Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bee Box Collection

Lately, the best feeling I get is being outside.  I find answers in my surroundings. I live in Goodyear, Arizona.  As an architect it is important to get out and see spaces.  When you live in the country like me you have to be very creative.  Even a canal head gate can be inspiration for a future design.  I have an ongoing filing system where I store all of my digital photography.  So far, each city or town that I have visited has its own folder full of photographs I have taken.   I have a photographic memory that I pull from when designing.  

These bee boxes are on my drive to downtown Buckeye, Arizona.  To get to downtown I cross the Gila River, a riparian waterway cut through the desert.  Right after I cross the wash there is a cluster of bee boxes that sit below the road protected by old knarled trees.  Last summer I attempted to take a photo but I was put off by the swarm of bees. 

A couple of days ago I gave it another shot and this time when I got closer to the boxes I didn't hear anything at all.  No flowers in bloom anywhere so now is the time to visit.  The simple columns of stacked wood boxes are simple and elegant.  Each corner is joined with dove tail connections.  Worn out branding letters in black are nicely faded but still legible. The boxes are mostly white in nature with one or two of pastel blue and pink.  The sequence of the layer looks random to me but ordered by the exactness of the stacking.  There is no hardware only a simple indentation for the hand to manipulate the box position.   

Most bee box collections can be seen under trees by agricultural fields. It is a co-creative process between plant and bee.  The bees inside are so orderly taking orders, fulfilling duty and serving the Queen bee. The exterior of the box speaks of purity and innocence like a baby's nursery.

The next logical step is to see what happens when these boxes are opened.  I need a bee suit now so I can get a closer look at the texture.  Something makes me want to go back and take another look at sunset.  So maybe I won't wear my bright orange pants?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sharpie Meets Photoshop

It is raining right now and it makes me want to write something with a lit candle on my table. But there is no room on my desk for anything else. There are layers of other things for me to do but I must write. All I can hear is the water splashing down from the scuppers and some Vivaldi.  This week I did some more drawing on the buff paper at the light table. Can't really say what I am working on yet but I can talk about process.

This process is evolving.  I always like to start off tracing the basic buildings and layout by hand first on the light table. Once I have architectural improvements nailed down in pencil, I take out a thick sharpie and hand trace very slowly.  See how the corners are perfectly 90 degrees?  Some like to over cross the corners to make it look sketchier but it is just too fussy for me.  The basic outline of anything is called profiling.  The lines inside the profile should be drawn with a lighter pen weight. See the parallel parking space how nice they look with a thinner weight.

I leave out text and arrows on purpose.  Writing the text by hand is like wearing a linen suit for an interview. It will look rumpled and too casual.  Digital text on top of a hand drawn sketch is pretty close to Nirvana for me.  You dump a bucket of paint on a canvas and underneath add a digital font it is suddenly substantial.

This is my black metal flat file.  See how thin the drawers are? All my buff trace paper sketches live in here.  I have a lot of artwork from my babies in there too.  I need another flat file soon.  The rest of my outfit is pretty much turquoise, blue and green. No, I am not going out today.

To make the buildings really pop I tape on white paper to the back side.  I can't believe I am telling you these secrets!  For the street I taped on the cut out blackened street from the xerox I was tracing over.  Alas, I want the street to be darker than anything else.  A final treatment before I scan it into the computer is overlay the trace paper with chip board BEFORE photo copying.  Just before I photocopy I run out to the garage where I keep lots of card stock in 8 1/2x11 sheets and then I skip to the copier and lay them side by side on top of the buff trace paper.

My flat file and paint samples.

A little blow up to show you my latest evolution.  So you see the hand drawn that I scanned right?  After I scan the drawing I bring it into Photoshop.  I add the final make up to the drawing.  Make up is shadows and  like bright green accents to the trees.  I like how the shadows came out kind of not perfect here. I love how it came out Eric Carle style.  I needed to show vehicle flow and I didn't want to get arrows on google as clip art.  Clip art is a bad word.  So I totally free handed the red arrows in Photoshop.  I need to organize the layers though, I think I must have a million layers for each segment of arrow. Also, shadows need to be crisp and a little transparent, just like in the real world.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Phoenix Center for the Arts: Benesh and Stout Interview

My initial interaction with the City of Phoenix Center for the Arts project was in 2004 at the initial pre-proposal when the late Patty Tax, a City of Phoenix contracts administrator was explaining the project and she emphasized that this was a very special project.  The final building addition Serbin Studio were architect of record on came to a conclusion in the Spring of 2012.

