“Slightly Agitated” by Elissa Nowacki as part of the 21st Annual Juried Exhibition. (Photo courtesy of Artlink)

By Connor Dziawura | February 24, 2021

Art Detour, Phoenix’s original art walk event, is broadening its footprint from an extended weekend to more than a month of arts and culture.

Launched in the Downtown Phoenix area in 1989, the annual Artlink-produced event is signifying 33 years with a fitting 33 days. Expanded both in duration and geographical boundaries due to COVID-19 restrictions, the event will be loaded with in-person and virtual events from February 27 through March 31.

On deck are more than 300 arts activities and “Articipants,” the term affectionately given to participating arts venues, arts and culture organizations, arts-supporting businesses from around the Valley, and visual and performing artists from around the state.

“Many people are familiar with First and Third Fridays, but Art Detour precedes all of that,” explains Catrina Kahler, president and chief executive officer of Artlink.

“Similar to those events is that it is very much self-guided. It’s a way to discover parts of the city via the arts that you may not have previously experienced. But in addition to that, there’s a higher focus on the artists themselves. It’s not just about the destinations that provide the visual and performing arts offerings that we’re talking about, but it’s also exploring the spaces where the artists are creating.

“Visits to the artists’ studios was the founding element of Art Detour, so what that implies is that Art Detour is really about making the creative process more visible. It’s developing the relationships with the artists in a one-on-one manner,” Kahler continues. “Art Detour over the years has evolved into, yes, self-guided studio tours, gallery exhibitions, performances, but also culinary arts. There are a number of restaurants and bars who are very much connected to the arts and culture community … and it’s the ecology of the whole arts and culture community that Art Detour celebrates.”

Highlights at Art Detour include the 21st annual juried exhibition at FOUND:RE Phoenix Hotel; Bentley Gallery’s “Color Theory” exhibition; The Garment League’s Annual On Central Fashion & Art; Alwun House Foundation’s Exotic Art Show; live artists, antique shopping and bands at Hawksalvage; Bragg’s Vendor Market at Bragg’s Pie Factory; Vertigo Art Gallery’s “Inner Child” multiartist exhibition; and Modified Arts’ window exhibitions.

Featured thanks to the expanded geographical boundaries are “Forbidden Colors” at Mesa Arts Center; the Happy Mustache Art Collaborative at Ironwood Projects; FoodintheAlleyisArtintheAlley at Joan Baron Studio; the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport Art Museum; and Valley Metro’s Artsline celebrations.

And, keeping in line with the potential that some people may still be avoiding in-person gatherings, virtual highlights include Herberger Theater Center’s “The Human Spirit”; virtual youth art classes by Keely Finucane; The Gallery’s “The Capsule Collection”; Music at Trinity’s “Urban Nocturnes Live in the Labyrinth”; and Phoenix Center for the Arts’ “The Art of Mixing – Colors & Cocktails.”

Art Detour will operate within the confines of COVID-19 restrictions — though this time the organizers are aiming to counteract any issues. Kahler recalls mass event cancellations beginning the week Art Detour was starting last year, leaving some activities to carry on as planned while other spaces closed their doors.

But nobody foresaw that the pandemic would remain ongoing a year later, Kahler admits, adding that rising case numbers in the fall and winter led Artlink to think differently and get creative. Despite the effects, she says the art community remained — and Artlink needed to be there to help.

So, the arts-supporting nonprofit made a commitment to move forward, taking in public health concerns while paying attention to the time and space needed. Acknowledging the rise in virtual programming and content over the past year as well as the importance of connectedness between people, Artlink is ensuring online content alongside its in-person programming while also expanding the duration and geographical boundaries of the overall Art Detour, ensuring social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.

“We really just made the commitment that Art Detour needs to happen. We can’t cancel. This is an artist-born event. It’s been around 33 years. It must happen,” Kahler says. “So, when we started looking at continuing with the weeklong schedule, a week schedule implies a series of events, and that just didn’t work. So that’s when we just said, OK, let’s bust it wide open and go with the 33 days and just celebrate and take the time to articulate all of the communities that make our arts and culture community what it is, as vibrant as it is, and take the time to celebrate all facets of it.”

As to whether Art Detour will continue in its new monthlong format or revert back to a week of arts once the pandemic subsides has yet to be determined. Artlink’s goal right now, Kahler says, “is to be as responsive as possible.”

“Artlink amplifies what is happening in the arts community, and if COVID lifts — when COVID lifts — and the arts community starts producing more frequent in-person experiences … we will be there to promote that,” she says. “If, for whatever reason, there are still some limitations and, in a more positive light, if the community continues to innovate where they’re seeing online experiences or actually expanding their reach, where they’re able to reach new audiences that they couldn’t reach prior to that, we will definitely continue to promote that; we’ll do that on a year-round basis as Artlink.

“Art Detour plans are to be determined at this point,” she adds. “We’re going to get through the 33 days and see how that goes and seeing how best this celebratory event can serve the community in the future.”

Art Detour

When: February 27 through March 31

Where: Various locations

Cost: Pricing may vary

Info: artdetour.com