The Paper Knife grows artist community in Tempe

It’s Sunday night, and people are filtering through Parliament in Tempe, examining the art that adorns the small, intimate space.

One installation draws considerable attention, a cluster of tiny paper cranes. A thousand cranes in total hang from the ceiling. Cut from quarter-piece strips of post-it notes and folded meticulously to create the bouquet now hanging before the crowd, this submission from artist Alyssa England is just one of several creative art pieces that people have come to enjoy.

The event marks the third final Sunday, a string of monthly visual art shows put on by The Paper Knife, a local art collective whose recent efforts have also included bi-monthly jazz nights and house shows.



However, on this particular Sunday, friends and family are gathered to support the artists and the release of "The Paper Knife Volume 1," the group’s first foray into print, which features submissions from the writers and artists that have helped grow this community over the past few months.

It would be incorrect to label the printed edition a book or magazine; the issues are unbound and no two collections are exactly the same, each with nuances that set them apart. Some editions will have a typed copy of pieces, whereas some will be handwritten.

“Each of the prints is individual and independent of every other print in there, even the short stories,” Cody Inglis, a political science junior, said. “We want to make sure that every little thing is new and unique and is very genuine.”

Volume 1 was published through Art Problems Press, a Phoenix-based artist publication founded by Mo Neuharth, a local Phoenix visual artist whose work runs the gamut from photography to letterpress printing. Art Problems Press provides creative platforms for visual artists to transform their art into print and seems tailor-made for the vision of The Paper Knife.

“It’s something we’d been looking to do for a long time, and it all came together when we got together with Art Problems Press,” Robbie Boccelli, an English literature junior, said. “It was the logical next step to take. It’s friends working with friends to create something great.”

As an all-ages space, parents and younger siblings as well as friends and colleagues could all be seen turning out to Parliament to support the artists and revel in the music to come later in the evening from The Wavelengths. The feel is intimate, but not exclusive.

While The Paper Knife began with four men at the helm — both Boccelli and Inglis, plus Isaac Parker and alumnus Evan Bisbee — it has grown into a community involving hundreds of students, artists and members of the community who are willing to come out and support the scene.

“What we’re discovering is that there’s a lot of talent pretty much everywhere,” Boccelli said. “People just need an outlet, and we try to provide that outlet.”

Indeed, the talent amassed is evident to all; while the pieces on the walls of Parliament are unnamed, standout work from artists such as Jordan Litzinger and Taylor Marques provoke much of the discussion among the audience. But what proves to be most striking is the warm and intimate way the audience is engaged in the pieces.

The Paper Knife seems to be thriving on the personal relationships and contacts it has built among the public, and among its growing collection of artists. Moving forward, there is the promise to continue this formula and foster the same sense of community.

“We’re going to keep doing whatever seems logical, whatever seems appropriate and whatever seems right in the moment,” Bisbee said. “We want to cross-pollinate interests. We want to tackle it all. But at the end of the day it’s not about us. It’s about the artists.”

The Paper Knife will continue to host jazz nights and art shows in the future, and has plans to hold a jazz festival sometime this spring, and possibly a film festival, too.

While it’s difficult to forecast in what direction these showcases will continue grow, that doesn’t seem to be the point. The group and the people it has touched are continuing its current trajectory, wherever that may take them next.

Learn more about The Paper Knife and its events here and about Art Problems Publishing here. Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @lolonghi

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