My Perfunctory Review of Freezing First Friday

Maybe I’m too lazy in general, or I just don’t like crowds and loudness. I’m also coming down with a cold, and the holiday mayhem wore me out. So maybe Artlink’s First Friday downtown this week wasn’t the best choice, and perhaps I shouldn’t even be writing this review. Because I sincerely believe First Friday is a great thing for Phoenix, and I absolutely want you all to run downtown and look at art as much as possible.

If you do, just be ready for DJs blasting atrocious electronic music from rooftops (I have nothing against electronic music, but bad electronic music is like bad country music. It feels like your ear canals have begun to produce acid instead of wax.) I have recently been given a brief education in the entire EDM scene, in fact, so here is an example of what I mean by good electronic music. (And don’t feel bad if you have to google EDM. I did too.)

Also be ready for roaming bands of teenagers, some dressed like stuffed animals. To be honest, I wish we had something like this to go to when I was a teenager, instead of sitting around eating cheesecake brownies at Coffee Plantation on Mill. Although I likely never would have dressed in a furry costume.

If you can get past these minor impositions, along with the often paralyzing crowds, and if you go with a better plan than I did (which was this exactly: go to Lost Leaf, wander around, search out food for my starving but amiable companion, see some art, don’t freeze to death), you will likely have an amazing time. There is a new trolley system that connects everything together – you can park at the Phoenix Art Museum, for example, and trolley all around to Grand Avenue, down to City Scape, then over to Roosevelt Row. It’s really brilliant.

Due to my general malaise, we stuck close to Roosevelt Row. Food trucks were aplenty so no one starved. As I started writing this, a mere two days later, I am confused about what art we saw in which gallery. I am trying to piece everything together, but EyeLounge is confusing me. I know we saw pieces by Merkel McLendon. (I am not an art writer, clearly, because I struggle to describe what we saw, or even how one would display such works at home. I recognized a lot of shoe trees repurposed as fish, and an Elvis themed wall display. I decided at the end I would really like to be friends with someone who collected art like this.)

In the crowded back room, or “Project Room”, the walls were filled with clay faces by Cheryl Brandon and Constance McBride. We did not go in, but I would like very much to go back. Something about a warm room crammed with people looking at clay faces on the walls felt uncomfortable. (I didn’t take any photos, but if you go to the gallery page linked above you can see two of the faces. You’ll get what I mean.)

According to the Website, we also saw this incredible photography exhibit titled “Smoke and Mirrors” by Sean Deckert. I have zero idea how these pieces were created but they left me astounded. If I had any spare money in the world I would bought one that somehow juxtaposed a photo of downtown with a photo of a mountain. As you moved in front of the picture it slowly changed, like magic.

Next we went to Modified Arts, where they have an incredible exhibition called “Visions of Phoenix: Reality and Surreality”. Again I was totally wishing it wasn’t so dang crowded because the paintings were cool. There were a few of the Westward Ho, which has long been a fascinating building to me. Once many years ago, my friend Justin and I convinced the front desk lady to let us in to go look around. It was one of the more depressing places I have ever been. You can see the former grand hotel slowly decaying along with the people inside. I keep holding out hopes that someone will buy it and bring it back to a great, swanky place. But then, where would all those people go? It is currently a low-income nursing home of sorts, and I’m guessing there aren’t a lot of other options out there.

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A painting at Modified Arts

From there we wandered down Roosevelt and found a sign that promised live glass blowing. Live! You don’t want to miss that. It turned out to be a giant lie, however, and we found ourselves in a store selling bongs and pipes and t-shirts. Great marketing I guess, but I felt misled.

And I was cold. And tired. And clearly I had seen enough art because it was all swimming around in my head together. So we made our way to Mother Bunch Brewing for a cocktail and to rest our feet.

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I wish we had come here for dinner. I love the vibe, the menu looked great, and they have Mason Sauvignon Blanc. We also tried the Gingerbread Ale, because it is still somewhat holidayish. I apologize for this fuzzy photo – I probably didn’t need more wine, but look at the great color of that beer. It was delicious.

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I promise to go back, ride the trolly, visit more galleries, and develop a more coherent review of this event. For now I’m going to get under a blanket on the couch, take some cold medicine, and wait for Downton Abbey to start.

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