We always applaud efforts to raise money for arts-related projects in the Valley. And we were especially impressed with a street party-cum-art exhibit sponsored by Martha + Mary, a group formed by artist/real estate developer Sloane McFarland that's dedicated to resurrecting Phoenix buildings from the dead and turning them into ultra-hip urban hangouts, like Lux Coffeebar on Central Avenue.

Martha + Mary's April family-friendly bash (you could tell the clientele it attracted by the Vespas parked en masse out front) was an open-air affair in a blacktopped area next to Lux and featured live music, comfort food and drink, and kid-centric games and activities. All proceeds from the street fair went to underwrite ASU Art Museum's upcoming "Open for Business" exhibition, a clever fundraising idea at a time when the budgets of museums and other cultural institutions have been slashed more savagely than a Freddy Krueger victim.

But the real draw of the afternoon was a four-hour exhibition by some of the Valley's most talented artists, including Jon Haddock, Gregory Sale, Carrie Marill, Sue Chenoweth, Matthew Moore, and Post-Commodity's Steve Yazzie and Kade Twist. Video, multi-media installations, wall painting, three-dimensional sculptures, drawings — all this and only four hours to enjoy the formidable show. Here's hoping that the street fair/exhibit becomes an annual spring event. And maybe if we beg, plead, nag and whine, next year's exhibition will remain open for viewing a lot longer.

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Sometimes we wonder whether legendary Italian architect Paolo Soleri isn't feeling a little smug these days. All signs point to no: The 90-year-old trailblazer was nothing but gracious during his birthday celebration in Scottsdale in June. He took time to pose for photos with families and fans, sipping water, nibbling on a scone, listening intently, and sitting through the heat for much longer than would be considered healthy for most men nearing 100. (Though, admittedly, most men nearing 100 aren't cementing their legacy in that decade).

But how could he not be? This is a man who was prophetic about one of the most urgent issues on the radar today: sustainable living. (He thought of it about a generation earlier than the rest of us.) More than 50 years ago, he founded the Cosanti Foundation, and 10 years after that, he began building one of the most ambitious architectural projects in the country. Arcosanti is an entire city in the desert that, when finished (if ever), was designed to house 5,000 people and take up only 25 of 4,060 acres of land. His idea was to create an alternative to urban sprawl, a city that works more like a complimentary organism than a never-ending growth spurt. Arcosanti looks something like a space-age community built entirely out of the dirt, sand, and stone. It is both modern and retro, beautiful and rugged.

The experimental community is basically in the middle of nowhere, located about 50 miles north of Phoenix along Interstate 17. It is (at least the beginnings of) an entirely new kind of city — one that conserves energy, land, and resources. In other words, it is (cough, cough) sustainable. In fact, Soleri's 50-year-old philosophy is based on a theory of sustainability: the combination of architecture and ecology (i.e. arcology; check it out on his Web site). Feeling a little silly yet? Maybe if we'd listened to him 50 years ago, we wouldn't be facing ozone high-pollution advisory days now.

Either way, the city of Scottsdale and Scottsdale Public Arts seem to have gotten the message — and they're bringing it to us in the form of the Soleri Bridge and Plaza, which will cross the canal at Scottsdale Road just west of Camelback. The project, designed by Soleri and partly built by his groupies at the Cosanti bell foundry in Paradise Valley, will feature two 64-foot pylons that will cast shadows to mark the course of the sun and a suspension bridge, as well as areas for walking and biking (and horseback riding, apparently). Okay, so ours is no revolutionary, self-sustaining city in the desert, but it will hopefully be a suitable tribute to our favorite architectural, environmental, ecological, artistic visionary. We salute you, Signore Soleri.

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Evelyn Hallman Park

When we heard there's a park in Tempe named for the current mayor's mother, we rolled our eyes. Nice gimme, Hugh! Then a friend corrected us. Turns out Evelyn Hallman is more than deserving of the honor.

Hallman, a seamstress, wife, mother of three, and, at one point, diesel mechanic, still managed to find the time to get involved in local politics. A Goldwater Girl who became a virtual pillar of her community, Hallman knew every corner of her north Tempe neighborhood — and she really knew Canal Park.

Back in the day, when Canal and Papago became pick-up spots, Hallman lobbied the city to clean up the parks and close down the bathrooms used for dalliances. She persuaded county officials to sponsor annual neighborhood park cleanups, which continue to this day.

Evelyn fought for open spaces where neighbors could gather together to enjoy fishing in the pond, a bike ride or a stroll. She worked tirelessly to apply for grant money for her neighborhood and attended countless city meetings to support good projects in the neighborhood and oppose bad ones. She celebrated when a good project won out and took it in graceful stride when a bad one did.

She fought developers who wanted to build on A Mountain, which today is still covered with vegetation and a hiking trail. She also made sure we could enjoy walking around Tempe Town Lake without bumping into commercial properties right at the lake's edge.

