Best Addition to the East Valley Arts Scene

SunDust Gallery

Valley residents are tired of hearing how two of their beloved 'burbs (Mesa and Chandler) rated in Forbes magazine's Top 10 Most Boring Cities. So we were thrilled to see Ron Floyd, a well-known art professor and president of the East Valley Art Guild, unveil a new multi-purpose art space in a historic downtown Mesa storefront in mid-September. The SunDust Art Gallery is a new permanent home for the Art Guild, which has over 250 members, from high school students to an octogenarian grandmother. The light, airy space also features two art galleries and art storage space, and Floyd plans to host monthly music events, poetry slams, and art classes. If SunDust is any indication, Forbes can take its list and shove it next year.

Perihelion Arts

Just as we were wrapping up our Best of Phoenix issue last year, Perihelion Arts made its move. Literally. The gallery moved from the corner of 15th Avenue and Grand to the north side of Roosevelt, along the same strip as Tammie Coe in the Artisan Village complex. Since then, 2009 has seen Roosevelt explode to full capacity on both sides of the road. Gone are the days that walking the north side meant a lack of people-wading. Now with Perihelion, we've noticed a hemorrhage of art walkers flooding the gallery on a monthly basis to see wonderful national and local artists — some of our favorites include Daniel Martin Diaz, Mike Maas, Suzanne Falk, and Rachel Bess. As much as we love Grand Ave, there's no denying that Roosevelt, with Perihelion's sister gallery Pravus (winner of Best Move last year), eye lounge, Five15, and Modified is where the action happens. And with such wonderful art coming through Perihelion, we're relieved more get to see it. Well done, Perihelion . . . Well done.

We reckon Justin McBee must have a third-degree black belt in the skill of combining art and music to create mighty big blowouts. The wacked-out wingdings he and former cohort Scot McKenzie conjured up at .anti_space over the past five years are the stuff of downtown Phoenix legend, like after-hours underground electronic noise fests at the gallery's old home at the CheMLAB building. The 34-year-old hooked up with a new partner-in-crime in Bradford Still (the scenester DJ behind the former 602uesdays electro bacchanal at the now-defunct GLAM) to put on a bona fide bonanza of art and music at their pad Studio+ for 2009's Art Detour weekend. For three days, the 1920s-era bungalow hosted the "Primeval Ancestry" exhibition showcasing colorfully bizarre pop art paintings by Yuko Yabuki, the power-packed photography of Edward "PHOTOHOE" Castaneda, short films by Sarah Breidenbach, and the always off-kilter cartoons of art provocateur Luster Kaboom. Festivities continued for two straight nights, including a sendoff on Saturday featuring Sean Watson, Djentrification, and Nico-Teen on the turntables, as well as indie rockers Babaluca and Hooves performing in the front yard. The fete should've gone until 4 a.m., but the Phoenix Police Department shut it down long before then. Party poopers.

It's estimated that an average of 11,000 people turn up in downtown Phoenix during any given First Friday. And as far as we can tell, it seems like every last one of these souls is attempting to jam in and around the intersection of Fifth and Roosevelt streets. We're not effing with you, bub. Imagine a cattle call for the next American Idol, and then multiply it by 10. And the reason the crossroads has essentially become the epicenter of the monthly art walk? That's a no-brainer: There's so much cool shizzle happening at once that it's like experiencing art-scene ADD. In addition to the standard block party and street fair organized by the Roosevelt Row co-operative, approximately two dozen primo galleries are 100 feet away in any direction. Street entertainment is always readily available, be it B-Boys breakdancing, bands like Mondegreen and Back Ted N-Ted staging open-air concerts, or the friendly freaks of the Strange Family Circus pulling off daring (and painful) feats. Whew. Seriously.

