Best Graffiti Artist 2013 | NAIM | People & Places | Phoenix

As with most graffiti writers (at least those who choose to keep a low profile and stay out of trouble), the artist who goes by NAIM manages to keep his identity secret, his signature well known, and his NAIM — er, name — hard to forget.

You might have seen NAIM's four-letter autograph painted in thick white letters on an industrial building off Loop 202 in Tempe or dripping with decorative, painted icicles on the back of a billboard. He's collaborated with local artists and has brought up a number of emerging writers in the community. NAIM's work is often massive, eye-catching, and in spots not many graffiti writers dare to reach, and if you pay close enough attention, you'll start to see his name just about everywhere.

Nothing's quite like a couple. There's a creative drive and energy that can't be matched, and there's often a little competition that makes everything more interesting. In the case of Cavin Costello and Claire Aton, the results are breathtaking.

The two emerging creatives come from different backgrounds. Costello graduated with a master's in architecture from Northeastern University, driving from the East Coast to Phoenix to find a job and figuring out he'd rather create his own projects. Aton graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with degrees in English and Communication. Their skills combined form The Ranch Mine, a redesign and redevelopment firm that's dedicated to the long-term improvement of the urban cores of greater Phoenix.

Since they've been together, Costello and Aton finished redesigning and redeveloping the first-ever Phoenix Green Construction Code project, The Castaway House. They've been handpicked by Seed Spot, an entrepreneurial program that supports local ideas, and they've made big plans for the future that include a modular concept called the Carriage House, published work in a publication from the University of Georgia Press, and a wedding.

We won't judge if you need a quick break during your First Friday route — when the art season is in full swing, it can be pretty hot out there, and we won't go into the bongo players, fire breathers, or slushy drinkers who likely are blocking the entrance of the gallery you were hoping to check out. It's best to take a breather, and there's no better spot than the patio behind Drive-Thru and 1Spot galleries on Sixth Street on Roosevelt Row.

Grab a seat under the big mesquite tree (complete with bubble lights), take in live music typically coordinated by the owners of 1Spot, and, if you're lucky, snack on a few s'mores from friends of Andrew Pielage (a New Times contributor who runs Drive-Thru). If you're not fully recovered, you can do some people-watching or pop into The Roose Parlour and Spa, which also shares the roomy patio. And once you've fully recovered, you can continue your creative outing and check out the guaranteed stellar artwork at Drive-Thru and 1Spot galleries.

Pyracantha Press isn't easy to find, but once you wind down the staircase in the Art Building on ASU's massive Tempe campus, hang a sharp left, and find either a printmaking student or kind professor to let you into the door, you'll want to remember its location — and find a way to sign up for a few credits.

The underground classroom is a trove of letterpress resources. Established in the early 1980s, Pyracantha Press officially is the production and research imprint of the School of Art's book-arts program, according to ASU. The countless drawers of metal and wood type and presses that date back a hundred years are overseen by professor John Risseeuw as well as Dan Mayer and Gene Valentine, who have taught hundreds of students the basics of letterpress and the art of crafting a message with type, ink, and paper. Lucky us, they're continuing a tradition — and opening the studio from time to time for public demonstrations and interactive activities.

If you've ever wanted to get your hands on a photograph by Mark Klett, Betsy Schneider, Carol Panaro-Smith, James Hajicek, or an up-and-coming photography student, you won't want to miss ASU Photographers' Association's annual auction. It's here, at First Studio in downtown Phoenix, where hundreds outbid each other on large-scale and tiny works that feature a variety of subjects, compositions, and techniques at rock-bottom prices and for a good cause.

The auction benefits the ASU Photographers' Association, and funds raised are used to host visiting artists and speakers, support workshops, and establish scholarships for students learning and perfecting the art of photography. And even if you're not in the market for a piece of artwork (it's cool — less competition for us), the auction is always a killer exhibition you won't want to miss.

