There are two versions of Phoenix — the Phoenix known by Phoenicians and the Phoenix perceived by everyone else in the country. The last few years have been a bit of a battle for the city’s national reputation. Regardless of our differing stances on politics and culture, everyone can probably…
Stephanie poses some great thoughts about the Phoenix Design community and ultimately the results from the momentum started over the last 2 years.
Phoenix is a big place. We do have issues of physical sprawl to deal with. Comparing us to communities that have weather where people are required to be in small spaces all the time (Portland) or communities that have an enormous amount of wealthy clients (San Francisco) is not really serving our specific issues and addressing what we need to do in order to make our own way. But it is inevitable, I believe, when designers start thinking about a bigger picture, to say “What would <insert desirable city here> do?” I have had those conversations about design, theatre and improvisation. I don’t believe it is a way to find lasting solutions.
In the #phxdc, I think the tweeting and meetups have been a great bridge to bring people physically together that normally wouldn’t bother gathering at all. I think overall there has been a sort of politeness, almost a cheer squad quality around a lot of that, which I hope won’t be a permanent feature of it. But I think it is a human reaction to a new environment and a new way of gathering.
I hope we can get to the real heart of the conversation: why do we choose Phoenix over other cities? We need to decide for ourselves first, before we do anything else. “Love Phoenix or Leave Phoenix”, the bumper sticker from Frances, is something I truly believe in. Accept Phoenix for what it has to offer, be a part of what is happening here, or leave to <insert desirable city here>.
My work in the theatre and improv has made me think about Phoenix a lot. What challenges do we have in Phoenix and what are the gifts that those challenges give us? One challenge is the fact that our cultural infrastructure is not well established. I’ve heard people complain that Phoenix has no culture, and I disagree. Phoenix has tons of culture, going back to the Hohokam and beyond, but many people that live here choose not to identify with it. From The Firestage to The Heard, we have an amazing culture here, just not a lot of infrastructure to support it. By infrastructure, I mean the institutions, individuals and organizations that exist to make culture, in this case design, happen.
The gift of that situation is that we can make our own infrastructure. We can be cultural entrepreneurs, pioneering platforms that motivate and build up our professional fields, our communities and ultimately our city.
A lot of the cultural infrastures we have are young, and you can see that manifested in the venues. Our venues are often scrappy feeling – like The Firestage or Space 55, or feel like they were just built – like the Convention Center. A lack of institutional history or refinement it doesn’t diminish the work.
With that said, each individual designer has to choose to make change. No infrastructure or institution in any city can make that happen. The energy it takes to start any movement or idea is enormous, and it is worth putting things out there before they are completely finished to get momentum. It is up to each person to decide who they work for every day, what ideas they want to support and promote, and how they choose to grow as an individual both professionally and personally. There are structures in place for this already, if individuals want to find them.
But there is room for more.