Ice Try

The month of our independence, July is that time when Americans reflect on the qualities that make our nation great -- and in Phoenix, in July, no such quality is more apparent than perversity. After all, this economic engine, the sixth-largest city in the United States, represents an enormous suspension of disbelief: millions of people willing to pretend that they don't live in the desert. It is nothing less than man's air-conditioned triumph over common sense.

If fireworks seem an inadequate way to celebrate this collective delusion, raise your cappuccino cup to irony at The Greatest Show in Ice on Friday, July 6, at the Capitol Coffee Company. The event, presented by Phoenix Downtown Magazine, is a film festival, an art exhibit and a romp in manmade snow. It's a venue for live entertainment. But most impressively, according to Forrest Martin, Phoenix Downtown publisher, "it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see a once-in-a-lifetime show." That's because the highlight of the evening is a display of "monolithic ice art disappearing before your eyes" -- Swan Lake, reinterpreted.

In fact, buffet-table swans, while not discouraged, are not what Martin expects from exhibiting sculptors. Guidelines are minimal: R-rated art is disallowed, but otherwise artists have free rein.

"It's very freeform," Martin says. "I hesitate to call it sculpture -- it's really ice art."

Last year's event, the first, drew a musical entry: ice melting sonorously onto metal pans. Another artist froze her photographs in ice; as it thawed, more and more of her pictures were revealed. This year, Martin expects at least eight artists to participate, although he won't see their entries until the last minute.

"The key to it all is planning, because they have to keep them frozen until they get here," notes associate editor Nicole Haas.

Also exploiting water as an expressive medium are the members of Scorpius Dance Theatre, who as part of the festivities will stage "contemporary water ballet." The Phoenix Family Museum will provide artificial snow for a kids' snow show.

Deviating from the main theme, but still in a creative spirit, are an exhibit by artist Diana Creighton and a "mini-indie" film festival, featuring a premiere short by local filmmakers Jae and Kai Staats, and works by students at the Metropolitan Arts Institute. The event in its entirety is in honor of Chandon Sherwood Thorell and Kay Meier, the winners, respectively, of the magazine's annual photography and poetry contests. Their work, reproduced in the magazine's July issue, will be spotlighted at the show.

"We wanted to extend it a little from what it was last year," Haas says of the event. "Mostly, we wanted to make it fun."