The Alwun House
Story by Mark Greenawalt,©2005
Originally published in Contact
For nearly a hundred years, the historic Alwun House has been many things to many people. First, it was home sweet home to German immigrant John Sedler, who built it in 1912. Later, it was the same to Earl Brown, who bought the house in 1948. In 1971, however, the illustrious Kim Moody transformed the then-dilapidated structure into a launch pad for artisans and dreamers. He envisioned a venue to celebrate all of the variegated incarnations of art cohabiting under one roof, and christened it Alwun House, “all arts…all one house.”
The Alwun House Foundation was created as a non-profit organization for artists. Many “firsts” took place in the early years, such as the wildly popular Caribbean Art Festivals, which attracted up to 10,000 visitors. The Alwun website, alwunhouse.org, shares a brief history of the house, saying, “As the carnival events became larger, the overhead expenses grew exponentially, and eventually Alwun lost its shirt (and the house). Thus entering into the third decade, reorganization’s first major effort was re-acquisition of the house. Dana Johnson facilitated the grant and Alwun was awarded $48,000 from the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office. Since then, Johnson and Moody have been instrumental in getting the house registered in Arizona and Phoenix lists of historic properties, and they have helped countless fledgling artists reach new heights, concurrently introducing art patrons to a world of heretofore unknown talents.
The Alwun House currently hosts eight to ten extravagant exhibits each year, boasting over 1,000 square feet of gallery space, plus an additional 500 square feet in the basement for the larger events. The signature attribute of the venue, however, is the 3,000-square-foot back yard Garden of Eden, a paradise of flowing fishponds, edible flowers, and three-dimensional sculptures in the warm glow of tiki lamps. A full-sized stage with a professional lighting and sound system is nestled at the head of a garden patio with the capacity to entertain 400 guests. It is a very alluring setting to rent for special occasions, such as weddings, private parties and corporate events. David Salcido (Soul Invictus/Blue Food Magazine) says of the Alwun House, “I put together my first group art show there in 1992 and the launch party for my magazine, Blue Food, in 2000. So, when it came time to find a venue for the Blue Ball, in 2004, it was a natural fit. You simply cannot beat the comfort and ambiance of the place. It’s magical.” This magical garden didn’t just appear out of nowhere. Johnson and Moody have labored long and hard to design and nurture the “nature retreat” within the urban sprawl of downtown.
There is a political maelstrom swirling around the Alwun House, and Johnson and Moody vehemently defend their home when outside forces threaten it. When there was talk of erecting the new Cardinals football stadium on the front porch of the Historic Garfield Neighborhood, they were at the forefront of the effort to sqwash the idea. When city officials made an infamous raid on downtown art galleries on a First Friday, Moody drafted a letter notifying the entire art community. Johnson and Moody are also politically active in the positive revitalization of their extended home known as the Garfield Neighborhood, one of the oldest historic neighborhoods in Phoenix. Moody serves as the president of Garfield Organization, which has helped to reduce crime, raise property values and plant 1,500 trees throughout the close-knit community.
The Alwun House further supports the community with an annual art exhibit of works by young students from the Phoenix Elementary School District. The exhibit is called Salon des Enfants, and is recognized as the premier children’s art show in the state of Arizona. The 11th-annual showing starts on March 24th, and, as usual, each masterpiece by these youngsters will sell for $20, of which 100% goes directly to the students.
Championing the diversity of “all” arts, the Alwun House annual Exotic Art Show is on the other end of the spectrum, and most definitely not for young children. This exhibit is resoundingly adult in nature and it was here that many alternative artists first displayed their wares. The month-long exhibit started in February with an at-capacity crowd on opening night to see the exotic and erotic paintings, photography and three-dimensional artwork, in addition to staged performances by a motley assortment of acts you won’t see anywhere else. This year will be the 23rd anniversary and it closes on March 10th with the Exotic Rites of Spring Dance. Moody says, “While academic and public museums, and corporate collections still can’t display such passionately uninhibited art, Alwun House unabashedly promotes your artistic freedoms.”
This article can also be found
on-line at http://www.contact-mag.com/issue3/gallery.htm
The Alwun House official website is http://www.alwunhouse.org