Best Downtown Arts Venue That's Not Downtown 2008 | Chyro Arts Venue | People & Places | Phoenix

Best Downtown Arts Venue That's Not Downtown

Chyro Arts Venue

Four artists. One dream. No money. Yeah, right.

But when the foursome of Joy Leveen, Amanda Nichols, Michael Peck, and Tom Leveen decided to pool their meager resources and invest in this bootstrap arts project, something strange happened. It worked.

Chyro is an organic outgrowth of Is What It Is Theatre, the entity that utilized this space in south Scottsdale's Papago Plaza before Chyro's opening in the summer of '07. Is What It Is was successful enough by grassroots-theater standards, but opening the space 30 to 35 times a year for performances just didn't cut it for the artistic do-gooders (who all work full-time gigs in addition to whatever hours they put in at Chyro).

To better serve an art-starved constituency, they now prop the doors open about four days a week, on average, and take a kitchen-sink approach to programming. (Think Trunk Space, but less kooky and more earnest.) The Is What It Is troupe has morphed into Voice Theatre, which mounts four full-scale productions every year, complementing other fare such as the Microcinema Mondays series (which features non-mainstream screeners drawn from a collaboration with the Phoenix Film Festival), art exhibits, poetry readings and slams, and a hardcore commitment to showcasing local music at least two nights a week.

Ugh, the weekday commute: same freeway, same strip malls, same billboards, and same homeless guy on the corner talking to Jesus. After looking at identical crap for days in a row, we don't even see it anymore. It's just part of the dull blur of repeated images — and it's the bane of routine living. By midweek, our eyes are thirsty for something new and juicy to suck in. And having to muscle through the monotony until the weekend just won't cut it.

Head down to the First Wednesday Downtown Chandler Art Walk to enjoy hump-day with stimulating paintings, sculpture, and photography. Walk along Arizona Avenue, just south of Chandler Boulevard, and pop into galleries like Art on Boston and Vision Gallery to get your fill of contemporary local and international art. After you've got an eyeful, get a belly full at any one of the swanky restaurants on the drag to make a night of it.

First Friday art walks led to Third Friday art openings. Soon, a veritable calendar soup of days were devoted to exploration of our fair city. We think the only night we're not booked is the second Tuesday of next August.

One event we've penned on the calendar is the Melrose Crawl, a chance to shop our favorite Seventh Avenue shops after dark. From 6 to 9 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month (with events booked for October 18, November 20, and December 18), shops like Hollywood Regency, Paris Envy, and Rust and Roses will open their vintage doors to the neighborhood. One word of advice: With so many of these stores offering amazing deals on new and antique furnishings, we plan to drive, not crawl.

One of the coolest things about the success of First Friday is the attention it's brought to downtown. And one of the best things about downtown Phoenix is the Arizona Science Center.

So we're really happy that the two combine in the form of Adult's Night Out at the museum on the first Friday of every month. Admission is free from 5:30 to 9, and the museum always features a free lecture on topics like dinosaurs and nanotech. City Bakery stays open, and you have access to all of the museum's 300 exhibits, sans the kiddos and grumpy mommies that usually populate the area.

Best Place to See and Be Seen on a First Friday

eye lounge

If you want to break through in any scene, you've got to network. And to do that, you have to troll the places where the people go. There's really no shame — it's just good business. So if you're looking for some facial recognition in the arts scene, be sure to make eye lounge your number one spot for multiple visits on a First Friday. And all it takes is one cruise through to see why.

Check into any art gallery on Roosevelt Row or Grand Avenue and there's no denying that eye lounge is the expert on packing a place. We're not sure exactly what it is — the great art, the killer location, or the feng shui — but we always have to smoosh our way through a massive crowd each month. Chances are, if you shimmy around its tri-gallery setup a few times, you'll probably run into every First Friday artwalker that's out and about. Which, come to think of it, may be the main reason it's always so busy. The someones, the no-ones, and, heck, everyone is there.

Best Place to See and Be Seen on a Third Friday

The Lost Leaf

The Lost Leaf

Let's face it, First Fridays are about the people and Third Fridays are about the art. On a First Friday, we put on our best outfit, slap on a second coat of mascara and prepare to make a lot of eye contact. Sure, we see the art, but it's not until we take another gander during Third Friday that we actually digest it. The relaxed atmosphere of a Third Friday only requires one application of eye makeup and is a nice treat — although a couple hours of looking at art gets us in a voyeuristic vibe and we can't help wanting to be looked at, too. That's when we head to The Lost Leaf on Fifth Street. With more than 80 beers and 20 wines flowing, the renovated house acts as a beacon drawing the scattered artwalkers to one location. There, we find everyone from hungry artists to loaded lawyers having a drink and taking a peek at everyone who walks through the door. Yes, it's where the lookers and lookees like to gather and, well, look.

In a world of blogs and instant gratification, there are countless outlets documenting Valley life. Hoozdo, though, is the steady hand slow-roasting our collective experience — provided that hand isn't smarting from a piping-hot steering wheel. With honorable mentions to Your Invisible City and Valley Bird, hoozdo features some of the best writing, photography, and art highlighting the under-appreciated sights, sounds, history, culture, people, and picayune quirks of our desert metropolis with a personal touch. A temporary tattoo bundled in a past issue perfectly captures Phoenicians' heady mix of optimism and anxiety: a regal firebird endlessly encircled by the words "commute, work, commute, sleep."

We searched cyberspace for a blog that covered the local arts scene, but came up empty 'til we clicked upon Hearsight. The blog is straightforward, offering Arizona exhibition and art resource info, as well as smart, even-tempered reviews. Laid out in a clean — but elegant — design, punctuated by photos actually illustrating the work on display, is simply the perfect place to get the quick and dirty on what's going on artwise, both throughout the Valley and regionally as well. What a concept.

Meghan McCain, the fair, Phoenix-bred, sorta-Cindy-esque 20-something daughter of you-know-who, is, like the rest of the world, blogging. And unlike most of us, she's got a truly compelling topic, and a better-than-bird's-eye view of the best stage in the game.

Yet, the most interesting thing we've surmised from her online scrapbook is that it is, in fact, possible to campaign for Dad (sporadically, between vacays) and keep up your pedicure.

We know we're nuts, we know no one will listen, we know the future of the free world is at stake — but really, we wish someone would let the girl loose. Because if she's saying all there is to say (lots of cutlines under photos of Dad with brilliant observations like "on stage" and too-liberal use of the words "awesome" and "incredible") then the Straight Talk Express really is that straight. Yawn.

We do like some of her playlists, but must snark that the first on the list we just pulled up is B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone."

Mmmm. Too bad. It was a great idea.

When it comes to must-read political Web sites — present company excluded, natch — there's simply no question as to which is number one in town. And it's not Nope, the hottest scoops and best analysis come from a one-man outfit,, which somehow manages to pack more punch than a newspaper with dozens of reporters. Former state Representative Greg Patterson posts his items even while attending law school, working full time as a lobbyist (for the Arizona Competitive Power Alliance) and raising a family. The site has become enormously influential — it was Patterson's criticism of the state's 9/11 memorial that touched off years of controversy, for example — but his regular readers appreciate, more than anything, his thoughtful analysis. Whether or not you agree with him, he's never shrill and always interesting.

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