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Culture of Artists in Downtown Phoenix

Annalycia Morales

Arizona State University



For this project I researched the community of Artists in Downtown Phoenix. Through the past

few weeks I have spent time talking to artists, going to the Phoenix Art Museum, attending the

First Friday Festival and going to several local galleries. My intention for this project was to

learn and understand as much as I could about this community of artists and their culture. What

makes this group unique?

Keywords​: ​Art, Community, Culture


Culture of Artists in Downtown Phoenix

Section 1, Question Bank

Throughout my research I hope to understand what makes the community of artists in

Downtown Phoenix a culture. I am curious to see what they have in common as far as beliefs,

personality and ideologies. I am also curious to learn about each person’s art that I interview.

They all do paintings and or drawings of some sort however, each of them has a unique

approach, style and message to their works. I have always been interested in art, so it is exciting

to be able to do research on a topic that I am interested in but don’t have much experience with.

“Central Research Question”

● What makes artists Downtown part of a community or culture?

“General Inquiry/Observation Questions”

● Are there any objects you use or have that have a functional/symbolic value?

● Where/with whom do you believe your work fits best?

● Why do you think Downtown Phoenix is such a hotspot for art?

● Are there any events that you attend with other local artists?

“General Interview Questions”

● What does art mean to you?

● What made you choose this career path?

● What message/emotion/feeling do you hope to portray through your art?

● Where do you get the inspiration for your work?


● Is there a category you would place your art in?

“Interview Questions for Specific People”

● Are there any differences between the art community here in Downtown Phoenix versus

the New York City area? If so what are they and do you prefer one over the other? (Kim


● Do you or have you participated in any events that bring together artists or celebrate art

like First Friday? If so why do you think they are important, or what is their purpose?

(Jerry Jacobson)

Section 2, Sites of Inquiry

Sites of Inquiry Contact / Location Dates / Times

Phoenix Art Museum 1625 N Central Ave, Phoenix October 10th, 2018
5:00 PM

Eye Lounge Gallery Kim Sweet October 20th, 2018

419 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix 1:00 PM

Roosevelt Row Art District Jerry Jacobson October 13th, 2018

Roosevelt St, Phoenix 12:00 PM

First Friday Festival Roosevelt St, Phoenix October 5th, 2018

7:00 PM

Section 3, Inquiring into Objects /Artifacts

Part 1, Summarize the experience, including responses and notes (~200 words):

Art is a very broad term, it doesn’t define any one method, style or process. It is based on

each individual and their perceptions. Since there are many different types of art and ways to

make it, there are different objects of value to each artist. I am focusing on artists that paint and

or draw their art, so objects of significance for them might be their brush, pencil or spray paint.

As an observer, these are the objects that I see as significant. Functionally, they are how the artist

physically creates their work, while symbolically I see these objects as representing self

expression and communication. Artists use these things to create pictures that speak words and

portray messages to those that see them. Now what I think might be different from what each

artist views as an object of significance to them. I asked each of the artists that I interviewed

what object that they considered to be of significance to them and their art. Not only did I ask

about the functional significance of each object but I asked about the symbolic significance of

them. When I asked Kim Sweet what object(s) she deemed as significant, her response did not

focus on the physical objects like brushes but on the objects of her inspiration. When Jerry

Jacobson and Jordan Wehmuller were asked the same question, they spoke about physical

objects that they used to create their work and what they meant to them.

Part 2, Principle Quotes or Observations with an explanation of value:

1. While watching people paint or draw in my experience, you can see how they interact

with their brush or pencil. Its telling a story without using any words. Each stroke can be

made to look different using specific techniques that gives a painting or drawing

meaning, dimension and depth.

2. “Not a particular brush or anything, just more the concept, at least for me, that it is a time

travel communication, I can stare at some paintings and just feel the soul, ... I think the

thesis that the soul is contained in a piece of work, I think a part of it is true” (Kim

Sweet). Kim took a less literal approach with her answer, she values concepts and

connections as “objects” of significance rather than a brush or a pencil.

3. “Presently I am working with found objects and elements of chance and natural

processes. Drawing is central to everything that I do. Not drawing in the sense of

sketches or studies, more in the manner of thoughtful (or thoughtless) mark making.

Drawing is really about seeing and to see is to think. Drawing to me is an important

discipline and something that I do everyday” ( Jerry Jacobson). In this response Jerry

mentioned physical objects that were of significance, he mentioned the objects he uses to

model his work after and he also mentioned the symbolic significance of his drawing.

