Arizona boasts a rich artistic heritage. Climate, Native-American influences and an artsy culture all contribute to that heritage, and we believe (obviously) that it’s a big part of what makes our city special.
The heart of the Downtown Phoenix art scene is Roosevelt Row, or RoRo. The presence of art and artists rescued the area from urban blight, and in 1992 the First Friday Art Walk began. Today, it’s become so popular that some galleries are open for Third Friday as well. Artlink has been promoting the walks since 1994. Their website has all the information you need about First and Third Friday, and it’s a great way to experience downtown if your timing is right.
But if you happen to be downtown during the week, or on a weekend, all is not lost. There are still gallery options and public installations you can see.
Galleries: The “First Friday simulator” walk (1-2 mi.)
The Phoenix Convention Center is 7-8 blocks south of the gallery scene on RoRo. Phoenix is very walking-friendly, but if you’re feeling lazy or pressed for time, hop on the N. Central Ave. light rail ($4 for a day pass) and get off at the Roosevelt/Central Ave. station. From there, the greatest density of galleries is to the east, roughly between N. Central Ave. and N. 7th St. But first, you’re going to head half a block west to the Olney Gallery at Trinity Cathedral.
- Olney Gallery at Trinity Cathedral (100 W. Roosevelt, 602-254-7126)
Hours: T-F 9am-4pm, First Friday 6-9pm
Trinity Cathedral has been the seat of the Episcopal faith in Phoenix since 1920, but it’s only been an art venue since 2000. The lovely Olney Gallery doesn’t have any religious focus, however, and is always a popular showcase during First Fridays.
- Warehouse 1005 (1005 N. 1st St., 602-258-1481)
Hours: M and F 1-4pm, T-Th 1-5pm, First Friday 1-10pm, Third Friday 1-9pm
A few blocks east on Roosevelt is Warehouse 1005, a venue for new artists ready to make a splash in the local scene. Like many RoRo art spaces, it’s equal parts studio and gallery.
- monOrchid Coworking Labs (214 E. Roosevelt, 602-253-0339)
Hours: M-F 6:30am-6pm, Sat 6:30am-3:30pm, Sun 7:30am-5pm
A RoRo staple, Monorchid is a large and popular gallery that claims to focus on “a sense of aesthetic clarity for the 21st Century (maximal minimalism) and a home for artists that reflect and enhance monOrchid’s contribution to the dialogue of NOW.” If you only had time for one gallery, you’d probably make it this one.
- Eye Lounge (419 E. Roosevelt, 602-430-1490)
Hours: Fri 6-9pm, Sat 1-5pm, Sun 11am-3pm
Eye Lounge is an artist-run collective that has been part of RoRo since the very beginning. Rotating exhibitions and murals keep things fresh.
- Lost Leaf (914 N. 5th, 602-258-0014)
What began as a mail-order art service is now a combination gallery and bar, where 100 beers on tap peacefully coexist with rotating works from local artists. Lost Leaf gives the full purchase price to the artists. If you prefer to contemplate your art over a pint or three, this could wind up being your only stop.
If all that walking makes you hungry, reward yourself with the Bacon Popcorn or Beer Mac and Cheese at Mother Bunch Brewing (825 N. 7th), and/or an ice cream at Melt (910 N. 5th), which serves its inventive flavors up in Chinese to-go boxes with a fortune cookie.
Hours and artists vary. Call or check websites for the latest information.
View Downtown Phoenix First Friday Simulator in a full screen map
The downtown public art walk (2.2 mi)
This walk assumes you’re in the Phoenix Convention Center (PCC) area, about 8 blocks south of Roosevelt. If you want the gallery experience, you can’t really get it in this amount of time. But you’re close to a number of selfie-friendly public installations that can help prove you were in Phoenix.
- Start at the Washington St. entrance to the PCC North building. Across 5th St. to the east is the Arizona Science Center. Duck into the lobby and take a quick look at Mary Lucking’s “Curious and Curiouser,” a nifty little interactive display involving a telescope.
- If you have the time and energy, head six blocks west on Washington. (If you don’t, skip to stop #4.) Just past 1st Ave. (not 1st St.), look to your right to see City Hall with its giant Arizona sun over the entrance. Go inside and follow the signs to the Gallery at City Hall, which features rotating exhibits from the city’s 1,000-piece municipal art collection. One block north of City Hall is Monroe St., so just head up and hang a right to return to the PCC.
- One block west, to your right, is a grove of trees. That’s Brad Goldberg’s “Mesquite Bosque.” The “carpet” is multi-colored stone and the grove offers some calming shade in front of the Municipal Courts Building. Goldberg has dozens of commissioned projects all over the US.
- Take 3rd Ave. up to Van Buren and go east (right), then head two blocks north (left) on N. Central Ave. On your left is Janet Echelman’s “Her Secret is Patience,” a 145-foot high mesh sculpture that hangs over Civic Space Park. It’s impressive enough during the day, but nighttime is when it really shines. Literally.
- Across N. Central Avenue to the east is part of Arizona State University’s downtown campus. The northeast corner of Central and Taylor is home to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Communication, which frames Paul Deeb’s “Aldis” on the south side stairwell. The building itself is an innovative design, but the main stairwell on the south side uses passive solar light to create a slow-moving light show as heat lights the space between window panes. Wait for dusk or later to get the full effect.
- Take N. 1st St. south to Van Buren St. and hang a left. Once you hit 3rd Ave., look to your right and check out John Waddell’s “Dance” on the north side of the building. Waddell retired from teaching at ASU to pursue sculpting, and many of his public works are on display elsewhere in the Greater Phoenix area. His work is known for its expressiveness and grace.
- Time to head back toward the PCC. Head south on 3rd St. to Washington and turn right (west). Behind the light rail stop on an otherwise plain stretch of wall is Michael Maglich’s “The Arizona Bolas,” a quirky display of 59 cast bronze bolo ties illustrating Arizona’s history and culture.
- The PCC itself has two surprises in store for you. Standing guard over the Washington St. entrance are two 15-foot statues by Jamex and Einar de la Torre called “Southern Exposure.” The colorful mishmash of blown glass and found objects adds an accessible and fun twist typical of the de la Torres’ distinctive work.
- Finally, make sure you duck outside the PCC at night to see Beliz Brother’s “Night Blooming Garden,” a shifting spectacle of green and blue LED lights meant to suggest a river surrounded by the native cereus plant, which blooms at night.
View Downtown Phoenix Public Art Walk in a full screen map