Evelyn created partnerships, made enemies and built a community of neighbors. Tall like her son and tan, she could be found every morning in Canal Park, jogging along the canal, well into her '80s. She died in 2005 and in 2006, Canal Park was re-dedicated as Evelyn Hallman Park. We can't think of a better tribute or reminder of the value of community activism. As Evelyn Hallman's life proves, you don't have to be the mayor of a town to get things done in it.

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LBJ's people smeared him as crazy. They said he was too far right, that (per that awful "Daisy" ad) he'd usher in World War III, that the stakes were simply "too high" to trust him with the country. "In your guts, you know he's nuts," they chanted. And then Barry Goldwater lost the presidency — the first in a long line of Arizonans to fall just a bit short of the ultimate political goal.

But something strange has happened to Goldwater in the 40-plus years since he ran for president. You only had to watch his granddaughter CC's 2006 documentary, Mr. Conservative, to realize how wrong the media elite had been about Goldwater. He wasn't crazy. He was, instead, a creature of the West: an independent, a straight shooter, a guy who understood that there's nothing on the Eastern seaboard that rivals the beauty of a sunset over Paradise Valley. And he was smart. Read The Conscience of a Conservative today and — though you may not agree with a word of it — we guarantee you'll be struck by its lucidity and logic.

You don't have to be a conservative to appreciate his legacy. Goldwater tolerated no corruption; he didn't mince words. He sat down with a tarnished Nixon and persuaded him to resign. He called out his own party when it got too hung up on gays and abortion. Then it was the right's turn to smear him — they said he'd left the movement he helped to create. But really, the movement left him.

Forget the Straight Talk Express. This was a man who told it like it was. And screw Sarah Palin . . . Goldwater was the true maverick.

Of all the Arizonans who've played the political game, Barry Goldwater is the one we're most proud of today. Even if you didn't agree with Goldwater on anything, it's hard not to respect him for just about everything.

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A writer, a singer, an organizer, a teacher, a storyteller, a dancer, and an activist. Fatimah Halim does it all, and she does it for the girls of the Valley.

The founder of GHETTO GIRLS and the president and CEO of Blueprint for Womanhood, this goddess preaches the dignity of the Sisterhood (with a capital "S") and the sanctity of womanhood to African-American and Latina girls from around the Valley who might not have realized they were worth more than their midriffs without her.

GHETTO GIRLS does not mean what you think it does, though. Halim has made sure of that. She has re-envisioned the meaning in an attempt to reverse the negative connotation. Here it stands for: Goddesses Have Every Thing to Offer — Grace, Integrity, Renewal, Love, Sisterhood. Talk about a transformation.

Through GHETTO GIRLS, Halim runs the Rites of Passage Program to help adolescent young women transition into womanhood, along with the Sistah Circle workshops that build a bond of sisterhood among womankind. She is also one of four Valley artists involved in Journey Home, an arts project that works to empower incarcerated women in the Estrella jail.

Halim has been a model of transformation from the start. A girl from the real ghetto of Harlem, Halim was a member, alongside Jimi Hendrix, of the Ghettofighters before moving to Phoenix and beginning a career as a special events coordinator with the city of Phoenix.

She blends genres and destroys definitions. Her work is a mix of the arts, the literary world, the government, the spiritual realm, and the non-profit spectrum. She has toured as a storyteller with Rosa Parks. She has written one book and four plays, filled stadiums with thousands of people and recruited notables such as Stevie Wonder, Martin Sheen, and Coretta Scott King — all to raise awareness and promote understanding among people of all colors and genders.

She even starred in her own one-woman show, She's So G.H.E.T.T.O. — Chronicles of a Ghetto Girl Gone Goddess.

Amen, sister! We're right behind you.

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Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa

You can talk about the Grand Canyon State all you want, but if you come looking, you'll find us at the lobby bar at the Arizona Biltmore, basking in a different kind of state pride. Designed by disciples of Frank Lloyd Wright (or the man himself, depending on whose account you believe), the majestic stone buildings — with their lovely rooms, fine dining, and impossibly green grounds — are elegant. But our favorite part is the ghosts rattling around. Phoenix just doesn't have enough famous history, but some of our choicest few morsels are grounded at the Biltmore. Irving Berlin just may have penned "White Christmas" by the pool. The Reagans honeymooned here (you can stay in their room — a bit of a casita — to this day). All the best political victories (John McCain, GOP nomination for the presidency, 2008) and defeats (John McCain, general election for the presidency, 2008) are celebrated at the Biltmore. And if dim memory serves, we've made our own history at the lobby bar — a time or two.

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The story of Scottsdale resident Gerda Weissmann Klein proves that America is, indeed, the land of second acts — F. Scott Fitzgerald be damned. Born in Poland in 1924, Klein survived labor camps, concentration camps, and death marches to marry one of the American G.I.'s who liberated her — Kurt Klein, a German-born Jew whose own parents had been murdered at Auschwitz.