Part 3, Reflect on the process, occurrences, and results of this research, including inferences
about the significance of your observations and interview responses. (~300 words):

Before asking these questions, I thought I had an idea of what each artists would say. I assumed

when asked about objects of significance they would answer by speaking about the physical

things they used to create their work: paint, canvas, paint brush, pencil, ect. I also figured they

would give general answers about the symbolic significance. Although when I asked each of the

artists this question they answered in very different ways and mentioned things I would have

never considered. It can be expected of someone who is unfamiliar with art that they would not

think of all these other things that can be of significance to an artist. Something I noticed that

was interesting is the way artists think. Things aren’t usually two-dimensional to them, their

thoughts are gathered from all different angles and points. They think less linearly than most

which is opposite to me and I find it very intriguing. Jerry Jacobson spoke about the literal

objects he used as inspiration, calling them “f​ound objects and elements of chance and natural

processes”. Although he also mentioned his drawings as objects of significance, referring to

them as “thoughtful, or thoughtless mark making”. That was sort of the functional significance of

his drawings while the symbolic significance was “drawing is about seeing and to see is to

think”. His art is a way for him to visually see and express his thoughts and thought processes.

Kim Sweet spoke not about physical objects really, but about concepts and feelings that she got

from art and paintings she drew inspiration from. I liked the words she used, she said paintings

are a “time travel communication” she could stare at paintings and “feel the soul”. She did

acknowledge that she is not able to connect with all paintings on this sort of level, some are just

interesting or admirable but lack the personal connection with her. In conclusion, each artists has

their own story, style and inspirations. What might spark a fire of idea in one artists may not

even phase another. That is what makes art so interesting to me, everyone in this community is

so different yet all very similar.

Section 4, Inquiring into Place

Part 1, Summarize the observation, including responses and notes (~200 words):

Throughout my research I went to several places that are significant in the art community of

Downtown Phoenix such as the Phoenix Museum of Art, Roosevelt Row Arts District and

several galleries of local artists. Each of them had things in common, but also had characteristics

that made them unique. The Museum of Art is a massive space that houses all different styles

and types of art. There are sculptures, paintings, interactive pieces, video exhibits and more. Of

course, it is significant to the art community because it is an art museum, but it is more than that.

It has such a wide variety of exhibits from different times and countries that it covers almost all

aspects of art, this is unique because most galleries and other spaces that display art tend to focus

on one type of art or one artist specifically, but museums cover much more. Phoenix is lucky to

have such a sophisticated museum that artists and observers can use to learn and be inspired

from. Next, were the galleries and Roosevelt Row. The galleries were very interesting to see,

they were all quiet and brightly lit, but each one was centered around a different artist and

category of art. Roosevelt Row is mainly a collection of murals on various buildings along

Roosevelt St. No two murals are alike, each of them have a different message, look and


Part 2, Principle Quotes or Observations with an explanation of value:

4. As far as my experience, the art museum was incredible to see. In one building, you were

able to travel through time and space to experience art from all over the world and from

all different time periods.

5. “The Eye Lounge is that place because it is constantly in flux, its a place that artists have

to apply to and be invited to.” ( Kim Sweet)

6. “Where I make my art is an important place for me. It is usually in my house where I am

completely comfortable and focused.” (Jordan Wehmuller)


Part 3, Reflect on the process, occurrences, and results of this research, including inferences
about the significance of your observations and interview responses. (~300 words):

I believe there are two ways to go about answering the question of what places are important to

the art community. There are places that house and display art like the Phoenix Art Museum, all

the local galleries and the Roosevelt Row Art District which are obviously of significance

because without them there would be nowhere for artists to share their work or for the public to

see and experience it. The other way this question can be answered is by approaching it from the

artists perspective, of what places are important to them when creating their art. As an observer, I

was able to determine places of importance from the perspective of the public. I went to the

Phoenix Museum of Art, Roosevelt Row Art District and several local galleries. Each of these

places had a different reason for why they were significant. As I said previously the Museum of

Art included different types of art from all over the world and from all different time periods. It

is significant because of the vast variety of what it offers. The local galleries were an opportunity

for individual local artists to have a space where the public could come to see and buy their

work. They were each very different depending on the style and work of the artist that displayed

there. One that I went to was painted darkly and was covered in dark greys, blues and black. It

went along with the style of the artists which made the entire space flow and more appealing to

the eye. On the other hand, another gallery that I attended was the complete opposite. The walls

were all white and all of the paintings that were hung up were made with a bright rainbow of

colors. There were also decorations of brightly colored tissue paper flowers to complete the look.