Joseph Benesh's vintage VW bus.  

I wanted to interview Joseph Benesh,the director and Marta Stout, program manager of the Center of the Arts whom I had the pleasure of working with during the Construction Administration last year.  Joseph is one of those characters that brought laughter and creativity to our weekly meetings.  We would be in our weekly meetings with Brycon Construction contractors and program managers from the City of Phoenix and Joseph would challenge us with questions like “What if we did it this way?”

 Photo credits, Christiaan Blok Photographer, Marta is seated at the reception.

Just for clarity sake you might want to keep in mind that JB: Joseph Benesh, MS: Marta Stout and LS: is yours truly, Lara Serbin.

LS: What’s unique about the Center for the Arts for Down Town Phoenix?

MS:  A non profit organization working with a municipality like City of Phoenix. We were able to take over something that was City run. We can brag a little bit here. It is a formula that you wouldn’t think would work but it does for us.  The City owns and maintains the buildings, they are helping us in that sense. We are bringing non-profit arts.

Joseph really injects a lot of spontaneity. Since I started in August of 2011,  I noticed that Joseph had a very clear vision of what he wanted to do.  I like how we stay flexible while we are growing. We can try new things.  I call it growing gracefully.  We are going through growing pains yet we are 37 years old.  That is due to the recent switch in management. We are a little big organization with more wiggle room.  We have to be agile.

JB:  I don’t filter people coming to our Center until we give them a chance. It doesn’t always work out but when it does, great expansion comes from different points of view.  There may be a pottery student that has the best idea about a new upcoming venue.  You never know where inspiration is going to come from.  The diversity of organizations currently like Radio Phoenix.Org, Dulce Dance Company and Roosevelt Row CDC.  

 Photo credits, Christiaan Blok Photographer

LS: How do you see you unique in terms of your programming?

MS:  It is extremely varied. What I see normally is a center that is limited to dance or arts.  We have variety based on information with face to face interaction with the community.  We ask questions like: What do you want? We are so close to Roosevelt Row where there are tons of active artists. People who act, paint, sing and write. We do those things here but I think it is a nice reflection of what the actual community is doing.  We have the theater that we’re trying to activate even further. People are looking for places to perform that they can walk to and catch the light rail. 

One of the things we started is called Family Fridays, which offers open studios.  We want people to know they are welcome to bring a sketch pad, have a seat and take part in the class.
Photo credit: Lara Serbin

LS: So you are encouraging some of the parents to sit in on classes?

MS: Absolutely.  If people want to come in during the day and there is a class they want to see, let’s go!  Let’s walk you in and see the instructor interacting with artists. We have  the same students who have taken ceramics class together for 6 to 8 years. It is a mini family. We love to have new people see how much fun we have. You get sucked in.

LS: That is the wonderful thing about the arts, it makes your mind more pliable by  changing your focus.  Do something different like bang on a set of drums.

MS: Yeah, there is no pressure. It’s not like you have to come in knowing how to fill in the blank. Come in, try it, even if you think you are horrible at it.  Your going to make the happiest mistake of your life by trying to paint a tree.  I think of it as a child like experimentation. Kids aren’t afraid to try something.  We give that chance to adults. Kind of loosens you up a little bit.

LS: How have you seen this transformation impact the community around you?

MS: From my position at the front desk, I have been the interface. People are recognizing this is a space that is active, dynamic and for them.  It’s not just a set of historic buildings sitting unoccupied. People walk in and say “Oh, wow there is a new entrance!” We have some who literally stroll in off the park and say “What is this place, I never knew there were doors here?”

 Arizona Free Arts Mural, painted by 180-200 volunteer artists in 2012.

MS: Well it is new! I explain when and why the addition happened. There is a visibility to it now. People feel welcome especially after the addition of North Entrance and Arizona Free Arts came on Make a Difference Day and painted the mural.  They had so much fun doing it.  It is nice to see a city taking ownership of what is here.  It’s not a matter of “"Let’s just knock everything down to the ground and start over."  We have a gem of an opportunity sitting right here.  It started with Joseph Benesh , City of Phoenix, Brycon Construction and Serbin Studio working together.  I came in just before the construction took off.
 Arizona Free Arts Mural, painted by 180-200 volunteer artists in 2012.
LS: What makes you particularly proud of the Center for the Arts?

MS: It’s user friendly. My background is theater and one of the things you end up studying is how you can make this approachable. The fine arts is elitist.  We are not. Center for the Arts is accessible and affordable.

