Downtown Mesa is looking to attract new development to bring more people into the area and shine a light on their grassroots community.
Mesa leaders say the downtown area is already great, but it’s a matter of attracting more people to visit and live there. Its creative atmosphere welcomes people, but leaders are hoping more people will cause more development to come.
“We believe very deeply that the arts are an amazing connector,” says Cindy Ornstein, executive director of Mesa Arts Center. “They’re an amazing opportunity for people to see their environment differently and feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves. When you do that, you create a dynamic environment or a vibrant environment.”
Ornstein says once people are engaged and connected, everything else follows. It will attract new restaurants, local businesses and housing. She says they are interesting in sustaining the downtown’s “authentic grassroots creative environment.”
“When you go down there you can really feel it. What needs to be transformed is we need more of it,” says Jeff McVay, Downtown Mesa’s transformation manager. “We need more people. We need more activity. We need more opportunity for places to live, places to recreate, place to engage with the arts. The transformation is to bring the bodies to the place we already know is great.”
That creative environment is driven by variety of different art installations that go up around the city. The latest one is Fantastic Planet which kicks off Friday night and will be on display for 10 days. From the mind of Australian artist Amanda Parker, Fantastic Planet features six large illuminated sculptures. The kick off event will include music, dance and food.
If you wander around the area you may bump into a random piano on the sidewalk. It’s part of Street Pianos, an international series that randomly places pianos around the city. Twenty-four donated pianos were given to 24 community groups with an artists assigned to each group. They transformed the piano into art, and they were placed around the city for eight weeks.
Those are just two of the many art installation projects Downtown Mesa hosts. For more information on events and what the city has to offer, visit downtownmesa.com.
TED SIMONS: MESA HAS BEEN WORKING TO IMPROVE THE DOWNTOWN AREA. THE GOAL IS TO, AMONG OTHER THINGS, ATTRACT DEVELOPMENT. JOINING US NOW TO TALK MORE ABOUT THE CITY'S PLANS IS CINDY ORNSTEIN:, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF MESA ARTS CENTER, AND JEFF MCVAY:, MESA'S DOWNTOWN TRANSFORMATION MANAGER. GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE. THANKS FOR JOINING US.
CINDY ORNSTEIN: NICE TO BE HERE.
TED SIMONS: THE IDEA IS TO GUSSY UP THINGS?
CINDY ORNSTEIN: YES, WE BELIEVE THE ARTS ARE AN AMAZING CONNECTOR, AN OPPORTUNITY TO SEE THE ENVIRONMENT DIFFERENTLY AND FEEL BIGGER THAN THEMSELVES. WHEN YOU DO THAT, YOU CREATE A DYNAMIC ENVIRONMENT OR VIBRANT ENVIRONMENT.
TED SIMONS: WITH BARS, RESTAURANTS, WHAT?
CINDY ORNSTEIN: I THINK THE FIRST THING IS PEOPLE. PEOPLE ENGAGED, PEOPLE CONNECTED, PEOPLE WANTING TO GATHER IN PUBLIC SPACES. IT STARTS THERE. A LOT OF OTHER STUFF FOLLOWS. I THINK DEVELOPMENT COMES WHERE PEOPLE ARE.
TED SIMONS: YOU ARE THE TRANSFORMATION MANAGER. WHAT NEEDS TO BE TRANSFORMED?
JEFF MCVAY: DOWNTOWN MESA HAS AN AMAZING COMMUNITY. WE NEED MORE OF IT, OPPORTUNITIES FOR PEOPLE TO LIVE, RECREATE, ENGAGE WITH THE ARTS. REALLY, THE TRANSFORMATION IS TO BRING THE BODIES TO PLACES WE KNOW ARE GREAT.
TED SIMONS: I NOTICE MANY EVENTS, WE CAN START WITH THE SCREENING OF A FANTASTIC PLANET?
CINDY ORNSTEIN: OPENS TOMORROW EVENING AND RUNS TEN DAYS.
TED SIMONS: IS THIS THE OLD FANTASTIC PLANET, ROBBY THE ROBOT?
CINDY ORNSTEIN: NO, THIS WAS THE ARTIST. AMANDA WAS INSPIRED BY THE 1973 SCI-FI FILM.
TED SIMONS: WHAT IS THIS, HUGE FIGURES OUT THERE? IS THAT WHAT THIS IS?
JEFF MCVAY: THEY ARE 30-FOOT --
CINDY ORNSTEIN: 39 FEET TALL.
TED SIMONS: LOOK AT THOSE.
CINDY ORNSTEIN: THERE ARE SIX, LARGE, INFLATABLE SCULPTURES. THIS IS THE U.S. PREMIER OF THIS INSTALLATION. WE ARE EXCITED.
TED SIMONS: WHEN IS THAT GOING TO HAPPEN?
CINDY ORNSTEIN: IT KICK OFF TOMORROW NIGHT. WE HAVE A WONDERFUL FREE KICKOFF EVENT WITH INCREDIBLE MUSIC AND DANCE WORK AND FOOD AND GATHERING AT THE MESA ART CENTER. IT CONTINUES FOR TEN DAYS. THERE IS A LOT OF ACTIVITY TO LOOK UP TO FIND OUT WHAT IS GOING ON.
