Student website celebrates Phoenix’s lifestyle

URBAN ART: A banner of a boombox, painted by local artist Lalo Cota, is seen in Central Phoenix on Roosevelt and 3rd Street. Cota's work is regularly featured on Phoenix Taco, a website that showcases local art, food and culture. (Photo courtesy of Phoenix Taco)

When people hear the name Phoenix Taco, they might be surprised to learn it’s not a local Mexican cantina.

Phoenix Taco is a website people can use to learn about what is happening in the Valley.

English literature sophomore Daniel Mills created the website in August because of his longtime interest in local culture. He wanted to start a blog he believed would make a difference within his community.

Mills said he currently makes weekly posts on the site about events, restaurants and street art that exist in the Phoenix area.

Phoenix Taco is part of a chain of community websites that began in 2006 with the parent site LA Taco. Other “Taco” websites include New York City, Seattle and San Francisco.

Mills was inspired to start Phoenix Taco after following the LA Taco website.

LA Taco editor Erich Redson said the site was created by a group of friends who loved LA and wanted to celebrate all the great things happening in the city.

Redson said anyone interested in creating a website like LA Taco for their city is encouraged to contact them.

Mills contacted LA Taco about his idea, and Phoenix Taco began in August.

Mills’ site features local artists such as Lalo Cota, Francisco Garcia and David Quan. The site also promotes restaurants like Los Favoritos and concerts by local music artists.

But one of Phoenix Taco’s main objectives is to find unique things within the Phoenix community.

The site gained an especially large amount of attention in March following a post about the artwork from contemporary artist OBEY.

OBEY, the street name of artist Shepard Fairey, is known for his wheat pastes — posters with adhesive material that can stick to different surfaces. They are commonly used by street artists to create posters.

Last month, Mills discovered OBEY posters located in various places, such as behind a former Tempe coffee house, and he immediately posted the findings on the site.

OBEY’s work will be featured at an art show at Cartel Coffee Lab in Tempe on April 8.

Mills is responsible for uploading content to the website. But he said he doesn’t take sole credit for the success of Phoenix Taco.

“I have been fortunate enough that a lot of people have supported me and I have a lot of people who are always on the lookout,” Mills said. “It is a combination of hints and just knowing where street art and events take place.”

Mills said contributors are more than welcome to submit material to the website, but he also sets aside personal time to go out and search on his own.

Mills also has friends, such as Robbie Pfeffer, who are connected to the local scene and serve as a good source for material.

Pfeffer runs the local art magazine Tempe Starving Artist as well as The Fixx in Tempe. The Fixx is a new coffee bar located on Mill Avenue that holds live concerts and houses art by local artists.

“The main problem at the moment is that Phoenix Taco needs more people to be involved with it,” Pfeffer said. “The fact is, this is not LA or Portland or New York. We do not have the advantages that those cities do.”

Mills said the website wouldn’t have as much material if it focused solely on Phoenix. Unlike the other cities’ websites, Mills’ site covers multiple communities that make up the Valley.

Mills said because of his personal awareness of diversity in the area, he has easily been able to find content for the website, but looks to contributors to submit material.

“Most of the time, I know who the artists are just because I have been interested in street art, but it is just one of those things that if you don’t know about it and you don’t know it takes place, then you will never notice it,” Mills said.

Redson believes Phoenix Taco has been very successful in bringing awareness of art, music and food diversity in Phoenix, as well as receiving attention on the website.

“I believe the site will continue to get better and better, and will be considered the most important art site in the Phoenix area,” Redson said.

Reach the reporter at skdalton@asu.edu