Fenix continues rebirth with opening of new downtown arts space

The Quilters / Laurie Foster

By all measures, Fenix has been a success. The artists’ collective, which formed in late 2016, has hosted shows around Fayetteville. Their ranks have grown, from about 20 when they started to the 45 visual artists who are members today. They have since September had a presence inside the Chancellor hotel, which allowed them a steady venue.

There was one minor problem. They didn’t have a permanent home.

What: “From the Ashes” – The opening exhibit at the new Fenix Gallery, with live music and painting
When: Gallery reception from 5-9 p.m. Thursday, then continuing through May
Where: The Fenix Gallery, 16 W. Center St.

But the group has remedied that situation and will on Thursday host the grand opening for their new space just off Center Street on the Fayetteville Square. The opening coincides with the First Thursday celebration at various downtown locations and runs from 5-9 p.m. at 16 W. Center St., located near Arvest Bank. The debut exhibit, “From the Ashes,” will feature 42 of the 45 Fenix artists.

The title “From the Ashes” carries several meanings. It falls in line with the idea of the mythical phoenix, which rose up stronger each time it perished. It also describes where the Fenix artists came from.

The group formed after a schism at the former Fayetteville Underground, now called Art Ventures. A disagreement over the display of a nude artwork saw several of the Underground artists pull their art from the walls.

Almost immediately following the split, the Fenix artists started looking for a permanent home while also hosting pop-up shows around town, including a pair at the Walker-Stone House. During those two shows, Fenix curator and organizer Jeanne Parham learned about the group’s ability to do what she describes as “genre-bending.” As Fenix started to incorporate the works of performance artists, theatrical works and live painting during musical acts, they found a new purpose. That made the space they eventually found even more perfect. The Fenix Gallery features a 2,500-square-foot basement area that will be used for performances.

Arts philanthropist and businessman Hayden McIlroy helped them secure the space, which had not been rented in about 10 years.

Tectonic Shift II / Ed Pennebaker

“It was so rough,” Parham says of the space. “But it was so awesome. You could see the potential.” Aside from hiring an electrician to handle the matters of that trade, Fenix artists did the rest of the remodeling work, including the restoration of the original tin roof, which Parham believes dates back to the mid-1800s.

The space housed several performances of the Inverse Performing Arts Festival in April. That collaborative effort will continue, as Inverse is one of three groups identified as partners for Fenix. Art Experience and Arkansas Staged are the others.

Fenix also worked out an agreement with Arvest Bank to use the walkway that runs north and south between the bank building and the gallery. As programming develops, Parham says events and activities will be offered in that space as well. And in June, Fenix will host art in conjunction with the Walton Art Center’s Artosphere Festival.

Fenix will continue displaying works in the Chancellor, and between that space, the walkway and the gallery, Parham says the organization will create an arts corridor that enhances what’s already available in downtown Fayetteville.

Memorial Day / Rob Gordon

“Fenix is about driving the success of community artists,” Parham says.

The organization will rotate new shows in almost every month and will participate in First Thursday events. Their ability to contribute is now solidified thanks to the new space.

“We do not define ourselves by what happened [in October 2016]. We have continued to look forward,” Parham said.

They have been looking forward to having a new home for a long time, a dream that’s fully realized starting Thursday.

The Fenix Gallery

Hours: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Wednesday-Friday; 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Saturdays; 1-4 p.m. Sunday
Admission: Free
Contact: https://www.facebook.com/fenixfayetteville/

This article is sponsored by First Security Bank. For more great stories of Arkansas food, travel, sports, music and more, visit onlyinark.com.