Culture Undiscovered: Creating New Communities in Civic Space Park

Growing up in Phoenix can be strange. While it’s much too large a city to have that close-knit, small-town feeling, it’s also much more suburban and sprawling than big cities such as New York or Chicago. This combination doesn’t make for very exciting times as a kid, and years of living here left me wondering if being from Phoenix was something to be proud of. To me, Phoenix wasn’t exciting enough to be urban, or welcoming enough to be called my hometown. I’ve never fully gotten over this idea, even though I’ve found plenty of interesting things to do — I still never felt a very strong sense of community here.

Park sculpture by Janet Echelman. Photo by Jessica Duckworth.

That’s why I’m happy to have discovered all of the events over at Phoenix Civic Space Park, a location that’s urban enough to satisfy even my younger self without sacrificing the sense of community that’s provided through the events held there. The park is pretty cool all by itself — it’s one of the only patches of green to be found in downtown Phoenix, has solar panels that offset all of its electrical needs (as well as a whole host of other sustainable features), and the park’s public sculpture by artist Janet Echelman is nothing short of mesmerizing. However, the park’s calendar of events gives locals a whole new reason to head over and explore it.

Specifically, I’m talking about last Sunday’s Civic Space Jam, which brought together downtown residents looking to mingle, relax in the park, draw on the sidewalk, let their kids go crazy in the fountain, or dance to local DJs for an evening. The weather was perfect, the DJs’ collection of bossa nova records was even better, and residents of all ages were able to enjoy themselves (especially one particularly hammy little girl in a fedora, whose moves could only be rivaled by MJ himself). There were charity bake sales, picnics on the grass, and a surprisingly competitive impromptu hula hooping competition, all of which saw complete strangers coming together to enjoy what the park has to offer.

People enjoyed the unseasonably good weather while lounging in the park. Photo by Jessica Duckworth.

The park’s festivities don’t end with the Space Jam either; this Saturday, classic and antique cars will be on display throughout the park, courtesy of collectors from all over the Valley. The park is also doing an afternoon concert series every Wednesday in February from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m., beginning Feb. 8 with blues artist Hans Olson. All of these events are free and open to the public. After Sunday, I’m convinced: people just need is a space to come together in order to form a community, even if they’re living in Phoenix.

Like Civic Space Park on Facebook to hear about upcoming events, and email me at jlpruett@asu.edu.