Fortoul Brothers Lose Valley Metro Light Rail Commission Following Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Benjamin Leatherman
Isaac Fortoul (left) and Gabriel Fortoul at a 2015 event in downtown Phoenix.
The Fortoul Brothers are no longer making artwork for a planned Valley Metro station following allegations of sexual misconduct against Isaac Fortoul first reported by Phoenix New Times on June 1.

The artist team of Isaac and Gabriel Fortoul has had a significant presence on the metro Phoenix arts scene for several years. They’ve created murals downtown, partnered with major arts organizations including Phoenix Art Museum and Heard Museum, and created work for festivals such as FORM and Lost Lake.

On May 29, Phoenix artist Merryn Alaka alleged in an Instagram story that Isaac Fortoul sexually harassed and groped her on December 31, 2018. Brittany Lea also came forward on Instagram, accusing Isaac Fortoul of raping her in 2016 after she attended a party at a gallery where the Fortoul Brothers were showing their work

Some metro Phoenix organizations have subsequently removed their work or canceled commissions for artwork.

The city of Phoenix terminated a public art contract with the Fortoul Brothers, which involved work for Terminal 4 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

click to enlarge Gabriel Fortoul discussing an early Fourtoul Brothers design for light rail art. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Gabriel Fortoul discussing an early Fourtoul Brothers design for light rail art.
Lynn Trimble
Now, Valley Metro says it's no longer working with the artists on a new South Central light rail extension.

"Valley Metro has concluded the South Central Extension/Downtown Hub artist agreement with the Fortoul Brothers," a Valley Metro spokesperson told New Times on December 3. "They were paid $61,140 for work performed."

The work was canceled on November 5. According to Valley Metro, "the work was not advanced beyond the design phase due to a shift in community sentiment on a publicly funded and community-driven art project."

The Fortoul Brothers were selected for the Valley Metro project, which included design and fabrication work for a station to be located at Central Avenue and Lincoln Street, more than two years ago.

New Times reached out to the Fortoul Brothers for comment, but had not heard back as of this writing.

click to enlarge A former Fortoul Brothers transit wrap for Valley Metro. - FORTOUL BROTHERS/VALLEY METRO
A former Fortoul Brothers transit wrap for Valley Metro.
Fortoul Brothers/Valley Metro
Since being selected to create a light rail station design, they have done other work for Valley Metro — including a mural wrap for buses and a temporary artwork previously installed at the Central Avenue and Roosevelt light rail station in Roosevelt Row.

Valley Metro has not announced whether a new artist or artist team has been selected for the Central Avenue and Lincoln Street station.

The Fortoul Brothers have denied the allegations against Isaac Fortoul.