Engaging business to grow Phoenix’s creative culture
Imagine a hotel where the ubiquitous room number is a one-of-a-kind art piece. A busy auto repair shop with a meditative gallery space. A furniture showroom that promotes the beauty of dance and music.
Business as usual? That’s the hope for arts advocates in the Valley.
ArtWORKS PHX, a unique advocacy campaign in Phoenix, aims to showcase and inspire business engagement with the arts. Campaign organizers are working to not only raise community awareness about the arts but also boost the city’s creative culture. Here’s a look at three Phoenix businesses where the arts play a starring role.
Art Fix, 180 Degrees Automotive
For proof that opposites attract, look no further than 180 Degrees Automotive. Noisy garage bays are filled with vehicles a little down on their luck and in need of repair. But the Zen-like lobby is dotted with thought-provoking, whimsical and unexpected artwork, from “fire art” restroom signs to a custom concrete counter inlaid with metal.
Owner and master mechanic Bogi Lateiner has always worked to incorporate art elements into her repair shops. When Lateiner was scouting a larger location five years ago, the shop in Phoenix’s Melrose District hit the mark as much for the additional garage space as for the potential to truly infuse the business with art. The daughter of local artist Roger Lateiner, she envisioned a calming space that welcomed not only customers but also the community.
About 20 local artists have since exhibited their work in the spacious lobby, with shows rotating every three months. Opening receptions are timed to Roosevelt Row’s First Friday events, which showcase local art and music, and the shop’s perfectly lit gallery space that stretches along a back wall is open to all.
“It’s a small little microcosm of what we like about Phoenix,” Lateiner says.
Valley artist Edgar Fernandez created a show, “Identity Empowerment,” specifically for the space. His work focuses on bringing visions of ancestors to light using contemporary mediums, and the show features 13 colorful acrylic masks. His reception included a blessing ceremony for the work and the community.
Thanks to this opportunity, Fernandez has sold one piece in the series and had multiple inquiries. But it’s about more than sales.
“Customers can sit there and look at their own pace; they can sit and enjoy,” he says. “For people who won’t necessarily go to an art museum, I think that’s really powerful.”
Creative Escape, FOUND:RE
Whether stopping by for happy hour or settling in for a staycation, visitors at the FOUND:RE all have the same immersive experience at the boutique hotel downtown. Art is everywhere, from the larger-than-life riff on Burt Reynolds’ infamous centerfold shot in the lobby, to a sleek green dinosaur watching over guests poolside, to the delicate origami birds fluttering down a wall near the guestrooms.
“The hotel is one big gallery,” says Michael Oleskow, the hotel’s cultural curator. “I wanted the community and the guests to embrace the arts.”
And that means more than simply enjoying a painting at a distance. The artwork is consigned by some 25 or 30 local artists and is available for purchase. Oleskow can make arrangements for guests to meet with artists on property to discuss a particular piece or even visit their studios.
This art intensive extends throughout the hotel’s public spaces, from the ground floor up eight stories with oil paintings, collages and photographs at every turn. Even utilitarian spaces get a boost: A painting showing peeping eyes hangs over the ATM machine and a stop-you-in-your-tracks mural greets visitors in the parking lot. Guest rooms, meanwhile, feature a mix of work from local artists and playful interactive pieces.
Off the main lobby, spacious galleries filled with bold large-scale pieces are used as event spaces. An intimate studio near the pool area features rotating shows. “The Box,” an exhibit space outdoor, shows off artists’ work to passersby on Central Avenue.
Oleskow is usually on hand for impromptu tours. He can offer the backstory for the photographs seen by diners between sips and bites, or the thinking behind the beachy mural that sets the tone for guests lounging outside.
“This is really an experience here,” Oleskow says. “It goes beyond looking at art on the wall to making a connection.”
Form and Function
When Adam Goodman, president and chief executive officer of Goodmans Interior Structures, first saw Ballet Arizona perform, the unexpected happened.
“I was blown away by their athleticism, grace and expression,” he says. “My wife and I became season ticket subscribers and attend almost every performance.”
Soon, the couple was bringing friends to performances. “How often do you get to, literally, expose someone to a new form of art that they have never experienced?” he asks.
Goodman then decided to engage employees at his family business in Phoenix and help expose them to the “majesty of ballet.”
It wasn’t such a leap. Goodmans, a Valley-based business that has been providing office furnishings and work structures for more than 60 years, has a long history of supporting the community and the arts. The company has been lauded for its community impact and its range of initiatives that bring together employees, customers and nonprofit organizations.
The company’s GoodART program is one of those. In partnership with Free Arts of Arizona, Goodmans frames unique artwork created by at-risk kids who are served by the nonprofit, and then delivers pieces to customers as thank-you gifts.
Through its Ballet Arizona partnership, the company is delivering a different kind of art to its employees, their families and customers.
One year, for example, the company replaced its spring picnic with a carnival in the lobby featuring an intimate ballet performance for employees and their families. For some, it was a brand-new experience. Goodmans also treats clients to a ballet performance, rather than the typical ball game outing.
“What a gift it is to give someone the soul-enriching nourishment of art,” Goodman says.
Every day, employees at the company’s showroom are greeted by a giant wall graphic showing two Ballet Arizona dancers.
“The graphic is intended to be a reminder for our employees that the work they do at Goodmans is supporting important organizations in the community like Ballet Arizona,” Goodman says.
Story by Susie Steckner
Photography by Mark Lipczynski