There is no doubt that Kimber Lanning has done a lot to foster and develop the character of downtown Phoenix. Owner of Stinkweeds and Modified, Founder of Local First Arizona, public speaker, neighborhood advocate, supporter of arts and music Lanning now takes the role of preservationist. Artists for the Wurth House, now showing at Modified Arts, is a gathering of artists who have participated in one way or another, to the vitality and culture of Roosevelt Street in Phoenix. From artists like Jeff Falk who exhibited on Roosevelt before it was named “Roosevelt Row” to original Eye Lounge members like Karolina Sussland, Christy Puetz and Kate Timmerman to newer, younger artists like Lara Plecas and Amanda Adkins, this show provides a glimpse of the recent cultural history of the area.
Originally exhibited for one night at a fundraiser at the Children’s Museum, this exhibit is now back by popular demand for a full month at Modified. Presumably, one of the bigger intentions of the show is as a fundraiser but on the Saturday after the opening, it appeared that only a few works had sold by stalwarts of the Phoenix scene like Denise Yaghmourian, Casebeer + Randal Wilson and Randy Slack.
As can be expected of a fundraiser exhibit, there isn’t a consistent theme tying the works together except the coincidence of personal and professional association, but that isn’t exactly the point of the show. Kimber Lanning purchased the Wurth House, previously located across the street, in an effort to hold on to a remnant of the once-smaller residential nature of Roosevelt in the Evans Churchill neighborhood. As high-rise condominiums continue to shoot up along the street, shifting the skyline and price tag of rent, the Wurth House represents the nature of Phoenix in 1911. Although many homes along 5th and 6th Street remain, the Wurth House is one of the only original residential buildings directly on Roosevelt Street. It is no wonder that Lanning decided to make the purchase, after looking out the window of Modified Arts (and previously Metropophobia) for over fifteen years, watching the landscape shift.
It’s nice to see work by the artists who were key in making this area survive be so generously donated for this cause. The only reason I can imagine there wasn’t a larger turnout of participating artists is the somewhat ambiguous nature of what exactly is going to happen to the Wurth House once it is restored and renovated. Those involved in the exhibit most definitely have faith in Lanning’s track record with committing to something that is worthwhile. Even without knowing what might happen once the house is repaired, it seems likely that it is something we will appreciate in future years. It will be a forcible reminder of the grassroots effort it has been when some are reminiscing about how Roosevelt wasn’t always populated by well-off professionals.