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
The Art Detour bus ...
During Art Detour, Artlink spends most of its small budget on producing a map (that's carried in the Downtown Phoenix Journal), creating and hanging banners and yard signs, and hiring trolleys.

This year, the organization wrangled a few double-decker buses carrying signs "Phoenix to London" (which must have been an easy gig to grab on St. Patrick's Day).

But what if the organization refocused and instead used those funds to serve as a regularly updated resource for the community that supported great art shows that happen throughout the year instead of those that are crammed, forced, and slapped into one weekend?

What if it instead provided a volunteer base that could help galleries stay open during regular (or even semi-regular) business hours instead of celebrating the majority of galleries that decide to open their doors during the day -- for two days a year?

photo by Claire Lawton
Artwork by Ken and Robert Von Brott at The Hive
Or -- like we've said before and we'll say again -- what if it kindly recognized the achievements of the arts community within the last 24 years, celebrated the success of each arts neighborhood (Roosevelt, Grand, 16th Street, and Melrose come to mind), and took a much-needed curtain call?

There's nothing harder than volunteering, and there's a recognized challenge in attempting to herd a slew of artists and gallery owners into the stables to put their newest, best work on the walls for an annual event.

But if five or so of the 52 shows were stand-outs, and that's what the organization will continue drawing maps, hanging banners, and calling for the community members to see, then it will continue as a disservice to its community and to its artists.

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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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