This Grand Avenue staple hasn't picked sides -- it wants to be a gallery and a bar with live music. Maybe that's why the Paper Heart doesn't entirely feel like either. Instead, it reminds us of some eccentric person's living room, or maybe a crafty kid's clubhouse, with all these comfy old couches where you can slouch back with a cold beer. The atmosphere is friendlier than your average gallery or bar, too: no haughty curators, no meathead security dudes. All the better for making yourself at home as you're watching a rock band, hip-hop group, acoustic guitarist, or whatever else is on the eclectic musical lineup. Don't miss the topnotch local bands rounded up by The Shizz every second Saturday of the month, and P.A.I.N.T., held every Tuesday night, with spoken-word performers and downtempo grooves courtesy of DJ Seduce.
Here's the straight poop: When hip screenwriter and novelist Jerry Stahl visited Perihelion Arts last year to sign copies of his latest tome I, Fatty, turns out the ex-heroin junkie also purchased one of mixed-media maven Erastes Cinaedi's artfully decorated toilet seats on display at the Grand Avenue bookstore and gallery. The story goes that Stahl acquired this particular throne, which featured the space-bound heroes of Star Trek: The Next Generation, for actor and Trek fan Ben Stiller, who's been a bud since he portrayed the former opiate addict in a 1998 biopic version of Stahl's Permanent Midnight. Quick, someone call InStyle magazine! Stahl and Stiller aren't the only celebrities appreciating Cinaedi's kooky crap chairs, which are created by decoupaging cutouts from pop cultural ephemera like comic books and magazines to wooden toilet seats that focus on a central theme like Barbie or Batman. Dan Aykroyd bought three for his House of Blues chain, while George Steinbrenner's wife Joan Zieg ordered a custom Yankees seat for her hubby's office. Whether the icons are using these poop hoops as objets d'art or as a place to do their business, we'll never know.
Maie Bartlett Heard Elementary School
It takes a lot to get our attention when we're driving, but the wildly colorful, Fauve-style mural painted on a wall in front of Maie Bartlett Heard Elementary School does just that. In fact, the first time we saw the block-long art project, we cruised by several times to determine what was going on. After a number of drive-bys, we finally asked, and determined that, as part of "Phoenix Youth Makes a Difference Day" in 2001 and 2002, students and staff at Heard Elementary, headed up by the inspirational Ms. Dehner, painted different vibrant scenarios that merge to create a pastiche of the splendiferous world around us. You've got your seaside scenes, your mountain and meadow scenes with farm animals and barns, and, of course, you've got a creative blend of Washington, D.C., and New York, with the Capitol Building appearing next to the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge and a bunch of off-kilter skyscrapers (maybe the skyscrapers are from L.A.). Cactus-crowded mesas morph into tropical vegetation and brightly colored fish, which swim toward planets in outer space in a continuum that ends with a cheerful school bus on a busy street of charming little houses and a large American flag.

Now we know where Phoenix's Phuture Picassos hang out. Go, Heard Vikings!

Hollywood Alley
Without a doubt, Hollywood Alley has consistently good live music, from hardcore to Americana, on any night of the week. But the past several months have brought a lot more workweek excitement to break up the daily grind. First, Dumperfoo and Emerg McVay's Thursday night Blunt Club arrived. And just this past July, Vodka Tonic Media got on board with its own ongoing Tuesday night party, Gimme Danger, with indie bands and DJs to please the underground rock crowd. It's nice to see an old favorite like Hollywood Alley taking some chances. So take a risk yourself, and sneak out on a school night.
Those in the Phoenix art scene love to recycle, and it's not just because of their hippy-dippy lifestyle. No, these arty people are all about reusing refuse because it provides them with tons of debris to either use as canvases or as part of a found art sculpture or two -- especially the kind of junk that can be unearthed in downtown's Evans-Churchill Neighborhood along Roosevelt Street, between Seventh Street and Central Avenue.

Ask any of the area's groovy garbage pickers about it and they'll regale you with tales of scoring plywood, broken electronics, window frames, cardboard, and other castoffs. Isaac Fortoul likes to chop up old doors from the alleyway behind his digs, which currently houses MADE Art Boutique, for use in his paintings. Ian Wender incorporated more than 1,000 beer tabs he found in the Holga's parking lot into mixed-media collage. (Hey, all that underage drinking on First Fridays is finally paying off!) His neighbor Kim Bridgford also acknowledges that she's swiped Masonite panels and cabinet doors from nearby rubbish receptacles. The only complaint of these local artisans: "All the crackheads take the good garbage."

The Rogue Bar
It takes more than a fresh coat of paint and some nice new booth seating to really change a place. And sure enough, a lot of changes happened at The Rogue this past year (that is, The Rogue East, sister to Phoenix's newer Rogue West). We've heard rumors about what really went down, but all we'll say is this: The Rogue made it through the drama, which is more than you could say about so many of the Valley's now-defunct nightspots. It's a little disappointing that this place isn't a destination to see live punk bands anymore, but on the bright side, The Rogue has made a major comeback with one single night, Shake!, on Saturdays. It's when DJ William Reed spins punk, indie and glam to get the eyeliner crowd dancing, and flame-haired Hell on Heels'er Katie Rose pours stiff drinks to get the barflies gabbing. And one more thing -- The Rogue still has a killer jukebox.
Arizona Art Supply
Often, when we ask friends and colleagues for a recommendation for a particular "Best of," we're overwhelmed with choices and a lot of hemming and hawing. After all, there are a lot of places in this town where you can get a good margarita. But when we asked about art supplies, the answer came back quickly, always the same, and from professional artists as well as neophytes: Arizona Art Supply.

The masses have spoken, and they're right. Nowhere else in the Valley can you find the selection and quality of supplies -- as well as professional advice to go along with them -- as at Arizona Art Supply. There are now locations in Scottsdale and Tempe, along with the well-known spot in the center of town, or you can order online.

All we ask is that you thank us profusely in your "artist's statement."

The Trunk Space
Stephanie Carrico and JRC's Grand Avenue art space/performance venue is sorta like Disneyland, only way smaller -- it's persistently packed with colorfully larger-than-life characters, there's tons of fun and fantasy to be had, and it could be "The Happiest Place on Earth," especially if you're a fan of entertainers (from both inside and outside the Valley) who are equally weird and wired. Carrico and JRC possess a self-proclaimed soft spot in their hearts for all manner of oddballs, and the list of wacky acts the couple has booked at the Trunk include the spastic gymnastics and hyperactive tonal terrorism of one-man gigs I Hate You When You're Pregnant and Treasure Mammal, the noise rock pollution of Father's Day, the freakish feats of the Spellbinding Circus Sideshow, and the vampire-meets-vaudeville stylings of Count Smokula. Just as long is the list of screwball antics that regularly occur, like when the gaudy J-pop punkers of NYC's Peelander-Z ended their February set with a game of "human bowling," encouraging audience members to toss them at some oversize pins. Looking for any unusual suspects? We betcha you'll find them in this joint.
Bruno Mali's Cafe & Gift
Sunday night is usually spent lying low, doing laundry, and licking our wounds after not snagging that honey's number at the club the night before. It's a "school night," and we gotta turn in early so we can rise bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for another week of workin' for The Man. Well, fuck that cheese! And while you're at it, Muck Fondays, too. That's right, I ain't been drinkin' . . . yet. Muck Fondays is a Sunday night of martini swillin' and chillin' at Bruno Mali's, so named to make you think of O.J. Simpson's bloody shoe (but actually named for the owner's relatives). If there's a principle behind Muck Fondays, it's this: If you have to work, why not be hung over on your boss's time? That'll teach that needle-dick for making you clock in at 8 a.m. At Muck Fondays, they say "Screw the system!" with kick-ass DJs spinning jazz fusion and hip-hop, and drink deals that are off the chain. Hell, there's even a better chance of hookin' up on Sunday anyway, we think. And if that happens, you'll have at least one reason for smiling come Monday morn.
Alchemy Studio
You think you're too busy to acquire a new art skill? Well, we're not impressed. Got a day? Get artsy with Alchemy Studio's one-day workshops conducted in, as they put it, a "small but rich time frame." An eclectic mix of classes ranging from figure drawing and playwriting to hand-sewn scrapbooks and Polaroid transfers (where the emulsion creates a print on non-photographic surfaces) is offered within the convenience of a weekend afternoon.

Experienced art professionals teach the seminars, including Mary Virginia Swanson, whose credentials include directing special photo projects for the famous NYC photojournalism collective Magnum. A brand-new space, slated to open later this fall, will house a darkroom and more etching equipment that will allow for additional printmaking techniques and 19th-century photographic processes. So fold your laundry later. You've run out of excuses, pal.

Best Of Phoenix®

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