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Phoenix Arts Community Members Meet to Discuss Art Detour's Future

More than 30 people --a mixture of studio owners, artists, urban advocates, longtime volunteers and the merely curious -- showed up for a meeting April 21 in Phoenix to discuss the future of Art Detour.

In the end, the group could not even agree on a date for next year's event, which would be Art Detour's 25th anniversary.

After nearly two hours of (mostly) civil debate, it was obvious that the areas where this year's event improved over former years -- communication, planning, and identity -- still need improvement.

Mike Oleskow, Artlink's president and former co-owner of After Hours Gallery, began the meeting by recapping Art Detour 24 financially (it broke even, despite a limited budget and low volunteer numbers) and emphasizing that 2012 was meant to be a new beginning.

"What we need to do is go back to a clean slate," Oleskow said. "We really need to figure out what the future looks like."

Nancy Hill, board member and owner of Gallery HAZEL, observed, "I think we've come a long way; I think we have a long way to come."

Two major points of contention were the date and level of inclusion of Art Detour 24.

Artlink held this year's event the same weekend as Third Friday, St. Patrick's Day and Arizona State University's Spring Break. Some community members suggested that Art Detour was crowded out and under-promoted. Others countered that the third weekend in March was still a better choice than First Friday weekend, which would turn Art Detour into just an extension of the popular monthly art festival.

Dates aside, Beatrice Moore, owner of Kooky Krafts and decades-long developer to the Grand Avenue arts scene, suggested that if Art Detour plans to reinvent its identity, the "renaissance" needs to be promoted within the arts community to change artists' perceptions about the event.

"The last few years--I'm not counting this year--but the last few years, Art Detour has floundered, and so I think this year people were thinking they didn't even want to participate," Moore said.

After the meeting, Oleskow agreed with the suggestion that Artlink knows what needs to change next year -- more community involvement and outreach, better planning to advance changes -- but admitted the group doesn't have a concrete plan to make it happen yet.

"It's hard, when your footprint is getting bigger, to give the same attention [to everyone]," he said.

Oleskow says Artlink will consider other options brought up in the meeting, like separate mural and independent studio tours that would better incorporate the art that's happening in areas along McDowell Road, 7th Avenue and 16th Street.

Art Detour 25 will be an important anniversary in terms of history, he says, and a chance to get business and city officials excited about the event again. But Oleskow said that next year also needs to mark "the rebirth of Art Detour."

"It's fun to have the history ... to have that perspective, but we also need to know that art is a continuing [process]," Oleskow said. "[Art Detour] has got to evolve with the times, but it's still here."

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Tye Rabens

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