The way an artist sets up their gallery sets the tone and mood for the viewing of their art. Most

artists try to go along with the general theme of their art in the gallery. This makes it feel almost

as if their art is coming to life because the viewer is surrounded my colors, objects and visuals

that are associated with a specific feeling or emotion. Lastly, was Roosevelt Row, this is an area

where there are many murals, galleries and businesses that display all sorts of local art and the

site of events like First and Third Friday which are events that connect the public with the art

community in a fun and family friendly way. After going to all these locations, asking questions

and making observations these are the conclusions I have come to as to why each location is

significant to the art community. I then asked a couple artists which spaces or places they felt

were of importance to them. Jordan Wehmuller said she felt her home, where she created her art,

was of most significance to her. This is where she felt most comfortable and focused, she was

completely free to be herself and create her work without being distracted. Kim Sweet said her

gallery at the Eye Lounge was the most important to her. The Eye Lounge requires an artist to

apply and then be invited to show their work. Kim was chosen to show her work in this gallery

for three years which is a huge accomplishment that she is extremely proud of and that is why it

is of so much importance to her.


Section 5, Inquiring into Activities/Events

Part 1, Summarize the observation, including responses and notes (~200 words):

There are only a select few events that occur around the Downtown area that engage such a large

portion of the local art community and the public. The two events that are the most popular are

First Friday Festival that occurs every first friday of every month and the event titled Third

Friday. First Friday is a huge event that looks more like a festival than Third Friday which is less

rowdy and has more of a calm feel. I attended First Friday to see what is was like and to gather

observations about its relationship with the local art community. The First Friday Festival is

centered around local artists from Downtown its purpose is to give artists a place to show their

work to the public. There are booths, open galleries and live performances that the public are free

to watch and interact with which highlight all the artists that come. There are so many different

kinds of people that come to this festival, artists and viewers alike. Since there are so many

people of all different backgrounds, personalities and beliefs there is something to satisfy

everyone. There is also food trucks and music playing which makes it have more of a laid back

and fun feel. Most places that display art are quiet, organized and calm while First Friday is loud,

energetic and fun. First Friday is a great way to get the public involved in a fun and casual way

that is enjoyable for both the artist and the viewer.


Part 2, Principle Quotes or Observations with an explanation of value:

7. First Friday was so much fun to experience. I was able to observe artists and viewers and

how they acted among each other. The artists were so excited and eager to share their

work with those around them and the viewers were engaged and interested in learning

and seeing all the different things that were there.

8. “Events such as First Friday expose a greater public to local artists and though that is a

good thing, I am dubious as to its importance. The crowds on Roosevelt Row for First

Friday events have grown greatly but to what end? For a good number of attendees the

First Friday experience has less to do with viewing art than with checking out each other.

Nothing wrong with that, of course, but don't think that having a large crowd represents

support of the art scene. Most of the alternative gallery spaces and artist studios that gave

the area it's reputation are gone now, replaced with pricy "artist loft" condos and high end

taco shops. Nothing new with gentrification. The same money interests that wanted to

demolish the Roosevelt Row art district to build a football stadium now profit from

soaring rents and land values” (Jerry Jacobson). Jerry had a different opinion of First

Friday than most,

9. “I love First Friday. I think the opportunities that it gives artists to interact with the public

and show their work is amazing. It connects artists and views that sometimes might never

have come in contact”(Jordan Wehmuller). Jordan had a much more positive outlook on

First Friday than Jerry Jacobson.


Part 3, Reflect on the process, occurrences, and results of this research, including inferences
about the significance of your observations and interview responses. (~300 words):

I loved attending First Friday. I did not grow up where there was a lot of access to art galleries

and museums so being in a place where I do have that access and attending an event that is at

such a close location and gives me the opportunity to see and learn so much in a few hours is

amazing. I had been to the festival a few times prior and had a great time but I wasn’t really

paying attention to to the art. For this project however, I went into it focusing on observing its

connection with art. I noticed so much more when I did this, I was actually surprised. I went into

all the art galleries that were open and took mental notes about each one and their similarities

and differences. I also noticed a lot of people were interacting with the artists and asking them

questions. Some people asked generic questions like what the artists work was about or why they

they chose to be an artist and others were asking deeper questions and talking to the artists about

how their work made them feel. It was very interesting to see all that was happening, there was

so much to take in but I learned so much. When I interviewed individual artists about their

thoughts on First Friday, they gave me some very different views. Jordan Wehmuller had a very

positive opinion about the festival, she thought it brought great attention to the local artists and

the public. She said she loved the fun and energetic environment it brought to the art community.

On the other hand, Jerry Jacobson was a bit skeptical about the festival. He wasn’t convinced

that it did anything for the art community. He said it was more of a tourist attraction that

anything, and that the large crowds actually took attention away from the focus of art.

