Art Detour 24: Sure, it Was Better Than Last Year, But Artlink Still Needs to Rethink Its Relevance After 24 Years

Categories: Review, Visual Art

photo by Claire Lawton
It was a humid, soggy weekend for Art Detour 24. And the weather was as unpredictable as the artwork.

The weekend, officially organized by Downtown non-profit Artlink, is two days of studio tours and gallery openings (we'd argue that it should have included the night of Third Friday, but more on that later). Traditionally, the event is a chance for local artists to show the public what they've been working on and hopefully reach a wider audience than the monthly First or Third Fridays.

Our impressions from the weekend: A lot of artists have given up on the annual event. And perhaps it's time (really) for Artlink to either seriously rethink the purpose of the weekend or toss in the towel as well.

photo by Claire Lawton
"Trans Humanism" by James Angel
Given, there were a couple of great shows. James Angel, David Dauncey and Randy Slack of 3CarPileUp put up a killer show at Legend City Studios.

Dauncey's self-portraits were intricate and thoughtful, both in composition and content. Angel's apocalyptic explosion reflected the artist's skill color and form, and Slack's large-scale plays on pop-culture in pop colors were mesmerizing (and readable, if you took a second). The foot traffic in the space was slow (blame the studio's "off the beaten path" location), but the talent and technique was there.

photo by Claire Lawton
Installation by Sarah Hurwitz
On Roosevelt, the Eye Lounge collective put together a strong showcase of their latest works.

The exhibition, titled "Fresh," was a breath of exactly that after stopping into a few galleries that featured work we'd been seeing for weeks (and months).

From Melissa Martinez's glowing tulle cloud with blown glass rain drops to Sarah Hurwitz's invitation to peer through her kaleidoscope lenses for a gem show, the show had whimsy, cohesion, and a sense of skill-level that was unmatched by the scores of other group shows that had been tossed together (or decided upon by an arts community popularity contest).

photo by Claire Lawton
The Mutant Pinata show at Bragg's Pie Factory
Grand Avenue was its expected quirky self. The Mutant Pinata Show at Bragg's Pie Factory wasn't the strongest example of local art, but was exactly what it promised: fun. And the politically-charged loteria cards and canvas work by El Moises and local tattoo artists were a strong addition to the usual from Steve Gompf, Annie Lopez, and Jeff Falk at La Melgosa.

photo by Claire Lawton
Loteria cards by El Moises
There were a ton of exhibitions and shows to see -- Artlink's map included 52 locations, and ours included about 25 "must-sees."

And while we shuffled up, down, and around during Third Friday and during the official Detour Saturday and Sunday, we were baffled at Icehouse's decision to schedule two weddings during that weekend (two weddings that we inadvertently crashed by sneaking behind the buffet table and up the stairs to the newly opened, though largely disappointing gallery shows), and we nearly attempted a break-in to see Peter Bugg and DOSE's show at Willo North after arriving to the gallery at 3 p.m. on Sunday and seeing the red sign: "closed."

But more disappointing than poor organization and hours that weren't exactly "by the map" was noticing that the small crowds of attendees were the same crews we'd see during any other art event.

In fact, most of the "Detourers" were artists.

Some complained about the weather, some about the "slow days." But the common conversation revolved around the 24-year-old event's relevance when it directly follows a Third Friday artwalk and mainly reaches the same audience. The conclusion was simple: If it (poorly) decides to carry on, Artlink must rethink Detour.

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Steve Weiss
Steve Weiss

It's a difficult call to suggest that Art Detour should have a better crop of shows. The whole intent of Art Detour has always been its egalitarian nature. Witness for one example the "Public Hanging" exhibit, a non-juried event at A.E. England. ArtLink DID do a juried art exhibit prior to Art Detour, but sadly it didn't receive any attention, and the 60 or so pieces in the show were innovative.

I started with the first Art Detour and have volunteered for it off and on over the years. I've also seen in the last year a push for ArtLink to get involved with Artist Workshops ( a measured discussion of how both Art Detour and the FF/TF events should be publicized and disseminated.

Light Rail looks to be a key ingredient in ArtLink getting out of the shuttle service, at least as largely as it had been, and more into the true value of linking galleries in a centralized map. The "hubs" of Roosevelt and Grand are taking on more of the promo efforts, and hopefully this will mean ArtLink can be more active in some of the ideas you discuss, all of which are intriguing, all of which required a motivated and energetic volunteer committee to activate.

