Downtown Phoenix has reorganized its First Fridays Art Walk by eliminating the part of the event responsible for street closures and vendors along Roosevelt Row.
Roosevelt Row Community Development Corporation, the organization behind Phoestival (pronounced “festival”), canceled it for the months of July and August and will not hold the event in September either, said Cindy Dach, an RRCDC board member.
Phoestival was temporarily stalled due to summer heat but also as a reaction to a controversy surrounding vendors at the monthly art walk, Dach said.
After the event was moved from Garfield St. following an increase in popularity, vendors of food, clothing, arts and crafts were brought in to cover the extra costs of hosting the street festival at Roosevelt Row. Many artists and local residents, however, complained that the switch took away from the value of the art, Dach said.
“The community had an outcry over the non-arts vendors,” she said.
The RRCDC attempted to relocate Phoestival to East Garfield Street for September but were unsuccessful after it was determined the move would be a threat to public safety, Dach said.
First Fridays are hosted as a collaboration between the City of Phoenix, the RRCDC and Artlink, a nonprofit arts organization, who are all continuing discussions on bringing back Phoestival.
“No one wants to see it go away,” Dach said.
Despite the break in Phoestival, the art walk will remain intact but will consist of open galleries, live painting and other displays without the vending portion that would require street closures, said Sean Deckert, Phoenix artist and co-curator of First Fridays in Heritage Square.
“Roosevelt Row Phoestival was just a small portion of First Fridays,” Deckert said, adding that First Fridays have been around for 16 years. “The street vendors don’t define arts in Phoenix.”
The recent changes have received a mixed response.
Robyn Kingsley, a textiles and sculpture artist in downtown Phoenix, said she was excited by the change.
“I think it’ll be good for the event, for First Fridays, to go back to its roots as an arts-based happening … rather than random vendors who are just trying to make money,” she said.
Some students, though, feel the vendors added a unique atmosphere to the event, and not having them there will take away from the experience.
Alyssa Snow, a tourism management junior who said she attended almost every Friday last year, said the vendors brought crowds.
“It’s a really big aspect to First Fridays, and I think that’s what gets a lot of people to come out just from all different walks of life,” Snow said. “People are willing to come down and help support local artists.”
Contact the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org