TED SIMONS: WE ALSO HAVE HELLO LAMP POST. WHAT IS THAT?
JEFF MCVAY: CINDY PROBABLY KNOWS BETTER THAN ME, BUT I'LL TAKE A SHOT. IT WAS A ART INSTITUTE TRYING TO GET PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE ENVIRONMENT. YOU COULD WALK UP TO A RAIN SPOUT AND TEXT IT AND IT WOULD INTERACT WITH YOU. IT IS AS IF YOU WERE TALKING TO SOMEONE ON THE OTHER END.
CINDY ORNSTEIN: WE HAVE 32 OBJECTS IN DOWNTOWN MESA. THIS WAS CREATED BY PAN STUDIO OF LONDON. IT SERVED DOUBLE DUTY. IT CAUSED PEOPLE TO INTERACT WITH THE ENVIRONMENT AND SEE IT IN A DIFFERENT WAY, BUT IT ALSO GOT US ANSWERS TO QUESTIONS WE WANTED TO KNOW. WE WANTED TO KNOW WHY ARTS MATTER TO THEM AND IT SERVED BOTH PURPOSES WELL.
TED SIMONS: PEOPLE DID IT IN GROUPS A LOT TOO. PEOPLE WERE DOING IT TOGETHER.
TED SIMONS: STREET PIANOS, MESA. WHO WANTS TO TAKE THIS ONE?
CINDY ORNSTEIN: I WILL INTRODUCE IT. IT IS PART OF AN INTERNATIONAL SERIES OF ART INSTALLATIONS, ANOTHER BRITISH ARTIST STARTED IT. IT HAS BEEN ALL OVER THE WORLD. WE WERE THE FIRST PLACE IN ARIZONA TO DO IT. 24 PIANOS WERE GIVEN TO 24 COMMUNITY GROUPS WITH 24 ARTISTS ASSIGNED TO THEM. THE COMMUNITY AND ARTISTS TRANSFORMED THEM INTO WORKS OF ART, PUT OUT IN THE COMMUNITY FOR EIGHT WEEKS FOR PEOPLE TO PLAY.
TED SIMONS: IT LOOKS FUN.
JEFF MCVAY: IT WAS AMAZING.
TED SIMONS: THE PROTOTYPING FESTIVAL. WHAT WAS THAT ABOUT?
JEFF MCVAY: THAT WAS FUN. LAST SPRING, LAST NOVEMBER, WHICH WAS ANOTHER EFFORT TO ENGAGE ARTISTS AND TO CREATE TEMPORARY INSTALLATIONS THAT WERE INSTALLED THROUGHOUT DOWNTOWN AND PEOPLE COULD ENGAGE DOWNTOWN. THERE MIGHT HAVE BEEN A BROADER GOAL IN THIS TO HAVE ARTISTS AND RESIDENCIES IN THE DISCONNECTED PEOPLE FROM DOWNTOWN, TRYING TO BE PART OF THE DOWNTOWN AS WELL.
CINDY ORNSTEIN: WE CHALLENGED ARTISTS TO PUT IN PROPOSALS WITH THE PROTOTYPES. THEY VOTED TO GIVE US AN IDEA OF WHAT PEOPLE WANTED TO EXPERIENCE.
TED SIMONS: IN A PERFECT WORLD, WHAT DOES DOWNTOWN MESA LOOK LIKE?
JEFF MCVAY: IN A PERFECT WORLD, WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE TODAY. WE HAVE A WONDERFUL STOCK OF 50 TO 100-YEAR-OLD BUILDINGS WE NEED TO EXPOSE AND BRING TO THE COMMUNITY. ON TOP OF THAT, THOUSANDS OF RESIDENTS. WALKING ON THE STREET. IT IS A COMMUNITY STILL. YOU FEEL CONNECTED TO YOUR COMMUNITY. YOU KNOW YOUR NEIGHBORS. YOU GO TO THE SHOP AND THEY KNOW YOUR NAME.
CINDY ORNSTEIN: THERE IS ART AND ART MAKING. THERE IS A SENSE THAT ITS A PLACE WHERE POSSIBILITIES EXIST. IT IS A DREAM, AND YOU CAN WONDER. THERE ARE THING IN THE ENVIRONMENT, AND WE HAVE SOME NOW, THAT PEOPLE GET THE CHANCE TO PLAY. I THINK IT NEEDS TO BE A CREATIVE PLAYGROUND.
TED SIMONS: WE WILL SEE HOW IT WORKS OUT. GOOD TO HAVE YOU BOTH HERE.
CINDY ORNSTEIN: THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
TED SIMONS: FRIDAY ON "ARIZONA HORIZON," IT IS THE JOURNALIST'S ROUND TABLE. WE WILL HAVE MORE ON THE BUTT AND THE TEACHER STRIKE. IN ADDITION, IT LOOKS LIKE VOTERS 'WILL" HAVE A SAY ON THE STATE'S RECENTLY EXPANDED SCHOOL VOUCHER LAW. THOSE STORIES AND MORE, FRIDAY, ON THE JOURNALISTS' ROUNDTABLE. THAT IS IT FOR NOW. I AM TED SIMONS. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US. YOU HAVE A GREAT EVENING.
Cindy Ornstein: Executive Director, Mesa Arts Center
Jeff McVay: Transformation Manager, Downtown Mesa