First Downtown Devil Discussion begins with focus on downtown Phoenix


Photos by Evie Carpenter

The first Downtown Devil Discussion, a monthly town hall-style event hosted by this publication, was held Thursday in the Walter Cronkite School’s First Amendment Forum.

The event, the first of the series, featured a panel of business, community and student leaders, who fielded questions from the audience and online via Twitter. The topic focused on “Embedding Our Urban Campus: Where Are We Now and How Can We Improve?” and discussion focused on promoting downtown Phoenix businesses to students.

The panel included Downtown Alive! president Vaughn Hillyard, Downtown Voices representative Steve Weiss, Carly’s Bistro owner Carla Wade, and Space 55 artistic director Shawna Franks.

Hillyard suggested that “We need to get rid of that ‘downtown sucks’ feeling” by supporting more communication between businesses, the university and students.

Hillyard also called for ASU to do a better job facilitating student projects.

“The university needs to be a little more helpful,” Hillyard said. “They don’t need to be the ones holding their kids’ hands like it’s high school, but they need to be helpful and supportive of student ideas and initiatives.”

Steve Weiss expressed a desire for students to seek out local events on their own initiative. In particular, Weiss spoke of the films he screens at No Festival Required.

“Most of the films I screen are documentary films,” Weiss said. “I would hope that, I mean my hope of hopes, is that students in the journalism department will aspire to a little bit more than the two-minute sound bite, and that maybe your aspirations might go towards journalism as an applied science through the documentary film.”

Franks emphasized that the downtown art community should be thought of as accessible, and not as “high art” elitism.

“We’re not talking about high art, we’re not talking about, you know, walking into an event in a gown,” Franks said. “There’s an environment I feel that I’ve specifically created for everyone to feel welcome and feel comfortable.

“It’s about being inclusive, as opposed to exclusive.”

Many members of the audience participated in the discussion by asking questions and sharing their opinions. Others expressed their approval of the event.

“I felt like this was an extremely productive thing,” said urban and metropolitan studies freshman Connor Descheemaker. “It’s the first time that I’ve seen it be a public event where students have engaged with business leaders. I was extremely impressed by the number of business leaders who turned out for this event; we just need to get more students.”

The next Downtown Devil Discussion, taking place on October 25, will be titled “Making Downtown our Place.”

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Correction: September 30, 2011

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the venue of Steve Weiss’ films screenings. Weiss screens his films to the public through No Festival Required. He formerly showed them at FilmBar, but that ended in August.