Section 6, Inquiring into People/Person

Part 1, Summarize the observation, including responses and notes (~200 words):

Each artist is very different, they each have their own style, inspirations and techniques but they

do share some commonalities. I observed a few different traits that I thought were common about

the artists that I came in contact with over the past few weeks. One was the way they think. I

have spoken about this a few times throughout this project however, this was something that I

thought was very important to note about them. Something else that I noticed was their intense

passion for their work. You could tell that they light up when you ask them about their work or

art in general. The last thing that I noticed was that they usually like a challenge. They seem to

enjoy pushing themselves to create and try new things in hopes of improvement. When I asked

each of the artists that I interviewed, what they thought artists had in common and they Kim

Sweet and Jerry Jacobson answered along the same lines. They said all artists that truly want to

be artists do it because they are obsessed with it in a way. It fills a void in there life that

otherwise would be empty.


Part 2, Principle Quotes or Observations with an explanation of value:

10. As I said earlier, an observation that I made about the artists I came in contact with is

how they think in a three dimensional way. Usually things aren’t linear to them, there are

always different angles and ways to see something from. I found that very interesting

because I tend to think in a more linear and two dimensional way. Talking with these

artists has opened my eyes to new things and I am challenging myself to think outside of

the box more often.

11. “​I have been an artist all of my adult life. In my experience most artists don't really

"chose" to be so, they just are. Making art has never been a "career path" for me and I

would suggest that those drawn to the art scene as careerists are probably involved for the

wrong reasons. I know of very few artists that support themselves with their art alone.

You have to do it because you love it” (Jerry Jacobson). Jerry speaks about why he is an

artists and why he believes others went on the same path.

12. “... I think that art is done with the commitment to the love of something outside of any

sane thing, they make tremendous sacrifice to make their work” (Kim Sweet). Kim also

speaks about what she believes all artists have in common no matter how different they

may seem.

Part 3, Reflect on the process, occurrences, and results of this research, including inferences
about the significance of your observations and interview responses. (~300 words):

There were three distinct traits that I noticed all the artists I came in contact with had. The first

was their out of the box and unconfined way of thinking. For example, when Jerry Jacobson

described drawing, he said “Drawing is to see, and to see is to think”. Most people would take

drawing for its literal meaning and leave it at that, making marks on paper. However, he goes

deeper and relates the act of “thoughtful or thoughtless” markmaking to his deep or superficial

thought proccesses saying he creates “pictorial problems” and attempts to solve them. Another

trait I saw was common amont the artists was their intense passion for what they do. They

thouroughly enjoy art as a whole, not only creating their own but admiring and learning from the

work of others. Both Jerry Jacobson and Kim Sweet said something along those lines during

their interviews. Kim said something she thought all artists had in common was the

“...commitment to the love of something outside of any sane thing…”. Jerry Jacobson said those

that are serious artists do it because they truly love it, not because its easy or because of the high

salary because neither usually happen. The last thing I noticed about what artists have in

common was that they seem to like a challenge. They seem to like to push themselves to do

things with their work that they have never tried. Kim Sweet just recently started incorporating

her writing into her art and Jerry Jacobson described his work as “pictorial problems” that he

tries to solve. They seek challenge and try to push themselves to become better.

Section 7, Soundscape Links

Gallery on Roosevelt Row (Unknown


“Still Night”- Kim Sweet, 2018


Claude Monet Phoenix Art Museum


Mural on Roosevelt Row

Phoenix Art Museum Soundlink:

This link is the audio that was played to go along with an exhibit that included audio and visual


Kim Sweet Audio Exibit at Eye Lounge:

Section 8, WP3 Proposal

Through this research I have been able to identify all the things that make the artists in

Downtown Phoenix a part of a community. They are a unique group of people but they share

many commonalities and have similar characteristics. They have made their own community

overtime and stick together as a group of people. I conducted interviews with a wide variety of

questions that get answers that help “outsiders” have a better understanding of the culture of art

or artists. My core question was “What makes artists in Downtown Phoenix a community?”, I

conducted my interviews and research with the intention of answering this. The other questions I

asked gathered information about each artist’s inspirations, experiences, opinions, art and

personalities. Getting these questions answered allowed me to better understand this group of

people and brought me closer to the goal of answering my main research question. I also

attended several events and locations in Downtown to observe and take notes about their

significance to this art community. Seeing people interact and studying art exhibits connected me

to this group of people even more. The art community is extremely large and exists all over the

world. I didnt grow up with a lot of access to art and never thougth about its significance.

Although after moving to Downtown Phoenix and participating in this research project my eyes

have been opened and I realize how many people are a part of this community and why it is so

important to not only them as artists but also to the public and viewers. Given my research, I

propose an essay that will inform its audience about the communtiy of artists in Downtown

Phoenix and give them understanding and insight into why it is of such importance.


Sweet, K. (2018, October 28th). Personal interview.

Jacobson, J. (2018, October 26th). Personal interview.

Wehmuller, J. (2018, October 25th). Personal interview.