Best Live Painting 2020 | Snood City Neon | Megalopolitan Life | Phoenix

It's the unexpected moments that bring joy to encounters with art, whether you're into classic paintings by Renaissance masters or street art by contemporary creatives who use the urban landscape as their canvas. Often, you'll find tall wooden panels propped against the building that's home to Snood City Neon on Grand Avenue, along with several artists working side by side to paint the panels with their own distinct designs. The works in progress attract vendors to the area; you can often find food carts and people selling jewelry nearby. The live painting brings an unexpected twist to First and Third Fridays, giving people making the gallery rounds a chance to see and talk with local artists as they're working and share in the communal vibe their painting creates.

Just as Donald Trump looms large over American life, so has a billboard with Trump's face towered over Grand Avenue, embellished with swastika-like dollar signs and nuclear mushroom clouds. That image is still up on Grand, but today it's covered by a red, white, and blue design with a voting theme. Karen Fiorito updated the other side of the billboard as well, covering a unity-themed design with a piece that addresses the issue of police brutality toward Black people. Beatrice Moore, who commissioned the artwork, plans to uncover Trump's face once again — hopefully in celebration of Trump losing his reelection bid. Until then, the makeover is a reminder that there are real issues and lives at stake in this upcoming election — and that voting is the best way to give the government its own makeover.

Look up while approaching the northeast corner at Roosevelt Street and Central Avenue, and you'll see works by three artists gracing the windows of the Ten-O-One building owned by True North Studio. Between Antoinette Cauley's portrait of James Baldwin and Debra Hurd's portrait of Theodore Roosevelt, you'll see geometric designs by Carrie Marill. Featuring meticulous strips of color that channel her larger body of work, Marill's compositions bring a fresh aesthetic to the building, while creating a visual bridge between the other works similarly installed using mural wraps that freed the artists from having to paint directly in the glass surface. Their sharp angles suggest the idea of pointing, as if to raise the question of how Roosevelt Row has developed in recent years and what that means for the artists in its midst.

This year, as communities in Phoenix and beyond have thought more deeply about the roots and contemporary manifestations of systemic racism, artist Chris Revelle filled the center of a small gallery space at Grant Street Studios with large-scale sculptural pickaxes made with coal and wax, then surrounded them with drawings of Alabama courthouses. When COVID prevented in-person audiences from seeing his "Swing Low" exhibition in person, Revelle created a virtual exhibit so people could still experience the work. It explored slavery before the passage of the 13th Amendment, as well as the neo-slavery that continued long after. Revelle worked with a pianist to create a score for the exhibit, and included comprehensive notes that drew viewers into both his own artistic process and the social justice issues elevated by his work. It was the right show at the right time, prompting reflection on both historical and contemporary white supremacy.

You could spend days taking in the full measure of the local mural scene, but if you want to see works by some of Phoenix's best-loved artists in a single setting, make your way to the Coronado neighborhood. That's where you'll find this alley flanked by walls transformed into cinder-block canvases painted by dozens of artists over the course of several years, sometimes during free festivals that draw community members of all ages for art, music, food, and conversation. The miniature masterpieces reveal the diverse interests of the artists — including bicycles, pop music, animals, and more. Take a camera along so you can snap selfies with your favorites, and go back periodically to see what's new, because these little bits of painted bliss change periodically and it's one of the best outdoor art galleries around.

Thirteen members of the Artlink artist council chose partners for a collaborative exhibit installed in a large space at Park Central Mall in March. The opening took place amid early COVID-19 concerns, so Artlink filmed the exhibit and posted it online so more people could see the impressive results of these creative collaborations. The exhibit featured intriguing pairings, including visual artist bacpac working with fashion designer Tricee Thomas, and choreographer Liliana Gomez working with multimedia artist Sam Heard. Joan Baron and Gloria Martinez created a performative installation inspired in part by civil rights icon John Lewis. Titled Good Trouble Bucket, the piece explored immigration, environmental justice, and other issues at the heart of today's political conversation. Best of all, the exhibit inspired ongoing collaborations between several participating artists, creating new opportunities for community members to experience exciting new works.

Phoenix really shows off its creative side during Phoenix Festival of the Arts, a multiday event typically held in December at the urban park that's named for Phoenix's first female mayor. The free, dog-friendly event brings live music to the park and gives visitors plenty of other things to explore — including an eclectic lineup of booths where they can get to know the artists and organizations responsible for our city's cultural landscape. Families can participate in lawn games and other activities, there are food trucks and a beer-and-wine garden, and everyone gets the chance to paint a community mural. Phoenix Festival of the Arts is big enough to have something for everyone, but small enough to make this metropolis feel cozy.

For years, Phoenix artist Ann Morton has found inspiration in politics; a notable series called Proofreading features handmade white handkerchiefs embroidered with some of Donald Trump's most outrageous quotes. For "The Violet Protest," Morton called on the citizens of 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico to help her create a "a friendly protest" that would be sent to every member of the 117th U.S. Congress. Participants used textile techniques — quilting, felting, etc. — to make 8-by-8-inch squares with red and blue fabric. They were adorned with messages emphasizing values that are sadly lacking in American politics today: civility, compassion, creativity. The squares' first stop is an exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum scheduled to open in March 2021. Then, they'll be split up and sent to Congress, in the hopes they might inspire our leaders to prioritize people over party. Idealistic, maybe. But if nothing else, Morton's project produced some thought-provoking art.

This year's Scottsdale International Film Festival, the 20th anniversary of the event, will look a little different than in previous years. For starters, it'll be a five-day virtual event rather than a 10-day in-person one. We don't know what films will screen (check the website in early October for the lineup), but based on what we've experienced in the past, it'll be an exciting mix from around the world. SIFF is often the first place in town to see films that go on to great acclaim — last year, Marriage Story was the opening-night movie, and audiences saw Portrait of a Lady on Fire months before it came to theaters. But really, it's the foreign gems that keep us coming back year after year — films that remind us that we have more in common with people around the world that we would have ever dreamed, and that cinema truly is a global language.

Arizona is just close enough to Los Angeles to catch the cross-breeze of Hollywood magic (and perhaps a small amount of oversized narcissism). As such, we've managed to cultivate a few of our own sun-kissed entertainment enterprises. One we particularly love is the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival, which over the last 16 years has become a home for the most weird and wonderful sci-fi from across the world. The films shown at the fest push the boundless insanity and peculiarity associated with modern science fiction to new levels. Yet every entry remains connected to a longstanding tradition of cinema and a core ethos that emphasizes a delightfully bizarre outlook on life and art. In our typical outsider fashion, Arizona has built this little fest into something that has its own strong identity and cultural purpose — an event that shows we're capable of sustaining a major creative bastion here. Plus, the fact that all this energy and growth is based around space aliens and killer smartphone apps seems perfectly on brand for Arizona.

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