but I had four weeks to teach 40 kids, so for me to go in and say, "Hey, this is blue paint and this is a paintbrush," anyone can do that. I wanted to really prepare them for what's to come.

Beta Monsters
It's interesting how we've grown and progressed as a collective. When we first started, it was like, wear your shirt when we paint live. We wanted to brand ourselves, but we didn't want to be an art troupe. Once we branded ourselves, it was cool to say let's just be us. We're not going to work, we don't need uniforms. It's weird because people have said, "Can I join?" It's not about joining. If you believe in something, you do it. I've said from day one, it's not a club, it's not a fraternity, it's a movement of artists.

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Megan Irwin
Contact: Megan Irwin