The Project Space: Where art lives in downtown Phoenix

The space offers artists an immersive Arizona experience while they work

Half a mile from the ASU downtown Phoenix campus, just south of Roosevelt Row, sits a small building many Phoenix residents walk by every day without knowing its identity.

That building is The Project Space, the downtown satellite location of the ASU Art Museum that hosts a residency program featuring artists from all over the world. 

Steve Rhee, a junior nursing major said that he walks past the Project Space every day on his way to school, but he’s never seen it on Fridays during visiting hours.

“I’ve never seen this place open, I walk down this street quite often, so I was just curious,” said Rhee. “This was my first experience with this kind of museum.”

The Project Space is only open on Friday nights and often draws in curious passerbyers, but is especially busy every First Friday, according to art history and anthropology senior Lanya Kareem, who works at the space.

“A big chunk of our visitors come on First Fridays, but it always kind of depends,” Kareem said. “Since the weather is getting nicer, we’ve been getting a lot more people in.”

Kareem is a student assistant for the ASU Art Museum, where she archives artwork from previous exhibits and assists in exhibit curation when she’s not at the front desk of the Project Space.

She said that unlike the Tempe museum locations, which are larger and feature traditional galleries, the Project Space hosts a residency program and is designed to appeal to the downtown Phoenix crowd.

“We’re trying to do more weird art, not so much normal, but kind of things that will bring people in and make people question it,” Kareem said.

The ASU Art Museum Artist Residency Program invites artists to live and create art in Arizona in an effort to connect them to the community.  The program promotes collaboration among artists and professionals in the Phoenix area while the residents work.

The artists are invited to live in studio apartments next to the Project Space and have the opportunity to display their work there. This semester, residency artist Sofía Córdova is displaying her exhibit “Where Thieves Go After Death.”

The exhibit includes a video projection of “Sin Agua/ Without Water,” a project Córdova refers to as an “anti-documentary” of her experience living in Arizona.  It combines science fiction elements with commentary on climate change, using the desert landscape as a backdrop and an original music score from Córdova.

According to Kev Nemelka, residency coordinator and designer at the ASU Art Museum, Córdova came to Arizona with an idea for her exhibit, but as it progressed was influenced by current events, including Hurricane Maria’s impact on Puerto Rico, where she is from.  

The exhibit also includes “A Region of Singular Loneliness,” a collection of sculptures and displays of plastic containers and desert elements she collected during her research and exploration of Arizona.

An Instagram post from Sofía Córdova displaying several pieces from her exhibit "Where Thieves Go After Death" at the Project Space.

“A lot of (the exhibit) has to do with her physiological experience in the desert,” Nemelka said. “We have this very unique geography that people not from Arizona don’t really get to experience.”

Nemelka said that this academic year the space is focusing on pieces that include sound as art, like Córdova's video projection, which is set to change throughout the exhibit's time there.

Continuing the theme, the London-based record label PC Music will be in Phoenix in January to record an album and music video as part of the resident program. The label will be working with local choirs and filmmakers for the album, and will perform at the Project Space during the semester.

Additionally, the space will be holding an artist workshop and talk with Cog•nate Collective on Nov. 6 and 7. Information on the events can be found on the Project Space’s Facebook page.

Admission to the Project Space is always free; the Space is open Fridays from 6 to 10 p.m. and is located on third street in Downtown Phoenix, just south of Roosevelt Row.

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