Well over 500 people were packed into the Crescent Ballroom Saturday night to hear Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton praise the arts community for the progress it has made in revitalizing downtown Phoenix.
The address was part of the Art d’Core Gala hosted by Artlink Phoenix and Downtown Phoenix, Inc. The gala kicked off the 26th annual Art Detour, which will open up galleries, studios and other community spaces on March 8 and 9 to showcase art and culture downtown.
“There is a lot to celebrate in our downtown. Downtown is alive,” Stanton told the crowd. “That is such good news for many people around this city and Valley, the fact that we are alive for many people actually may be unexpected news.”
Stanton traced the history of downtown Phoenix as various areas grew and developed. The political, economic, educational, tourism and cultural sectors of the city have all seen significant growth in the last few years, something Stanton said could not have happened without the community advocates working for that change.
“We had to show that downtown could be a neighborhood, too, a community with life,” he said. “The fabric of that vibrant community isn’t any set of buildings, it’s people. It’s residents, artists, entrepreneurs, restaurateurs. It is you, the people in this room. That’s what makes a great downtown.”
Downtown Phoenix, Inc. CEO David Krietor added that downtown Phoenix was really saved by people who were born after 1980 and are currently flooding into downtowns across the country and changing the way the community works.
“You’re the army, along with some of us baby boomers that didn’t give up on downtowns and go to suburbia, and so the army needs a general, and we have a general. Well, actually, we have a mayor,” he said. “We have a mayor who has really focused on downtown and this community with the vibe you’ve created, the arts scene that’s been created.”
Downtown Phoenix is different from the downtowns of other major cities because it’s so newly developed. Although some lament the fact that downtown Phoenix lacks the infrastructure and established design of other major cities’ cores, Stanton said Phoenix’s newness sets it apart and gives its residents the flexibility to shape the future of their city.
“Much of downtown Phoenix today is a fresh canvas,” Stanton said. “Phoenix is a big city, but we’re still a young city, and our city’s relative youth is one of our greatest strengths. That’s because the people in this community, the people in this room, we are in control of downtown’s destiny.”
He emphasized the importance of including all citizens in the planning process, saying the decisions are made by the community as a whole, not him as mayor. Stanton said this would give citizens a voice in the decision-making process, “more than a seat at a table.”
This approach has proved successful with events such as Feast on the Street, McDowell Mountain Music Festival, Phoenix Festival of the Arts, CALA Festival and the upcoming Viva PHX music festival. Major events like these, as well as the day-to-day happenings in the community, are what have helped downtown progress from feeling like a ghost town, Stanton said.
“A strong downtown, a strong center, contributes not only to the city, the Valley, but it is the center of the entire state,” Stanton said. “We should never, ever forget that. A strong downtown adds to the economic vitality of this entire state. Downtown Phoenix is one of a kind.”
Artlink Board of Directors President Catrina Kahler said the event was about celebrating what the community can accomplish when it works together.
“Art d’Core is not just about the art, it’s about the core, right?” Kahler said. “We are downtown Phoenix, and without the art, it’s just a place, but with the art, it’s special, and with the people, it’s fabulous.”
The event also featured live painting and dozens of pieces on display around the Crescent Ballroom, all from artists who will participate in the upcoming Art Detour 26.
The Phoenix History Mural, which consists of 12 panels depicting Phoenix’s history, covered the wall to the left of the stage. The murals were produced by the Phoenix Phabulous Experience and curated by muralist Hugo Medina to showcase nine time periods in Phoenix’s history, from the ancient Hohokam civilization through the post-war boom years of the mid-20th century, all the way into the imagined future.
After Stanton’s speech, Kahler led a toast to the community.
“From the heart to the heart, here’s to you downtown,” Kahler said. “Here’s to a fantastic future based on a fantastic history and it’s a space and place and community that no one ever can replicate. Here’s to you.”
She presented Stanton with a bench made by GreenHaus on behalf of Artlink. Stanton said he’d place it in his office at City Hall.
“Some people criticize me for being the downtown mayor, but I’m proud to be a mayor that is an unapologetic advocate for what is happening here in the heart of the city,” Stanton said. “I love downtown because it belongs to you, it belongs to everyone. Let’s continue to make it as incredible as we know it can be.”
Clarification: March 8, 2014
A previous version of this article said a bench was given to Stanton on behalf of GreenHaus gallery and boutique. It has been clarified to say that the bench was made by GreenHaus but given on behalf of Artlink.
Contact the reporter at email@example.com