Tag Archives: Valley Art

Truckin’ through Tempe

I found myself “truckin’ through Tempe” today while searching for a new installation of public art along Mill Avenue. Six utility boxes between Rio Salado Parkway and 7th Street have been painted by artists whose designs also grace new library cards for Tempe Public Library patrons.

I spied the “Sonoran Afternoon” utility box painted by Bud Heiss on Feb. 4 first, because it’s on the same corner as the Shoe Mill — my favorite haunt when new shoes beckon, and a splendid place to fondle handbags I can scarcely afford.

While making my way up Mill Avenue to check out other utility boxes, I stopped to chat with a woman named Susan who was playing her violin along the street — but was soon distracted by a painted truck whizzing past so quickly I couldn’t catch a photo.

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I turned my attention to exploring other shops in the area — including a charming hole-in-the-wall bookstore called Old Town Books that reminded me of taking my babies to Changing Hands Bookstore back when it occupied a similar space along that very strip.

While there, I spied a book about Helen Keller — reminding me that “The Miracle Worker” opens later this month at Scottsdale Community College. I’ve no young children to buy such books for anymore, but snapped a picture that’ll help me rekindle memories of reading to my children when they were small.

I also lingered over artwork and furnishings with a vintage/retro vibe at Loft a Go Go, a shop I’ve been eager to explore since spotting it one evening on a hurried walk from parking structure to Stray Cat Theatre. Its diverse offerings include all sorts of goodies plastered with the likenesses of Elvis, Audrey and Marilyn.

I spotted a few more painted utility boxes in my travels, and one of the unpainted variety that made me appreciate the others even more. Colton Brock’s “Mill District” work is located near the light rail stop most convenient for folks eager to explore the Mill Avenue District.

Dawn DeVries Good’s “Be the Good,” painted on Feb. 6, sits at the corner of 6th Street and Mill Avenue. I’m saving others for another trip once my bum knee is on the mend. They include Lucretia Torva’s “Tempe Shine,” Oliverio Balcells’ “Tempe Roots” and Linda Parker’s “Day Dreaming at Tempe Town Lake.”

I was about to head home when I spotted the painted truck again — parked and perfectly primed for an impromptu photo session. As I suspected, it was covered with assorted paintings, each bearing the name and city/state of its creator. There was just a single catch — it was a beer truck. While I snapped photos, a driver for Crescent Crown Distributing did his delivery thing. To the restaurants, not the nearby dorms.

Then, after a successful dig for more parking meter change, I made one final stop — to a brick building called Hackett House that was once Tempe Bakery. Hackett House is home to the Tempe Sister Cities program, so folks who hit their gift shop or cooking classes can help a worthy cultural cause in the process.

I spotted all sorts of rabbits, chicks and other fare with a whimsical Easter vibe. Even a trio of ceramic “see, hear and speak no evil” bunnies. Also Raggedy Ann dolls, tiny tea sets in charming picnic baskets, richly textured scarves, accessories for wine lovers and glass flowers to hold birthday candles. Even plenty of bobbles and bling for those thinking ahead to Mother’s Day.

I’ve been truckin’ through Tempe for a good twenty years now. First pushing a stroller. Now strolling with camera in hand. It never gets old — thanks to book stores, beer trucks, bunnies and beyond.

— Lynn

Coming up: Sunday at Seton, Conversations with local artists, Poetry meets drumroll, A prophet tale


After precious, the rain

I cry less often at movies than I used to. I’m not sure why, and I never really thought about it until today. This afternoon I went with Lizabeth to see the movie “Precious” at the Harkins Valley Art theatre on Mill Ave. in Tempe.

We’d hoped to hit Mill’s Landing first for some crepes and coffee, but discovered it’s no longer there. We made a Wildflower Bread Company, Changing Hands Bookstore and Hoodlums Music & Movies run instead, waiting for the first showing of “Precious” that afternoon.

“Precious” received plenty of media coverage, but I haven’t paid that much mind. I went into it not knowing what to expect, other than stellar performances all the way around.

If ever there was a “Do your homework first” movie, this is it.

If you’re the parent of a tween or teen and you tend to balk at “R” ratings, assuming your child is plenty mature for such things, this movie might be your line in the sand. It’s the tale of a teenage girl who goes from incest survivor to dignified mother.

The journey is graphic, both verbally and visually.

I didn’t cry during the movie, but tears rained down as the credits rolled. I don’t recall seeing a more powerful piece of cinematic art.

But why review a movie too mature for most readers’ children?

Because “Precious” is a meaningful movie for parents who ponder the relative influence of nature versus nurture, the ways our views of our children become mantras they may or may not live by, and the gifts other adults bring into our children’s lives.

Incest nearly destroys Precious, but it never defines her. She knows she’s more than what others say to her, what they do to her. Call her fat. Call her dumb. Call her every name in the book. She knows there’s more to her story, if only she can summon the courage to tell it.

Precious learns to tell her own truths, to write her own story thanks to a savvy social worker and a teacher at the “alternative school” she attends even as her mother insists she simply get her ‘fat ass down to the welfare.’

The teacher has students make journal entries that get turned in each day—then reads and answers each one with her own entry. The starkest entry comes from Precious: “Why me?”

For Precious and her classmates, writing becomes a talisman of transformation. Eventually Precious earns a literacy award, fueling her resolve to teach her own babies to read and write—things Precious’ own mother despises and derides her for.

Precious leaves her parents’ home after a particularly vicious argument that puts her own life, and that of her newborn son, in peril. Precious moves into a halfway house, a term she finds endearing once someone describes it to her as ‘a place halfway between where you were and where you want to be.’

Precious and her mother meet just once thereafter at the social worker’s office. Here we learn more of the origin and extent of the abuses Precious has endured through the years. The mother’s tale rises to truly tragic proportions as she attempts to justify her actions.

Why, we have to wonder, does one woman settle while another one soars?

Amidst the darker themes, there were lighter lines I savored. When asked her favorite color, one student replies “florescent beige” (Precious says hers is yellow, but I don’t recall her ever wearing the color until a triumphant moment much later in the film.) Walking down the street one day with an apparent air of optimism, we hear Precious thinking out loud: ‘I always look up.’ ‘In case,’ she muses, ‘a piano falls out of the sky.’

Several scenes are particularly gripping—when Precious’ mother insists she eat a plate piled-high with greasy pig’s feet and macaroni and cheese (an attempt to keep her daughter from being desirable); when Precious experiences her first visit to an art museum (part of a school field trip the other students fail to appreciate); when Precious learns her father has been diagnosed with AIDS; when Precious is reunited with her firstborn, a daughter born with Down Syndrome.

It’s far from the world I live in. But much more common, I fear, than any of us want to believe.

If you’re moved, after reading these reflections or seeing the movie yourself, to make a difference in the lives of young women who awake each day to the harsh realities of abuse–or if you, or someone you know, needs help after experiencing sexual assault, you can learn more from the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network.