If you've spent substantial time in downtown Phoenix, you've at least heard of Michael Little. At this point, the sometimes homeless, self-taught painter and musician is a legend among folks who live, work, or play in the Roosevelt Row arts district.
Little hasn't had a day job in over 10 years. He lives off art sales and trades and was even spotted panhandling for beer money once.
His vibrant, energetic paintings of pretty ladies, imaginative dreamscapes, astronauts, fish, pianos, and bunny people have become a staple of downtown's visual landscape. He recently gained national attention for his autobiographical documentary, which was screened in 2007 at New York's Museum of Modern Art and was featured on the PBS series ReelNative, a show that focuses on Native Americans in Arizona. He jumps in for live music performances at Conspire from time to time, playing the saw. He's made a name for himself, relying on his Renaissance-man-like talents to survive.
Our favorite Little scheme is his latest: walking billboard. Make that drifting billboard. If you've happened to walk, drive, or bike along Roosevelt recently, you might've seen Little on his wind sail-powered skateboard. The sail features painted advertisements for neighborhood coffeehouse Conspire and the gRow house gallery — both establishments are venues for his art.
Little lives that dream we all have from time to time. You know, the one where we quit our day jobs, give up our mortgages, and live off the fat of the land? And while none of us may have the cojones to go off the grid, we're grateful Phoenix has a guy like Little through whom we can live vicariously.