Art

The Best Things We Saw This Year in Metro Phoenix

Merryn Omotayo Alaka and Sam Fresquez, Double Take, 2021. Kanekalon hair and braid clamps, steel, wire, 81 × 59 × 59 inches.
Merryn Omotayo Alaka and Sam Fresquez, Double Take, 2021. Kanekalon hair and braid clamps, steel, wire, 81 × 59 × 59 inches. Lisa Sette Gallery
The creative community delivered a compelling mix of arts and culture this year, often working together to reveal the talent and resilience in our midst. Here's a look back at 10 of the best things we saw in 2021.

Woman-Centered Exhibits

Knowing how dismally women are represented in most museum collections and exhibitions, we were delighted to see so many spaces focus on works by women artists in 2021. Our favorites included “Division of Labor: Women Shifting a Transnational Gaze” at Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and “Things We Carry” at Lisa Sette Gallery, which featured works by Angela Ellsworth as well as Merryn Omotayo Alaka and Sam Fresquez.

click to enlarge Artist Jeff Slim painted the entrance to Nurture House in Phoenix. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Artist Jeff Slim painted the entrance to Nurture House in Phoenix.
Lynn Trimble

New Creative Spaces

We loved seeing new creative spaces open in 2021, as artists continued to find fresh ways to make and show their work. Palabras Bilingual Bookstore and Wasted Ink Zine Distro formed a creative hub called Nurture House, where other collaborators included local presses and a bakery. An indigenous arts space called Cahokia opened in Roosevelt Row, and artist Patricia Sannit created the Rocking S Art Ranch that’s home to several artist studios and shared work spaces.

click to enlarge This is the central panel of Paul Coze's The Phoenix mixed-media mural. - CRAIG SMITH
This is the central panel of Paul Coze's The Phoenix mixed-media mural.
Craig Smith

Sky Harbor Airport Art

Art highlights in 2021 included the relocation of the renowned Paul Coze mural to its new home in the rental car center for Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The Phoenix Airport Museum delivered other delights as well, including exhibitions spotlighting skate deck art and muralists, which helped to introduce Arizona-based artists to travelers from around the world.

click to enlarge Works from The Violet Protest were exhibited at Phoenix Art Museum in 2021. - ANN MORTON
Works from The Violet Protest were exhibited at Phoenix Art Museum in 2021.
Ann Morton

The Violet Protest

Thousands of makers from across the country contributed red and blue textile squares to artist Ann Morton’s Violet Protest project, which focuses on civic engagement and collaboration. The project was exhibited at Phoenix Art Museum in 2021, and numerous 8-inch-by-8-inch artworks have been sent to members of the U.S. Congress as a way to counter divisive rhetoric and encourage bipartisanship, making this a monumental mix of art and civic engagement.

click to enlarge El Mac and Thomas "Breeze" Marcus painted this mural in downtown Phoenix. - DOWNTOWN PHOENIX, INC.
El Mac and Thomas "Breeze" Marcus painted this mural in downtown Phoenix.
Downtown Phoenix, Inc.

El Mac and Breeze Mural

In a year filled with creative collaborations, a mural painted in downtown Phoenix by Miles “El Mac” MacGregor and Thomas “Breeze” Marcus ranks high among our favorites. Titled Si’alik Hiosik/Morning Blossom, the 45-foot-by-85-foot mural infuses the visual culture of downtown with the culture of its original peoples and recognizes the long trajectory of their ongoing impact on the region.

click to enlarge Canal Convergence included a new work by Phoenix-based choreographer and dancer Nicole Olson. - NICOLE OLSON
Canal Convergence included a new work by Phoenix-based choreographer and dancer Nicole Olson.
Nicole Olson

Aura on the Waterfront

Hundreds of people gathered around the Marshall Way Bridge along the Scottsdale Waterfront in November, watching Nicole Olson|MovementChaos dancers perform a new work titled Aura as part of Canal Convergence. Dressed in bright red, they brought bountiful movements that infused the outdoor public art space with unparalleled joy and a strong sense of shared community.

click to enlarge Zachary Justin's mural was part of "Uncontained" in Roosevelt Row. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Zachary Justin's mural was part of "Uncontained" in Roosevelt Row.
Lynn Trimble

'Uncontained' Artworks

Despite First Friday scaling down for much of 2021, community members could always count on seeing rotating exhibitions of fresh art in the form of murals created by Indigenous and Latino artists on the exterior of a shipping container in Roosevelt Row, for the "Uncontained" project coordinated by Xico Arte y Cultura.

click to enlarge Black Theatre Troupe performs Black Nativity in Phoenix. - BLACK THEATRE TROUPE
Black Theatre Troupe performs Black Nativity in Phoenix.
Black Theatre Troupe

Milestone Moments

Several creative spaces reached milestone moments in 2021, reminding the community that arts and culture has risen above all kinds of challenges through the years. As Black Theatre Troupe presented its 50th season and Alwun House marked its 50th anniversary, for example, there was cause for celebration despite devastating COVID-19 impacts on the local creative scene.

click to enlarge Detail of Tammi Lynch-Forrest's massive mural while it was a work in progress. - TAMMI LYNCH-FORREST
Detail of Tammi Lynch-Forrest's massive mural while it was a work in progress.
Tammi Lynch-Forrest

Desert Wildlife Mosaic

Tammi Lynch-Forrest completed her 100-foot mosaic mural in North Scottsdale in 2021, after spending three years on the piece, which features more than 200 species native to the desert Southwest. Commissioned by the Desert Mountain community, the mural includes more than 50,000 tiles that create a scene showing the desert light shifting from day to night. The mural is a testament to the resilience of both the desert and local artists.

click to enlarge Looking across Central Avenue towards Burton Barr Central Library. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Looking across Central Avenue towards Burton Barr Central Library.
Lynn Trimble

Burton Barr Reopening

Seeing Burton Barr Central Library and additional library branches gradually resume in-person services starting in April 2021, after COVID-19 closures that followed a significant flooding crisis, signaled hope for the literary and cultural life of the city, and left us celebrating the physical return of this cherished community space.
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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble