Icehouse
A towering, 13-foot-high pyramid of stacked Chinese shipping boxes. Several liquid-powered robot gongs lined up in a row creating a clamorous cacophony of noise. A gigantic woven rubber and metal cage suspended like a spider web from the walls and containing a punky performance artist. These are just a few unusual examples of the edgy, outrageous, and inspiring installation art pieces — both large and small, with an emphasis on the former — that one can witness on a regular basis at the Icehouse.

Ever since 1990, when co-owner Helen Hestenes converted this former warehouse in downtown Phoenix into a massive 30,000-square-foot art compound, she's given up space in the joint's three main rooms for every type of installation piece imaginable across numerous mediums, from sculpture and video art to interactive and performance-based pieces.

They run the gamut from the surreal and spectacular (like when members of Mexico's "X'TeReSa Alternative Art Center transformed the White Column Room in 1994 into an elaborate temple for Aztec rain god Tlaloc) to the more subtle and small-scale effort (such as Jennifer Urso's more recent, interactive Fractured Thought, which had patrons breaking fragile ceramic tile after walking across it in order to illustrate chaotic human thought processes).

Although Hestenes is often hosting local art scene regulars like Susan Copeland, Pete Deise, or Mona Higuchi, she provides opportunities for newbies to get their works in the public eye, such as a recent showcase of work by ASU students.

"The Icehouse is here for artists who want to create pieces that [are] either large-scale or exploratory, or both, since there aren't many venues in the Valley that can handle that kind of work," says Hestenes.

Thank you, Helen!

Ed Mell's Rising Phoenix, a Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture commissioned work completed in December 2006, explores the legend of the Phoenix bird that gives our lovely town its namesake. The 40-inch-tall bronze statue, bordered by the beautiful Historic City Hall structure to the east and the Calvin Goode Building to the west, is perched atop a four-foot tall concrete pedestal. Mell's background in illustration and drawing is evident in the work, as the attention to detail is unparalleled. The silver nitrate patina polish applied by the artist, who is represented by Scottsdale's Overland Gallery of Fine Art, gives the work a mystical, pensive quality as the bird victoriously rises from the flames. There are plenty of shade-providing trees, so feel free to enjoy a sack lunch in the plaza while gazing at the bronze bird.
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.

Best Of Phoenix®

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