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Matt Little, owner of Palmcroft Realty, says that's not a fluke.

"Over just a couple of years, this area has gone from very little to where it's at now," he says. "We've seen the market prices up 50 percent from where they were earlier this year."

Hard to imagine artists buying Sixth Street Studios.

Esser and Dach haven't lost faith in First Fridays or the art scene; they say they're simply overextended financially (see the rundown of their commitments above, and it's easy to believe) and had to sell something. But the difference in the buying and selling price of Sixth Street Studios is a powerful symbol of what's happening along Roosevelt Row -- and that what's happening is more than just a few kids getting together to party once a month.

Can the artists survive gentrification, not to mention Arizona State University's impending arrival downtown? Will Roosevelt Row be (ugh) the next Mill Avenue?

Michael 23, whose Thought Crime got the boot earlier this summer, is aware his artistic efforts helped feed the growth of a monthly party that ultimately caused his posse's dismissal.

"We artists were the first wave of gentrification the day we first stepped foot onto Roosevelt," he says. "Now it's only going to get worse. Another 10 years from now, this place is going to be some ugly office building."


It's a good thing Thought Crime didn't have a cleaning deposit.

It's less than a week before the events of the first Friday in August, and more than 400 revelers have gathered inside, outside and atop the artist collective's soon-to-be-vacated building in downtown Phoenix on a balmy July evening. Many at the super-size shindig are busy covering the barren walls of the venue's high-ceilinged rooms with the graffiti of hastily scrawled farewell messages, nude figure studies, comical invectives, and zany caricatures.

Though Thought Crime as a group will continue to exist, the quirky cooperative of counterculture types making up its membership was bidding farewell to the cavernous venue that's served as a command center, commune, coffee bar, gallery, and staging ground for its brand of anarchistic artwork and eccentric activities.

Right now it's Ground Zero for a boffo bash. Energetic Seattle punkers Tractor Sex Fatality have walked in off the street and begun playing in one room without permission, while half-naked hippies splash around in a large inflatable pool filled with water in another. Michael 23 (né Michael Hudson -- "23," which his wife Joanna also took as her surname when the two married, is his chosen last name, he's said, because it's "strange and mystical") chats up acquaintances on everything from the future of the local arts scene to how teleportation devices will finally reduce society's dependence on automobiles.

Michael 23 has played an interesting role in the downtown arts scene. As vice president of ArtLink, the artist group that sponsors shuttle buses between galleries on First Fridays and coordinates the official activities that surround Art Detour, a weekend gallery tour held each March, he's part of the arts establishment (if there is one), and yet very much on the outside, at the same time.

For years now, he's complained publicly that the overwhelming success of First Fridays would be the event's death, that too few people come downtown for the art, but instead are looking for the party.

Ironically, that's the tone of Thought Crime's last hurrah. Although there are plenty of friendly faces present, many in attendance don't seem to be familiar with the group or its artistic contribution to the local scene over the past decade and are here just for the celebration.

"I'm confused, what kind of stuff do you guys do here?" one Afro-haired kid asks Mattoid, a painter and resident.

"We're artists, but our landlord gave us the boot and now we have to get out. I've been trying to finish a mural in my room," says Mattoid, who's been decorating his loft with an array of burning eyeballs.

"It's not your room anymore," replies a friend.


Paul Moncrief is sweating. It's Friday, August 5, and he's standing on the tiny porch of Route 123, the gallery he operates out of his small 1920s-era home on Fifth Street, near Roosevelt. The photographer and indie filmmaker is taking a breather from his show, which he's sharing with artists including Tamara Kent and Diane Alber, a local photographer and oil painter, respectively.

A monsoon thunderstorm earlier in the evening unleashed an hourlong deluge, sending early birds scrambling for shelter. But the rain is gone and the crowds are back -- smaller than usual, but it's harder this month to find a parking spot with the lot north of Holga's, a couple blocks west, closed off by police.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.