I don't think either ArtLink or Art Detour can achieve everything artists desire here; frequent, quality and detailed art reviews, strong corporate financial support(yes, we miss Valley National Bank and Arizona Bank, but isn't Village Voice also a corporate resident?) and a City Hall that both champions public art AND puts money into maintaining it after it's completed.

However, what is still does successfully for the last 24 years is help people realize there is more to Phoenix's art scene than museums or institutions, and every year what I see is people coming out IN THE DAYTIME without a full-on party raging to see downtown art. If that takes a once a year tradition, I'm ok with that.


Steve, you are right-on. I'd like to add a few points of my own.

How exactly do you ensure quality? Art is going to be hit-or-miss no matter what you do to promote it. And if you do try to encourage big shows, then the event becomes exclusionary.

The event is also supposed to cover everyone. Yes, they should do a better job of emphasizing each individual neigborhood. But, having a reason for EVERYONE to put out art is a great way to make sure people come down and explore.

Another major emphasis for Art Detour is studios and non-traditional spaces, which only open their doors once per year for this event. Presenting a consolidated weekend encourages people to step out of their "comfort" zones of Grand and Roosevelt to see artists' studios, as well as installations in temporary spaces.

And one more personal point: Yeah, the IceHouse show was lackluster. But when your primary (read: only) income is private events, how can you say no to TWO high-paying events?

Dain Quentin Gore
Dain Quentin Gore

Well said, as always Steve! They also left out that there were performances at the Arizona Center...maybe it's not so much what they saw, but what they missed out on?

Also, I fixed your link to the workshops...

Wayne Michael Reich
Wayne Michael Reich

Oh Dain, it's the Pennysaver with Porn, so of course they're gonna miss a lot.

To quote Pete Petrisko: "When the press devotes more
words to analyzing an event after the fact, rather than aggressively
giving it that kind of coverage before it happens, then maybe Artlink
isn't the only one that needs to rethink its relevance... Just sayin'."Considering that a Hipster Journalist Barbie wrote this article, it's hardly surprising about the tone it resonates. Just sayin'.respectfully,Wayne Michael Reichhttp:www.WayneMichaelReic...)

Dain Quentin Gore
Dain Quentin Gore

I just get skeptical when Claire says things like that. She didn't even call it Deus Ex Machina (La Melgosa is the building that houses three studios, a psychic and a bike shop) and Michele and Richard Bledsoe also had new work. There was also a wall of smaller works, many new.

I am suspicious that she came in at all.

Dain Quentin Gore
Dain Quentin Gore

Hi Claire! Did you actually peek into Deus Ex? Because there was a new artist showing there, just in time for Art Detour, namely me :)

I actually liked the Grand Ave. map best, for obvious reasons! But at least ArtLink put us on their map. Have to say if New Times were in charge, we may not have even been on that map (because we weren't this time!).

Kathleen Vanesian
Kathleen Vanesian

 Perhaps what Ms. Lawton is in part saying is that there is too much too see in too little time with too little opportunity to determine whether a particular venue is worth seeing.  If galleries and co-ops would perhaps make an attempt at having some reasonably regular hours throughout the year, as most other cities do, perhaps there might not be a need for Art Detour, unless the idea is to corner the one-shot seasonal tourist market

Dain Quentin Gore
Dain Quentin Gore

what hours/days would you suggest? I have no idea what the standard is, as I have shown in such diverse places as Alice Cooperstown's Dungeon to Stinkweeds, some of which had some very unique hours of operation.

Now, of course, I am part of a legitimate dedicated art-showing concern, aka gallery space.

In addition, I'm still curious about my original question ;)

Dain Quentin Gore
Dain Quentin Gore

Thanks Claire! I will be following up about my upcoming Trunk Space solo show on Third Friday May.

A quick side note, and bit of a non sequitur, but I think we need to rethink this notion that we have limited space on a web page for a review.

Being the internet, there is boundless space to put in "all that's fit" without worrying about print, or even press time, since these articles are potentially living documents. It's not constrained by the old format unless you want it to be!

Something as active as a weekend long event could have live updates on the blog so we could see them as they happen.

Just something to consider.

Jackalope Ranch
Jackalope Ranch

Hi Dain,

Re: your original question, I did peek in. I asked Steve if I could take a few photos and I did (you can ask him if he saw me).

I also liked the Grand Ave. map and have been pretty vocal about my appreciation for anything mapped. I've included Deus Ex in a bunch of my First Friday maps -- you can look through the archives to check them out.

More than a show-by-show review, this post was meant to start a discussion about the future of Art Detour. In any case, feel free to let me know about your upcoming work. You can reach me at

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