The tragedy of her first act is matched by the triumph of her second: Her multiple awards include an Oscar, for the documentary One Survivor Remembers (based on her memoir All But My Life) and a lifetime achievement award from the American Immigration Law Foundation. In 1998, the Kleins established The Gerda and Kurt Klein Foundation, to provide educational tools that promote tolerance and community service, in partnership with organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

In 1999, Gerda traveled to Colorado to help the students at Columbine High School heal after the murder of their classmates. And this March, Klein celebrated the completion of the pilot program of Citizenship Counts, a non-profit she founded to educate middle school students about citizenship and civic responsibility. The program involved 100 seventh- and eighth-graders from Phoenix and Scottsdale who helped plan a naturalization ceremony for 50 new U.S. citizens from around the world; Klein spoke at the ceremony, as did retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Not bad for someone who had everything, short of her life, taken away and had to start over from scratch in a new language and a new land. What a country. What a woman!

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Phoenix would be a very different place if architect Will Bruder had followed his original plans and become a sculptor. Bruder, whose designs include the annex of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art and downtown's Burton Barr Central Library, received a degree in sculpture from the University of Wisconsin, and studied art and engineering before apprenticing with Paolo Soleri in the late '60s. His application of this varied knowledge helped put Phoenix on the map as an architecturally significant city with a singular, Modernist approach to designing homes and commercial buildings that celebrate the desert's dramatic lighting and stark color palette.

Soon after opening his award-winning practice in 1974, Bruder made it clear he was about celebrating desert views. Ignoring popular trends in homebuilding, Bruder's designs literally turned their backs on the city, featuring sweeping desert vistas with houses retrofitted into our arid topography. He even helped popularize the notion that a home design can consider climate for energy efficiency.

Bruder's piece de resistance is the Burton Barr Central Library, a five-story, 280,000-square-foot landmark that features an open, one-acre media room, and a five-floor, glass-and-steel elevator and stairwell. The motorized louvers on the building's south façade deflect the sun, and the fifth-floor reading room houses every one of the library's nonfiction titles. The library is a testament to Bruder's goal to create buildings that are both beautiful and functional, simple and complex. He's created this sort of forward-thinking design both far and wide, and we're proud of him. Mostly, we're glad he continues to design and build his magnificent structures here in our town.

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Legacy-wise, it's been an off year for Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. (How could he accomplish any sort of agenda when there's not a penny in the till?) Personally, too, it's been rough out there. (Gordon didn't just get divorced — a political rival actually spread allegations so odious that the FBI had to get involved.)

But Phil's still our guy. ¿Por que? The highly caffeinated politician is this crazy desert town's best booster. He's refused to let naysayers paint Phoenix as unsafe, correcting their blather with the facts whenever he can. He's here, there, and everywhere, Hoovering up stimulus cash for the city like a vacuum cleaner on speed. And, more than anything, we love that Gordon actually hatched a harebrained scheme to change the city charter and let him have another two years as mayor. Yeah, the plan is dead, but we've got to give props to a guy who loves being the mayor of Phoenix enough to even contemplate it.

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Nate Anderson radiates the kind of innate charm and cool confidence that only a natural-born salesman could posses.

It's to be expected, considering that the 27-year-old Ohio native grew up in a family filled with charismatic entrepreneurs. The lanky redhead is also a genuinely easygoing cat, whose social rapport and smooth-talking swagger probably proved invaluable after he moved to Phoenix in 2005 and became a successful real estate broker who pulls in six figures. (Shelley Levene from Glengarry Glen Ross, he is not.) But after this career path proved to be emotionally unrewarding, however, Anderson dropped out of the property-pimping trade.

He's never looked back, however, especially after figuring out his true calling in life: getting musical instruments into the hands of students. In 2008, he created the non-profit Ear Candy to help subsidize and establish music education for local K-12 schools in need. (There's more than a few of those, as Arizona ranks near the bottom in the nation in arts funding).

As a lifelong gourmandizer of music, Anderson (who received eight years of childhood piano training and visits dozens of big-name concert festivals every year) combined this passion with his penchant for social entrepreneurism and began orchestrating fundraising shows and massive instrument drives across Phoenix. It's resulted in two straight years of frantic 16-hour work days, filled with soliciting donations and networking with record label executives, local politicians, venue owners, and chart-topping musicians.

Anderson's also recruited a variety of local bands, including Kinch and Black Carl, for Ear Candy events, both as a means of providing exposure, as well as an attempt to unify Phoenix's segmented (read: cliquish) music scene for a single cause. Best of all, the money and instruments collected go to the institutions in need throughout the Valley.

His hard work, silver tongue, and boundless connections have resulted in some sweet victories so far: He's collected and distributed more than 300 instruments in the past year alone (ranging from bass guitars to accordions), partnered with the likes of Eric Clapton and Jerry Riopelle, and booked popular indie act Harlem Shakes at an Ear Candy gig at Tempe's Sail Inn over the summer.

Anderson is confident Ear Candy's efforts will prove so successful that he'll eventually launch spin-offs in cities from Brooklyn to Boise, and maybe even around the world. Sounds pretty sweet, Nate.

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