Culture News

Everything We Know About the Phoenix Mural Festival

Lynn Trimble
Street art spotted at Unexpected Art Gallery in February 2018.
The first Phoenix Mural Festival will take place from Friday, May 4, to Sunday, May 6. It’s being presented by a pair of creatives who use the moniker Phoenix Mural Project.

Danielle Foushée, the project’s founder and director, made the announcement during a Saturday, February 10, meeting of Downtown Voices Coalition.

“Other cities have books and movies of their street art community, and we don’t have any of that,” Foushée said during a presentation at that meeting.

Foushée is an assistant professor of visual communication design at Arizona State University. She’s working with Mikey Butzine, curator for Unexpected Art Gallery, to bring the project to life. Unexpected Art Gallery has a long exterior wall where local artists often make aerosol art.

Before Phoenix Mural Project organizers decided to start a mural festival, they launched a website where people can see geotagged images of mural located throughout the Valley.

"The idea came from community members and I wanted to do that for them," Foushée says of deciding to launch the festival.

She's hoping the event will become an annual affair. And she's got other big plans, including making a film about Phoenix street art, and organizing an exhibition of street artists work she wants to travel to New York, Los Angeles, and Mexico.

"After two years, we expect have enough material to create a full-length documentary about street art in Phoenix," Foushée says

This isn’t the first street art festival to happen in Phoenix.

From 2014 to 2016, Thomas “Breeze” Marcus worked with fellow artist to organize an annual multi-day event called Paint PHX, which included live painting by local street artists, plus artists based in New York, Los Angeles, and other cities.

"That’s great people are creating events and content," Marcus says of the new festival. "I've heard of a couple different potential mural events."

There’s also a group called Murals of Phoenix that's run by creatives including Sam Gomez, director for the Sagrado Galleria in South Phoenix. They also publish an online map of Phoenix murals.

In December 2017, Murals of Phoenix held a one-day event called the Central City South Mural Project. On Sunday, March 18, they’re holding an Oak Street Alley Mural Festival in the Coronado neighborhood.

click to enlarge Street art spotted at Unexpected Art Gallery in February 2018. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Street art spotted at Unexpected Art Gallery in February 2018.
Lynn Trimble
Now, plans for the inaugural Phoenix Mural Festival are underway. Foushée is looking for artists and walls to pair, using an online registration system. And she’s asking for donations to help fund the project, which will provide artists with paint.

Interested artists and property owners have until Thursday, March 15, to sign up online. Foushée says she’ll pair artists with property owners by Monday, April 2, so they have time to meet and discuss possible designs.

The Phoenix Mural Festival has some basic parameters for artists and property owners. Walls need to be public facing, and in good condition so artists don’t have to do significant wall preparation. Property owners have to pay $2 per square foot to cover supplies.

Murals should include only “family-friendly images appropriate for a variety of community audiences,” according to artist guidelines posted on the Phoenix Mural Project website.

The website also lists several suggested themes – including Arizona plants and animals, desert recreation such as biking and hiking, abstract designs, and cultural celebrations or icons.

The project won’t greenlight murals until artist and property owner submit agreements about design, wall prep, and artist fees to organizers.

“Many artists are willing to donate their time and some of the more experienced artists want to get paid,” she told people gathered for February’s Downtown Phoenix Coalition meeting.

It’s a factor she’ll consider when matching artists to property owners. Property owners who want murals by well-established artists should expect to pay an artist stipend, she says.

It’s a different model than those used for previous mural festivals in Phoenix – which have been organized more informally, often by the street artists themselves.

It remains to be seen whether Phoenix muralists and other street artists will embrace the Phoenix Mural Festival model.

click to enlarge Street art spotted at Unexpected Art Gallery in February 2018. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Street art spotted at Unexpected Art Gallery in February 2018.
Lynn Trimble
Even so, the project has already garnered support in other circles.

A New York arts incubator group called Fractured Atlas is serving as a fiscal sponsor for the Phoenix Mural Project, which means that festival organizers can apply for grants without starting their own nonprofit organization.

So far, they’ve received grants from ASU Herberger Institute for Design & the Arts, and ASU Institute for Humanities Research.

That makes sense, considering that Steven J. Tepper, dean for the Herberger Institute, expressed interest in ASU helping to incubate a large-scale mural project as early as April 2015.

Organizers also list several partners on their website — including Artlink Phoenix, Howard's Ace Hardware, monOrchid, Montana Colors, Phoenix Urban Guide, and Unexpected Art Gallery.

At this point, they're focused on spreading the word.

“We have lots of artists signed up already,” Foushée says. “Now we need property owners to offer their buildings.”