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Art programs’ move to warehouse boosts ASU’s downtown presence

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PHOENIX – For Dean Reynolds, pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in painting at a new studio space downtown rather than at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus means greater opportunities to connect with the thriving art community here.

“I think the advantage here is we’re closer to things that are happening in terms of the arts, people who are interested in the arts and anything that might be related tangentially that we would never think of in terms of the arts,” he said.

In January, two of 10 master’s degree programs in ASU’s School of Art – painting and drawing – moved from Tempe to a converted warehouse a few blocks south of Chase Field. Programs in sculpture, fibers and intermedia, now housed in separate buildings on the Tempe campus, were to follow in May.

That will have more than 30 students and faculty working out of the 26,232-square-foot facility next school year.

The move expands ASU’s presence in Phoenix. A campus a mile and a half northwest of here boasts more than 11,500 students in programs such as the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, College of Public Programs and College of Nursing and Health Innovation. The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is scheduled to join them in 2016.

Adriene Jenik, the director of ASU’s School of Art, said students will learn a lot from each other by being together in the same space and will bolster the Phoenix art scene.

“With being in downtown Phoenix, instead of being dissipated across campus, we can do a lot more public programs that bring the public in and have a lot more tie-in with the Phoenix art community,” she said.

In addition to the Phoenix Art Museum, downtown has events like First and Third Fridays and the annual Art Detour, featuring the art studios and galleries.

The leased space is owned by Michael Levine, an artist, developer, historian and preservationist in the downtown Phoenix warehouse district. The side facing South Seventh Street is adorned with more than 500 highway signs, a mural Levine and others created in honor of Arizona’s centennial.

Nicknamed the “Levine Machine,” the building offers a loft-style space with 15 studios that each offer a graduate student 250 square feet of workspace. The sculpture, fibers and intermedia students will work in large adjoining spaces that are undergoing renovation.

The Step Gallery, which shows the students’ work, has moved from Tempe.

Levine, who said he connected with school officials at an event on the Tempe campus and began conversations that led to the move, said being in a larger workspace with easy access to materials such as lumber and even junk available in an industrial area will benefit students exponentially.

“They are probably going to be able to do things that none of us even anticipated,” Levine said.

Dean Reynolds, who was scheduled to graduate in May, said that an art scene is almost non-existent in Tempe while being in downtown Phoenix removes some of that isolation.

“The arts need something more than just faculty and students to see it,” he said.