For her last exhibition as a member of Eye Lounge in downtown Phoenix, Sarah Hurwitz had ambitious plans. No surprise. During her time in the art collective, the local multimedia artist transformed the gallery into an interactive meat shop, a science lab, a jungle, and a gem show with her paintings and sculptures, and in March, she took to the gallery walls and floor space to create a visual representation of everything she has ever wanted to own.

The exhibition was on view through the annual Art Detour, a downtown celebration of local art, and her work was seen by hundreds of gallery-goers who oohed and aahed over her most coveted items. Lawn gnomes, parrots, shoes, skeleton keys, shorter extension cords, wishbones, cheese-flavored snacks, portraits of American presidents — nothing was off-limits for Hurwitz, which is exactly why we love her work and exactly why we can't wait to see what she does next.

Safwat Saleem is trying to make sense of the bullshit. The local artist and designer is from Pakistan and known for using his own sense of humor and artwork to explore and explain politics, culture, and relationships. In response to 9/11, Saleem created a series of artwork titled "A Bunch of Crock," which visualized and interpreted quotations from politicians about race, culture, and the environment. This year, Saleem was selected as a TED Fellow by the national Technology, Entertainment, Design organization and was asked to give a talk about his latest project. So Saleem took to the stage and talked about bullshit.

"Pardon Me, but WTF?" is a collection of stories and observations submitted by the general public and transformed by Saleem into animations and posters that attempt to make sense of life's frustrations and anomalies — children who lie about pooping in the hallway, mismatched numbers of hot dogs and buns in popular packaging, absentee fathers, and more. He's still encouraging the public to submit their stories to the project website, because he knows we could all use a good venting opportunity — especially one that turns into a kickass piece of artwork.

"Ugly," "loser," and "moron" may not be the first words that come to mind as a way for a restaurant owner to speak to an unhappy customer, but in 2010, Amy Bouzaglo, of the now infamous Amy's Baking Company in Scottsdale, chose to use them anyway. The bit of press the incident received was nothing compared to what was to come three years later, when the then-dubbed "Crazy Amy," her husband Samy, and their restaurant were featured — none too positively — on the season finale of Kitchen Nightmares. The Bouzaglos sealed their shit-show fame on the Internet shortly after the episode aired, with a social media meltdown of epic proportions which included insulting commenters ("you are just trash"), then claiming their sites had been hacked, then launching a grand re-opening campaign in late May that was tepid, at best. But why stop the shit show there? Following news of Samy's possible deportation to Israel, a strict employee contract that includes a $250 penalty for not showing up to work on holidays and weekends, and their own line of catchphrase T-shirts, there's now talk of the Bouzaglo's bad behavior landing them their own reality television show. Oh, brother.

Since Sam Fox's The Yard opened earlier this year, the Central Phoenix restaurant complex has been drawing out our playful side with more than 1,400 square feet of patio space for all sorts of drunk gaming. And though you might think your best bet at meeting your next date will be while you're bopping about playing ping-pong and generally boozing it up, there’s one more place at this hangout where you may just bump into the man or woman of your dreams: the bathroom.

When you walk into the restroom at The Yard, you think you're entering a gender-specific space, but do a double take (or come face-to-face with a stranger of the opposite sex) and you'll realize those separate doors are really just for show. We'll admit that the first time, it was a little alarming. But looking on the bright side, the creative little trick just means you have one more chance to strike up a conversation with the hottie in the red shirt. Unless he doesn't wash his hands.

Downtown Phoenix is home to some of the best neighborhoods in the Valley. Our pick for the best is FQ Story, just west of Seventh Avenue south of McDowell. It's one of those neighborhoods where nobody, except those who live there, drives through. So the tree-lined streets are quiet and filled with quaint little Craftsman bungalows, English Tudors and ranch-style homes built largely in the early part of the 20th century, with a few infills here and there. And as more and more people move downtown, the little historic district's 600 (or so) homes are filling up fast. Its proximity to downtown Phoenix attractions like Chase Field, Phoenix Art Museum, local restaurants, and more also make the Story neighborhood an attractive option for Phoenix house hunters.

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