Tempe's Mill Avenue and Scottsdale's Marshall Way are college kid hangouts, late-night watering holes, and shopping meccas for anyone in the market for ASU apparel or a collection of cowboy art. But this year, the two main drags became canvases for artists, thanks to Kirstin Van Cleef and Maja Aurora of Scottsdale and Tempe's public art programs. In 2010, Van Cleef launched IN FLUX, a program that filled vacant storefronts with art installations and gave everyone a brighter view of the economic downturn. This year, Van Cleef called Aurora, who brought Mill Avenue on board. The two streets are now home to works by Logan Bellew, Craig Randich, Peter Bugg, Christina Mesiti, and Mary Neubauer and Todd Ingalls. These artists, through site-specific installations with tiny budgets, are connecting the communities between scenes that are much stronger together.

Phoenix Seed & Feed Capitol Warehouse

If you catch an elevator ride to the top of any building in downtown Phoenix, look toward South Mountain. There, you might be able to make out three words in bold, chunky letters: Right to Remain.

The message and overall design, says local artist DOSE, are the result of a collaboration with Seed & Feed Warehouse owner Michael Levine, with help from graphic designers Andrew Coppola and Raquel Raney. The 20-foot-by-125-foot wall of Seed & Feed can be seen from miles away, but the best view is up close. DOSE put the finishing touches on one of the largest murals in Phoenix last October, and in the months following, he added a wrecking ball, additional shading, and his own signature on what he calls a "social political form of graffiti" and a public call to remain — indigenous, gay, straight, on occupied land, to re-occupy. And we're hoping the mural does just that.
First Studio

It's located on the north side of First Studio, the former KPHO TV-5 studios, and it's a big, arty hunk of nostalgia for those of us who grew up here. The Wallace and Ladmo Show mural depicts Wall-boy mugging alongside his longtime sidekick Ladmo, who's wearing his signature T-shirt tie and pulling a classic Ladmo face. They're flanking local legend Pat McMahon, who's in Gerald drag circa 1969, and the whole thing, which takes up nearly the entire width of the ancient building, is a sight that may cause Phoenicians of a certain age to drive into a lamppost the first time they see it. Created by artists Nomas, Casebeer, and Jenny Ignaszewski, it's a gorgeous tribute to the longest-running children's TV show in American broadcast history.

KAPER's a household name in the local graffiti scene. If you pay any attention to light poles, alley walls, underground tunnels or train cars around Phoenix (or spend a few minutes on Flickr), you're guaranteed to see his signature, loose-styled typography.

The 40-something has a long local history. He was born in Phoenix, grew up writing with a number of crews, and even founded a few of his own. In 2011, his work was featured in The History of American Graffiti, and in February, photographs of his work were featured in an exhibition, "30 Years of Big Bad Red," at Por Vida Gallery in Phoenix. Sure, he says, he's been painting trains for more than 30 years, and he's not planning on retirement anytime soon.

We are grateful to both coffee and Ted Decker — they allow us to appreciate good artwork in the morning. Decker's an independent art consultant, and when he's not planning the next exhibition of the Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art, helping an emerging artist fund his or her show with the help of a grant, or scouting artwork for a number of his clients, he's at Echo Coffee in Scottsdale, where from February to May of this year, he brought the works of Phoenix-based artists Carolyn Lavender, Daniel Funkhouser, Karolina Sussland, and 10 other artists from the United States, Brazil, Iran, Iraq, and Jordan to the caffeinated public.

It's through venues like coffee shops, Decker says, that the public can be exposed to artwork and form opinions about contemporary artists and the art community. And unlike a number of coffee shops that often toss up whatever's brought in, Decker has a keen eye and a business sense that, if put to good and frequent use, could change the way (and places in which) we see art in Phoenix.
Art Intersection

Art Intersection is home to countless local "pherds" (photography nerds, as they call themselves) who don't mind the drive to Gilbert to see quality work. The 7,000-square-foot space is dedicated to photography and photography education under executive director Alan Fitzgerald and local photographer/art instructor Carol Panaro-Smith.

Here you'll find work by the founding fathers of alternative process photography alongside daguerreotypes, platinum/palladium prints, photogravures, and gelatin silver prints made by local emerging artists.While you're there to see the art, be sure to check out the built-in space for workshops and lab areas in black-and-white film, cyanotype, kallitype, platinum, palladium, gum bichromate, wet plate collodion, and digital prints. And if any of those words get your creative muscles working, you're sure to get a big welcome home, pherd.
Legend City Studios

If you missed this year's Art Detour, there's no need to lament the missed opportunity to people-watch while riding one of the rented London-style double-decker buses that carted around local art fans (complete with a portrait or two of the Queen herself). But you should be giving yourself a swift kick in the shins for missing out on this year's showcase by 3CarPileUp.

The local art collective includes painters James Angel, David Dauncey, and Randy Slack, who've known each other forever and, if we're lucky, will continue to work with each other for even longer. The three artists featured pieces of their latest work, including self-portraits, realistic explosions, and commentary on pop culture and commercialism on the walls of Legend City Studios, which Slack owns with a group of photographers.The studio's off the beaten (and bused) path, but be sure to mark it on the calendar for next year. If Artlink continues for a 25th year — and the boys are in town — you won't want to miss it.

Best Bit of Art Detour Irony That Almost No One Witnessed

Bob Booker at eye lounge

Eye Lounge

The local art scene was abuzz last March when Robert Booker, executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, defaced a piece of art at a gallery in downtown Phoenix during Art Detour weekend.

Booker didn't like a piece of art that photographer Tony Zeh displayed at eye lounge at the gallery's fundraiser for Art Detour. Zeh had created a collage that criticized the Commission for not having given enough of its grant money last year to visual artists, and Booker took offense. He bought the piece and then, in plain view of everyone at the gallery, wrote the word "Bullshit!" on it, then signed his name.Okay. So a local arts administrator threw some shade in public. That's interesting. But the part that almost no one was able to appreciate is the fact that, the very next night, Booker himself had a piece of his art on display at another fundraiser at the Herberger Theater Center. One of the patrons of the event took a photograph of Booker's painting and posted it on Facebook with the query, "Anyone care if I write on this?"
First Studio

Between the well-jogged paths of Roosevelt and Grand is Arizona's first television station — and one of the coolest galleries in town. First Studio was built in 1949, but long after its days as a studio, the building on First Avenue is now home to a number of artists and monthly exhibitions. In the past year, the space has seen work by ASU photography students, an Art Detour show with artwork by Eric Iwerson, Casebeer, Nomas, Charles Darr and Colton Brock, and a farewell (only for now, we hope) show for local painter Jenny Ignaszewski.

The gallery's easy to spot, hosts killer shows, and always has a place or two to sit, reason enough to stop in.

Best Way to See Art You Missed on First Friday

Third Friday

So you stayed in to avoid the bongos, fire-breathers, and curfew-cutters on First Friday. No judgment here. But there's a well-known local secret to catching up on what you missed: Third Friday.

Skip a week, check out art openings in Scottsdale on Thursdays, or visit a museum almost any day of the week. And after you've made a few notes, get back out on Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue, 16th Street, and to a few galleries outside the "district path" (including Icehouse on Jackson Street, Willo North on Seventh Avenue, and Practical Art on Central Avenue) to catch another (quieter) round of art openings and receptions. It's true: Third Friday is geared toward artists and their friends, families, and collectors who still want to venture downtown and see a few shows but could do without the free hugs and Ghostbusters. Now keep a secret and get out there.

Best Of Phoenix®

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