The Firehouse

We fear the day when downtown's quirky galleries start becoming gentrified in the name of "revitalization." Until then, we'll make sure to spend our Third Fridays people-watching at the most bohemian of them all — the Firehouse, a collective with live/work space for nine artists, and a gallery-slash-retail section in the front. The once unassuming white building now calls out to locals with bright graffiti murals and a performance stage in the backyard. Third Friday is "Fire Stage," an evening of poetry, music, and fire dancing hosted by local poet and Torch Theatre grad Ernesto Moncada. Anything goes at this eclectic event. On any given Third Friday, you might find poetry readings, tribal belly dancers covered in henna tats, or the accordion stylings of Nightwolf's Andrew Jemsek. Chat with the Firehouse's resident artists, who are always milling around during the event, or pop inside for a peek at the new "23" retail collective, where you'll find handmade local goods including leather wristbands, recycled jewelry, and photo art by Firehouse regular Kevin Patterson.

Northlight Gallery

If you're a camera nerd, you'll heart this to-the-point gallery located at the west end of ASU's main campus. Headed by Liz Allen, a university photography professor and killer shutterbug, the space showcases original photography and, sometimes, video installations that are heavy on student work as well as work produced by ASU alums. Themes are wide-ranging — for example, during the 2008-09 school year, shows focused on cultural convergences and women's issues. Exhibits typically don't run long (anywhere from two weeks to two months), so be sure to saunter your behind over to Tempe to see the killer artworks. The space closes for the summer break.

Phoenix Airport Museum

What's open in this town 24-7-365 and isn't a convenience store, self-serve car wash, or emergency room?

You got it. The airport.

At our airport, you can do more than just watch planes taking off and landing. Sky Harbor's Airport Museum is not a museum in the typical sense of the word, but a collection of changing exhibits located in various display areas of terminals 2, 3, and 4. Much of the artwork is tourism propaganda, but many prominent Arizona artists and up-and-comers have displayed here, including Ted DeGrazia, Holly Metz, and Mindy Sue Meyers-Whippler.

And, hey, even the propaganda looks good at 3:32 a.m.

Jordre Studio

Oh, how we envy local artist Kyle Jordre. He stumbled onto his true passion when he decided a large blank wall in his former apartment needed a Jackson Pollock-style treatment. A couple of canvases, brushes, and gallons of home improvement store "oops" paint later, Jordre quit his job teaching sixth-grade social studies to follow in Pollock's footsteps. Now, as he says, "there are no rules." Jordre lives and works out of a small vintage building on Grand Avenue and manages to draw enough income from his colorful splatter paintings to pay the rent. He makes his own "brushes," using bottles and wooden spoons, and uses objects such as hollow core doors, denim jeans, and glass vases as canvas. "I'll paint anything," says Jordre. "I gotta make my living somehow!" Jordre Studios is open only for First and Third Fridays, but fans can contact Jordre to schedule a personal tour with the artist or peep his works (and a pair of his paint-covered shoes!) at the new Sunrise Mountain Library in Peoria.

In the past year, zombies invaded our movie theaters (Quarantine), our bookstores (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies), and our clubs (Zombie Prom). Now, the undead have chewed their way into the local indie crafts scene. When her writing prospects dried up, Erin Glaser started making zombie sock puppets for extra cash. The rainbow-colored critters with glittery red dried "blood" and crazy beady eyes caught on, and now you'll find them on Etsy.com and at local shops like Fetish Falls and Red Hot Robot. Admittedly, the critters are adorable. But even more than we like the artistry, we celebrate Glaser's good business sense in designing a ridiculously easy-to-make craft project that takes full advantage of the zombie craze. She's managed to churn out and sell well over 1,200 of these things. What's so special about a bloody sock puppet? They're cute, cuddly, handmade, and customizable. Oh, and they're available in bulk, which means if you're dying to make an indie film starring 100 drooling, creepy sock puppets, you won't have to make 'em yourself.

Ma$e isn't technically a local boy, but Puff Daddy's former protégé is in town once a week to preach at the church he's starting in central Phoenix. The "Mo Money Mo Problems" rapper converted to Christianity at the height of his popularity and, after laying low for a few years, started a church in Atlanta, which is making its first expansion to Phoenix. The preacher, now going by his given name, Mason Betha, describes the spiritual temperature of the Valley of the Sun as "lukewarm," saying locals are lulled into complacency by their leisurely desert life, and he hopes to change that. A decade after willfully fading from the public consciousness, Ma$e still has the sort of unbridled charisma that makes you feel honored he decided to pursue his life's work in Phoenix, even if he chose it partly because he likes our palm trees.

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