The Best Things We Saw at January's First Friday

Palabras founder Rosaura Chawa Magaña (left) pauses with Miriam Antonieta Carpenter-Cosand, one of the exhibit organizers, during First Friday.
Palabras founder Rosaura Chawa Magaña (left) pauses with Miriam Antonieta Carpenter-Cosand, one of the exhibit organizers, during First Friday. Lynn Trimble
Was one of your resolutions this year to see more art? We thought so. We expanded our horizons as well and found some great shows that weren't on Roosevelt Row or Grand Avenue.

'I Art Woman'

Sometimes the best art exhibits are the quiet ones, rather than ones filled with bold lines or bright colors. That was certainly the case at Palabras Bilingual Bookstore, where a pair of walls were filled with works created by women artists based in Guadalajara, Mexico. Meanwhile, works by women artists based in metro Phoenix were being shown at Casa Lac in Guadalajara. Using mediums from drawing to video, featured artists explored identity while seeking to counter “stereotypes, cannons, boundaries, and literal borders.”

They did just that by elevating the creativity of women, which has so often been marginalized by mainstream art institutions. Their collaborative approach pushed back against the tendency toward isolationism and competition in the world of commercial art, and their work across borders suggested ways the human story transcends boundaries of time and place. Lynn Trimble

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Anthony Wallace


The Herberger Theater was the site of three lively, if somewhat unrelated, First Friday celebrations to begin the new decade.

Outside, performers young and old took the stage to preview and commemorate the opening of Cabaret. Inside, the vibe was more regal as two fine art exhibitions hosted opening parties. The final chamber of the facility, Bob’s Spot Gallery Lounge, hosted the evenings most focused event, "Portraits." Along the long room’s golden curtain sidewall hung a collection of 17 portraits by Arizona artists.

The works, selected by a blind jury and available to view and purchase until March, represent veterans and newcomers alike. Charith Denson, who works by day for the nonprofit organization Food for the Hungry, is showing at Herberger for the first time. Her portrait uses a photo of Syrian refugees in Lebanon, which she painted over to illuminating effect. Her work aims to allow people to place themselves in the positions of less-fortunate folks across the world. The selection is a vote of confidence for her. “This was a huge deal,” Denson said. “Herberger is definitely on every artists’ checklist. Like, this is how you know you’ve done a good job as an artist.” Anthony Wallace

The Future

The thrill of seeing an improv show is that you’re watching something being built before your eyes that will never exist again. Phoenix is home to a thriving improv community. One of the biggest is the Torch Theatre at Central Avenue and Camelback Road. Every Friday, they do a late show around 9 p.m. called The Future featuring two improv troupes. For this First Friday, a trio named TGIF kicked things off by doing a show inspired by '90s sitcoms. Scene changes were marked by sitcom music bumps as the trio played a family called The Hendersons whose youngest member, Stubby, went on a series of adventures that ended with her becoming a mayor embroiled in an escalating series of scandals.

Following TGIF was the quintet GAG, whose show got profoundly surreal very quickly. With scenes featuring “junk eaters,” characters arguing about the etiquette of living inside a junkyard, community theater actors auditioning for Shrek, and enough name drops about Celicas to make you wonder if Toyota was a secret sponsor for the theater, GAG’s show was an unpredictable and hilarious thing to witness. It’s a testament to the quality of The Future’s troupes. I would have gladly watched both groups continue to build sandcastles for another hour. Ashley Naftule
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Ashley Naftule
Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble