SOCA Gallery & Vircille
In the real estate game, location is everything. Mortgage banking executive Terri Rundle knew that when she opened SOCA Gallery and the neighboring antique shop, Vircille. Named for its prime location just south of Camelback Mountain, the lofty building features burnished gold walls, cathedral ceilings, and killer acoustics for the musicians that flock to play at the fab space's corporate parties. Admittedly, the eye-popping grandeur of SOCA is what drew us there in the first place, but Rundle has assembled a quirky collection of art from her travels that transcends the cactus-studded landscapes and Native American kitsch some local galleries are drowning in. Locals Mark McDowell and David Sklar have been showcased, along with Bulgarian-born surrealist Vladimir Ovtcharov, whose vibrant, offbeat paintings combine rich colors and textures with whimsical wonderland creatures. We look forward to seeing what Rundle pulls out of her dusty collection next.
Make all the jokes you want about Mesa, but do it fast because pretty soon, the place won't be so easy to poke fun at. Things are happening over in the East Valley and we're not talking about new strip malls or good fabric stores, either.

If you happen to cruise Mesa's main drag downtown, you may notice a local art scene that is kicking up and gaining a foothold with the recent opening of Windup Gallery. Owners Lindsay and Anthony Cresta have already showcased a knack for tapping into the local arts scene with their Summer "Homegrown AZ Artist Show" — all the coolest graffiti artists in town coughed up some kickass works. Not only was the art punchy and colorful, but the opening night was bumpin' with scenesters from all over the Valley. Windup has gotta be doing something right if we're willing to haul our cookies to Mesa on a Saturday night.

A mere six months ago, Derrick Pacheco's HoodRide and Paul Moncrief's Route 123 were just ordinary home-based art galleries that shared a duplex on Fifth Street in downtown Phoenix's Evans-Churchill neighborhood. But since then, the pair joined forces and re-created their pads into a kickass compound of coolness that's become a hot hipster hangout during First Fridays.

The building now sports an oddball burnt orange and aqua paint scheme, which makes it stand out from neighbor MADE art boutique and The Lost Leaf like some funkdafied beacon. Moncrief's infamous front-lawn sculpture garden, which the photographer created from automotive and aircraft parts, has now become a bizarre open-air lounge where you can kick back in 1950s-era hair dryers.

Pacheco, a graphic designer with a flair for vintage automotive style, built a treehouse-style DJ booth in the front yard so as to rain down ambient techno beats upon visitors and other passersby. There's also an ample stage in the backyard where live bands perform. The fun isn't just limited to the monthly art walk, however, as the pair host music and performance art events throughout the rest of the month as well. Other RoRo music venues, watch your backs.

BEST PLACE TO SEE AND BE SEEN ON
FIRST FRIDAY

.anti_space

The Roosevelt sidewalk on First Fridays is so overcrowded that we sometimes feel like we're on a subway, having to cram ourselves among hundreds of other bodies to get anywhere. At maximum capacity, the concern shifts from people-watching to avoiding a mass trample.

Time to hop off that stretch and hit .anti_space, a happening conglomerate of galleries, studios, and shops on the southwest corner of Fourth Street and McKinley. The place is easy to spot with its colorfully lit palm trees and a healthy heap of people milling along the sidewalk. Grassy areas have benches and lawn chairs where you can sit while adventurous types give the installed tightrope a try.

Boutiques C.O.L.A.B. and Mint always have cute indie chicks hunting for vintage goodies. Galleries Pravus, Mothball, Waldoism, Red Spade and B-Side are usually open for just the right amount of mixing to get our social jollies off, but not so packed that we smell each other's breath.

It's not so close to Roosevelt Row, but if you plan on hitting Grand Avenue galleries on a First Friday artwalk, there's no better place to park than in the lot of The Paper Heart. In addition to being the only gallery on the strip with a parking lot that includes more than five spaces (there are at least 25 spaces here), The Paper Heart sits on the corner of Grand Avenue and Van Buren Street, more or less at the beginning of the strip and the avenue walk. So once you've parked your ride in The Paper Heart's well-lit lot, you can start your cultural journey with the offbeat exhibits at the gallery, and then walk to any number of other galleries on Grand (Tilt Gallery, Red Door, PHiX, The Lodge, Chocolate Factory, Cone, and several other art houses are literally right across and down the street). The only catch is, if you're going to park at The Paper Heart, you should get downtown early (no later than 7 p.m.), as parking's at a premium downtown and the lot fills quickly.
Garfield Galleria
If you've grown weary of tromping and stomping down Roosevelt Row or Grand Avenue during the monthly artwalks, set your sights less than a mile northward, at this two-story bunker along McDowell Road.

With eight different studios and galleries, Garfield Galleria offers just as much artistic action as its cousins, all contained within a single structure. Downstairs, the twin photo collectives of Gallery 8 and CHAOS serve up plenty of superior snapshots, while the Lords of Art Town provide work across several mediums — including photography and installation work — and Julio Romano's Statement Driven is home to his emotionally charged photos and paintings.

Upstairs, you'll find the dual spaces of abstract minimalist landscape artist Jerry Van Wyngarden and his wife, illustrator Carole Hanks.

Don't starve for their art. Refreshment can be found nearby at the Willow House, Zoës Kitchen, and My Florist. What's not to love?

Ask any CenPho hipsters and they'll tell you — First Friday is a great place to take a date. It's free, it's downtown, and you'll know pretty quickly if your taste in all things visual might be a match. On those nights when it's not a love connection, do not fear; ditching your date has never been easier. Mosey on over to the Roller Derby Bake Sale that happens every First Friday in front of the Bikini Lounge. Tell Mr. or Ms. Wrong it's not them, it's you. The throng of roller girls has your back — if your scene is spectacular enough, they just might applaud. Grab a chocolate snack to ease the pain; after all, it is for a good cause and that brownie is making a difference, dammit. Then march into the Bikini Lounge for some liquid courage. Hey, it's First Friday. Mr. or Ms. Right 2.0 could be inside.

BEST PLACE TO SEE AND BE SEEN ON THIRD FRIDAY

five15 Arts

Five15 Gallery
Third Friday has a more laid-back vibe than its big brother, First Friday, but sometimes it leads to antisocial art viewing. If you're looking to see art, check out some folks and get a little face time of your own, there's no better spot to hit than five15 Gallery. The place has the downtown arts gig down with rotating artists every month. Being a popular space on the main drag, it's one of the few galleries that can still maintain a social aspect on slower nights. Five15 books some of the younger Valley talent, so you're sure to see the artists and all their pals nibbling and chatting the night away, ready for you to join in.
With apologies to the hard-working artists of the downtown Phoenix scene, the grooviest thing going at this year's Art Detour wasn't found in any of the galleries dotting Roosevelt Street or Grand Avenue. Nope; instead, our favorite place during the annual three-day artwalk was a raucous ramshackle collection of cardboard and wood shacks occupying a garbage-strewn vacant lot next door to the Firehouse art collective on First Street just off Roosevelt Row.

The Gypsy Village, subtitled "Artist Loft: Low Rise, Low Rent," was the bizarre brainchild of agitprop artists C.R. Vavrek and Pete Petrisko, a satirical stab at how the ongoing gentrification is displacing hardscrabble artists like themselves in favor of lofts and multimillion-dollar developments.

Consisting of four hovels, the hipster Hooverville boasted an art gallery, tarot reader, fire pit, sleeping quarters for Vavrek, and a boombox disco blasting music for those who came after dark. In addition to entertaining the hundreds who stopped by, the event reportedly raised the ire of one property owner who threatened to call in the cops and clear the lot. Vavrek and Petrisko managed to defuse the situation, and the derelict domiciles were allowed to remain. It's a good thing, too, since where else could you find grubby artists talking in faux Eastern European accents, à la Borat? Very nice!

Harry Wood Gallery
A small gallery at ASU is the best place to catch art students at the end of their academic careers — and at the top of their games. In other words: the master's thesis show.

With a studio on-campus and materials and tools provided by ASU, it may be the most convenient and economical art cough-up of these artists' careers. And with their fresh egos, the prices will be incredibly reasonable, making for a wise investment should you pick the right pony. Shows cycle during the last three months of the semester and are on display for only four days at a time — making for a crazy rush to grab up some pieces by the next big artist.

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