Arizona ArtBeat: Art Detour

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Several events are planned for the 27th Annual Art Detour in Phoenix, an event Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton calls “one of the most important events in Phoenix’s calendar.” Catrina Kahler, Artlink Board President and Phoenix painter and sculptor John Randall Nelson, will tell us more about Art Detour.

Ted Simons: Art detour is a local celebration of the arts that's grown into one of the largest art walks in the country. This year's art detour is set for March 7th and 8th with a variety of local artists set to open their studio doors for visitors to take a look. With more on art detour, we welcome art link board president Catrina Kahler, and Phoenix painter and sculptor John Randall Nelson.

Catrina Kahler: Art Detour is the event that started it all. Back in 1989, group of artists came together and started an art walk in downtown Phoenix. And the detour was to go off the beaten path at the time, away from the institutional, traditional art destinations in downtown, and explore the streets and the smaller destinations that you might find along the corridor.

Ted Simons: I remember in the early days, I wasn't there for the first one, but after a few years later, it seemed like there were very few, very focused, and there was nothing on Grand Avenue back then.

Catrina Kahler: No, no, ironically, thanks to Beatrice, there is a lot on Grand Avenue these days. She is still with us. We have had so many artists move studios downtown and galleries open and other businesses get involved along the way.

Ted Simons: Where are the hot spots for art in Phoenix and for Art Detour?

Catrina Kahler: Right, right. The hot spots you hear about are the hot spots you hear about on first Fridays and third Fridays every month of the year. Roosevelt Row, Grand Avenue you will hear about. Central arts district is coming on line at Central and McDowell. Warehouse district is still with us. It was a hot destination back in the day, and now ASU is there and other destinations. Throughout downtown.

Ted Simons: What does art detour mean to you the artist?

John Randall Nelson: You know, the first time that I opened my studio in downtown Phoenix for Art Detour, was two decades ago, at least two decades ago. One of my first memories was Kevin Johnson walking in to the -- to the studio, and it was -- Kevin Johnson is the mayor of Sacramento, but in those days, he was the point guard for the Phoenix Suns. Kevin brought in his grandparents and his aunts and his uncles and nephews and his nieces and there must have been at least 12 Johnsons, relatives, and so I was, you know, just sort of, just really excited because I had never met Kevin before and they were asking me about my paintings and, you know, it was just really, really interesting. A lot of fun. Artists need audiences, and Art Detour offers that opportunity for us to open up our studios and, you know, invite people in.

Ted Simons: What changes for the artist when you do open up your studio? You have to clean it up a little bit, hide this and that, what do you do?

John Randall Nelson: Yeah, absolutely do. Because, you know, we're sort of like prisoners in a cell, you know, when we're working away on our projects. Or maybe more like, I don't know, nuns in an abbey or something like that. We don't see the light of day often or at least many of us don't. And, yeah, that opportunity to open up and to invite people in and to get that sort of feedback is -- is valuable. It is really a lot of fun.

Ted Simons: As far as the event itself, what are the challenges? I know transportation is a curiosity, if not a challenge. What are you seeing out there?

Catrina Kahler: We have turned that challenge into an asset.

Ted Simons: There we go. There we go.

Catrina Kahler: Art Detour, message of Art Detour is linked quite closely with transportation. Downtown is at a point thanks to light rail, grid bike share, and thanks to our own hosted trolly tour that we host on a monthly basis for first Fridays, we offer this multimodal connection for people. Even though we have around 100 destinations featured on art detour, we help provide these options so people can get around seamlessly.

Ted Simons: So someone can get to point A, find way to get on a trolly, or some sort of mode of transportation, and know where to go throughout downtown Phoenix.

Catrina Kahler: Exactly. We produce a map that shows where all destinations are located by category that is available online as well, and people -- it is an exploration. It is a weekend of exploring downtown.

Ted Simons: Again, from the artists' point of view, is this an opportunity to sell your work? Do you see this as a selling opportunity?

John Randall Nelson: Yeah, especially for younger artists, I think. I haven't had my studio in downtown Phoenix for about 20 years. I was active as an artist early on in those early years with Beatrice Moore. In fact, I did the -- the poster this year for Art Detour. But I also did it back in 1992. It was really kind of exciting two decades ago, more than two decades ago. It is fun to be involved in that way. I am now a member of the eye lounge collective, which is on Roosevelt row. Great space to go and see. And it turns over a number of artists, but it is a group of artists who support each other and we have a gallery that we basically -- for Art Detour, it is a group show. My work is up for that -- it just means a lot. Selling, yeah, again, that first sort of time that I opened up, Fritz Shoulder came in. He is a painter of some acclaim.

Ted Simons: Yes, he is.

John Randall Nelson: Arizona acclaim. In fact, he came in at the same time that Kevin Johnson was there and I was trying to scoot Kevin Johnson out so I could talk to Fritz and Fritz bought a couple of drawings I think for make $50 apiece or something like that. But those sorts of experiences are really valuable. Especially for young artists, but, you know, in this sort of a venue, there is artists who have been living and working downtown for 20 years or so. And really accomplished artists. Artists that may be locally based, but they show, you know, nationally and internationally.

Ted Simons: With that, we have about 30 seconds left. How has this impacted the Phoenix arts scene?

Catrina Kahler: This event --

Ted Simons: Yes.

Catrina Kahler: It provides that cohesion. It is that annual tent pole that we can all look forward to and come together and celebrate where we have been, where we are and where we're going. It helps to create that connectivity throughout the year. First and third Fridays do that as well, but Art Detour is the one that kicked it off.

Ted Simons: It is the mother ship, isn't it?

Catrina Kahler: Exactly.

Ted Simons: Good luck, and good luck to you as well.

Catrina Kahler: Thank you.

Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us. Wednesday on "Arizona Horizon," our weekly legislative update with the "Arizona Capitol Times." And we will hear about the struggles overcome by women in predominantly black Arizona rural communities. 5:30 and 10:00 on the next "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Catrina Kahler:Board President, Artlink; John Randall Nelson:Painter and Sculptor, Phoenix;

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