Before there was a First Friday or a Roosevelt Row, the best — and for a while, the only — place to find alternative contemporary art was Alwun House. Folks looking for a funky, big-city art scene had only Alwun, downtown's first gallery, to rely on for "something different," art-wise. The first independent non-profit art space, Alwun set the current trend of galleries' advocating for artists with its Alwun House Foundation, the first local arts organization to address the significance of historical buildings.
The name is phonetic for "all one," as in "we're all in this together," a principle that Alwun House founders Kim Moody and Dana Johnson have clung to since purchasing the old, dilapidated property and commencing their rehabilitation on the house and property in 1971. Built in 1912 by shop owner John Sedler, Alwun originally rested on five acres on the northeast corner of 12th Street and Roosevelt, overlooking alfalfa fields south of Roosevelt, before there were even sidewalks out that way. Following its funky restoration, Alwun House quickly became the first gallery in downtown Phoenix, and has stayed on as a maverick torchbearer for the downtown arts community. Its central floor houses an art gallery; its basement is home to a multi-media theater, and its rambling backyard gardens and patio are the settings for poetry slams, music concerts, and exhibits by local visual and performance artists. Alwun's annual Exotic Art Show showcases uncensored and frankly naughty works, and its bar and cafe make this a jumping joint for any kind of off-hours party. Alwun's a three-decades-old mainstay among those of us who need an alternative art fix.