It is huge that we are now ADA compliant. Being able to take a student into a gallery who before the addition couldn’t access the second floor.  Now everyone can flow easily to the metal studio, photography studio or theater.  We are part of the new downtown Phoenix revitalization.  I have always been a process type rather than a product minded person.  It is a really neat process to be involved in. It has changed so much since I first got here!

Now it’s like, “Why are all these cars here?”  and I will say, “That’s because we have classes, or a performance going on.”  It is a nice problem to have when students are complaining about parking on a Saturday night!
LS: What is the next chapter in the Center for the Arts story?

MS: A solid core of programming where people know us for ceramics, metals and painting programs. Expand what programming we offer based on community feed back. I have been meeting with desert weavers and spinners guild. They are interested in a fibers program. Fiber artists want to come in, rent a loom and knock out some projects.  In just a year we’ve grown from 2 staff members to 5.   We have already met 30% of our projections for Spring classes. We grew over 93% from last year in terms of people enrolling and staying.  Now we can nail down how we handle developing a program and what we put in here based on the feedback we are getting. Nowhere but up!

JB:  In the past I never liked to take credit for my accomplishments, it was always the success of a team.  The success we are experiencing now I can see as a result of all my past theater experience of asking questions.  When I was programming shows for theater seasons I would have to book the shows way out in advance, always forward thinking.

This post is dedicated to the late Patty Tax, City of Phoenix, Contracts Administrator.

Special thanks to Joseph Benesh and Marta Stout! 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Tacoma, Washington: LeMay Family Collection

 I took a lot of photos of historical buildings, bought lots of crazy knee high socks and drank the best coffee while I was in Washington State with my family.  I mostly visited Bainbridge Island, Port Townsend and Hansville. My objective was to take at least one inspired photo per day despite the rain or chilly temperatures.  The inspiration came easily when Jeffrey and I spent the day at LeMay America's Car Museum and LeMay Family Collection.  All the photos on this post were taken from the Family Collection in Tacoma, Washington.  The Family Collection was more interesting than America's Car Museum in Tacoma, Washington.  

Inside the white warehouse at LeMay Family Collection

The tour guide was exceptional.  He had the black jacket and ball cap on the left. He didn't try to win us over with puns or cheesy game show style questioning, he was a passionate volunteer.  It was as if he was changing oil in his garage and we were just leaning against a work bench listening to stories.  I did zone him out at times like when I gazed into a 1950’s convertible and fantasized sha-na-na teens ordering at a drive-thru burger stand.  This guy talked about the cars and trucks like they were family.  There are thousands of cars in LeMay’s collection and we saw a mere fraction.

Once the pack of us stepped through the aluminum threshold, I felt like I had shrunk down and walked through my brothers red Hot Wheels collector case.

The Lucky sign was the best, it was a man cave trophy bigger than ever. The experience enlightened me.  It made me feel that it is OK to want and have anything you want. Harold LeMay of Harold LeMay Enterprises had a refuse company in the Tacoma, Washington.  His car collecting started in the 1960's when his friend asked him to join a Model T club because it was fun.  All he ever wore was a white t-shirt and jeans and drove a hot pink Tracker for gas economy.  His main focus was to save money in order to buy more cars.  

This was a single story layout and most of the cars were American made, turn of the century and beyond.  I liked all the 1950’s cars.  The guide didn’t stop at each car or I would have clobbered him.

LeMay even collected vintage automobilia, I am surprised he didn’t have an entire service station from the 1950’s in a corner. There were some cars that had the original paper taped to the window from when he bought it!

1959 Pink Cadillac with the fin at it's pinnacle of height and sharpness.  
I learned that after 1959 the point continued to get smaller and finally go away.

1958 Chevrolet Apache Cameo *guess who wants this for their very own?* 

I think trying to describe the collection is beyond this blog.  It is like going to the Grand Canyon to see what a large space is.  You really won't understand until you experience it for yourself.  I have more knowledge on cars than ever before. It wasn't the details that matter.  I do know that the Pearce Arrow hood emblem was designed with the janitor posing with a broom because he was really cut! It was feeling from our tour guide that stays with me.  By the 4th warehouse of cars he wasn't tired of talking about cars. He wasn't winding down at all.  I was ready to scream and run away if he mentioned going into another warehouse.  We were lucky I guess for getting to hang out with someone who knew and loved cars so much. 

 If someone reads this post and knows him, please let me know.