By Andrew Checchia
As the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic continue to play out in broad global strokes, local impacts often get overshadowed by the high-stakes national conversation.
The Alwun House, a museum and off-kilter arts events space, has witnessed these effects firsthand as it weathered the financial and cultural storm of the past six months. Now it plans to emerge from its own isolation and reopen its doors to the Valley, aiming to welcome the public on October 2.
“You’re in withdrawals. You had this junkie feeling of social contact,” says Kim Moody, the founder and director of the Alwun House, of the loneliness felt during long closure.
The Alwun House’s reopening will feature its annual “Monsters Menagerie,” a diverse and macabre display of works from local artists. This year’s show has the unfortunate timeliness to directly comment on the current morbid state of affairs. The show will culminate in a socially distanced “Masked Monsters Ball” on Halloween, a previously planned event that just happens to promote safe mask protocol.
“We’ve been engaged with our neighborhood,” Moody says. “Art is a social as well as a personal experience.”
In addition, the Alwun House’s outdoor space will enter its final stages of construction, moving Phoenix closer to its first art park. Upon completion, the park aims to become a community hub—a space to host museum events, food trucks and a bimonthly neighborhoodwide garage sale.
“I’m looking forward to the absolute joy of being with other people. We’ve all been raised on affection for humankind,” Moody says.
But even without the in-person experiences, the Alwun House maintained contact with the community. To keep artistic efforts active, it hosted a student competition through quarantine as part of an “Artists Initiative Scholarship Fund.” It ultimately selected three pieces to display in the “Monsters Menagerie” opening exhibit. The winners and their work will be honored at a ceremony on October 3.
Fortunately, because of its close neighborhood ties, the Alwun House also managed to remain financially stable, but institutions both larger and smaller benefited greatly from continued donor support and government funding passed down from the National Endowment for the Arts.
With careful preparations and adherence to socially distant protocol, the Alwun House hopes to resume operations safely and rejuvenate the lost sociality brought in person arts experiences. As it and other museums take the necessary steps to reopen to the public, institutions across the country continue to adapt to the constantly shifting challenges of sharing the fine arts with their local communities.
“Monsters Menagerie,” various times Friday, October 2, to Saturday, October 31, Alwun House Foundation, 1204 E. Roosevelt Street, Phoenix, 602.253.7887, alwunhouse.org.