READ IT: Some hiking guides are as dry as the Phoenix heat, but local scribe Lilia Menconi's trail tome, Take a Hike Phoenix: Hikes within Two Hours of the City (Moon Outdoors) takes a conversational tone that feels like having a hiking buddy chatting by your side through the switchbacks.
ARTIST OF THE MONTH: Look up – it's a bird, it's a plane, it's... a fleet of fifty 8-foot wide reflective dragonflies! Art meets aviation and animation in the air above the courtyard at Mesa Contemporary Arts for "Spark! Mesa's Festival of Creativity" this month, thanks to Scottsdale artist Jeff Zischke.
The life of a deaf man, raised without knowledge of sign language, is forever changed when a woman who's slowly losing her hearing introduces him to the local deaf community. On the surface a simple story about finding friendship and family in the face of adversity, Tribes also examines the social nature of humans, how we interact with each other and the bonds we form with the world. Presented as part of Phoenix Theatre's new Black Box Series, this award-winning play is for mature audiences only. The production runs January 30 through February 16; tickets cost $30-$60. Call or visit the website for showtimes. 100 E. McDowell Rd., 602-254-2151, phoenixtheatre.com.
ARTIST OF THE MONTH
Alexi DeVilliers could well be standing on the side of the road with a sign that says "Will build robots for food." The Tempe-based artist creates uncanny robot sculptures from empty cans, which he then sells for grocery money so he can fill the stomachs of Valley homeless each week, reusing the cans from his home-cooked meals for more robot material. The food-robot feedback loop has fed hundreds of people at Phoenix parks every Saturday for four years.
Las Marthas captures the real-life story of two Mexican-American debutantes in Laredo, Texas, trying to make their way through uncertain times. Tensions over immigration and economic struggles mount as the two girls prepare for Laredo’s annual Colonial Ball, a century-old society event commemorating George Washington’s birthday. This rite of passage is met with extravagant dresses, hard work and unlikely friendships. The City of Mesa Neighborhood Outreach is presenting Cristina Ibarra’s PBS documentary free to the public (reserve tickets online) on Thursday, February 20, at Mesa Arts Center, 1 E. Main St., Mesa, 480-644-6500, mesaartscenter.com.
ARTIST OF THE MONTH
Foodies flinging forks at Razz’s Restaurant in Scottsdale might not strike most artists as a muse-moment. But it’s gold for Cave Creek painter Elaine Grant Coffee, whose contemporary genre portraits are inspired by such unstaged public interactions. Her slice-of-life scenes can happen almost anywhere, from a bench at the Arizona Biltmore to a cowboy bar in Bisbee.
“Polo Match” showcases people at WestWorld of Scottsdale, and “High Stakes at the Flea Market” takes place at a park in Paris. The aforementioned scene at Razz’s inspired “The Chef Recommends.” Coffee discovered her Rockwellian approach to art while wandering through New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. “Instead of looking at the art, I found myself looking at the people and how they communicated with the paintings and each other, and that was the beginning,” Coffee says.