Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts is an art parade. This 100% audience participatory event encourages the community to express their creativity, share the streets of Phoenix and enjoy the company of local business, professional artists and local government. Over the past seven years, Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts has presented a unique, award winning event that celebrates artistic expression and the landscape of downtown Phoenix. Since its inception in 2006, when the procession consisted of 300 people, the parade has grown in size every year to a record 2200 participants in 2010. The parade and its organizers have won several accolades from the New Times’ “Best of Phoenix.” Over the last five years, more than 75 local and nationally recognized, professional artists and groups have contributed their talents including: a popular big band/marching band from Portland, Oregon; Japanese Taiko drummers; Hawaiian hula dancers; Brazilian samba musicians; a local puppet guild; a New Orleans style brass band; a local funk band, world renown stilt walkers and regional fire performers.
The parade and its events was conceived in 2006 as a kick off event for the then popular “Performance Street” entertainment program sponsored by the City of Phoenix. PAPA took the aim of “Performance Street” one step further; the parade not only presented arts in a free, public atmosphere, but also created an opportunity for the community, professional artists and local business to take an active role in creating the occasion. What makes Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts so compelling is this active participation. The procession intends to empower its audience to “jump in” and not simply act as spectators. Local schools such as Villa Montessori and SABIS bring children to ride in floats and not just watch the procession. Businesses such as Devious Wigs and the Roosevelt Row utilize colorful mobile billboards to represent themselves, and not just buy ads in the program. The professional artists involved encourage creativity by leading workshops and interactive projects. Contests (categories include: best float, best costume, best bike, most “cute –children and or pets” and best group) give serious participants the opportunity to display their PAPA entries in a competitive manner. By keeping the celebration family friendly, open to local business participation and encouraging to professional artists, our parade allows these different branches of the community to walk together in the common goal of celebrating the streets of Phoenix. With PAPA, the expression is not just for you, it is with you and by you.
Whether emphasized in the Green theme of Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts 2009, or expressed by the lack of automobile powered floats, the parade remains an environmentally conscious activity. Part of the original goal of PAPA was to tour the downtown Phoenix area from a non car perspective. In addition, all of the kids crafts that are lead by local artists involve recycled household items. Many of the past floats have been made from reclaimed objects such as dried palm leaves, milk cartons, PVC piping and upholstery remnants. With support from Tempe Bike Action and the “Phoenix Phreaks” critical mass collectives, our parade has become a major event for the promotion of biking. The intimate view of local architecture and city landmarks emphasizes the magic of walking through downtown at night. The growth of PAPA will include the expansion of these and other “green” facets that have been integral forces to the success of the event.
Phoenix Annual Parade of the Arts has succeeded and will continue to grow with three key elements: creativity in the form of the celebration of arts and expression; community in the participation of the local residents, professional artists, government and local business; and consciousness in the shared pedestrian and bike journey of downtown Phoenix. As a unique activity, PAPA provides this open to the public, mobile expression of downtown Phoenix life as a free, audience participatory project.
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