Alwun House's Green Art Park Reimagines Vacant Lot Into a Shaded Oasis
June 29, 2016 by Brandi Porter
From art to engagement to community — Alwun (pronounced “all one”) House Foundation has become a neighborhood landmark in downtown’s Garfield Neighborhood.
Lush, full of color, and dotted with benches and sculptures — the 1912 house stands in stark contrast to the vacant gravel lot just behind the home, though the parcel won’t remain that way for long.
Kim Moody founded the nonprofit arts organization, the first in downtown, in 1971 inside a historic building in the Garfield Neighborhood, which at the time, was riddled with gangs and crime.
“I had a vision, I had a passion to create a space where artists could work together in a collaborative format,” Moody said.
Since then, the neighborhood has undergone a complete transformation.
After dedicating the last 45 years using the arts to uplift the Garfield Neighborhood, Moody and Alwun president Dana Johnson hope to expand the foundation’s work and the continued revitalization of the area by transforming the empty lot into a community gathering place, Green Art Park.
Imagined as a multi-purpose venue that is both utilitarian and cultural — the space is an amalgamation of park, community garden, arts space and event parking lot.
“We believe that art has the power to transform communities,” Moody, who was raised in Garfield, said.
In addition to physical features — like sculptures, trees, bike racks, a pottery kiln and portable staging — Johnson stressed the social elements that would come with the space, like the ability to host community yard sales or tai-chi classes, or simply having a conversation in the shade.
Having helped form the Garfield Organization neighborhood alliance, Moody and Johnson have been instrumental in the revitalization of the neighborhood. Through the foundation, their work has spilled outside their brightly colored walls and out into the neighborhood, facilitating programs like tree plantings, art projects and crime abatement.
In the ’90s, the foundation was a partial recipient of a U.S. Department of Justice Weed and Seed grant, which allowed them to create programs for the neighborhood, like commissioning an artist to create community bulletin boards and planting more than 1,100 trees.
“The work Kim and Dana have done through Alwun House has not only benefited Garfield but has been a contributor to vibrancy of the greater downtown,” said David Krietor, president and CEO of Downtown Phoenix Inc. “If we had a downtown Hall of Fame they would be in it.”
Moody and Johnson could not emphasize enough how much Garfield has changed since Alwun opened, the intersection of Ninth and Pierce streets being a testament to that. Once the center of the largest gang, there are now local redevelopment/infill projects underway on three of the four corners for Welcome Diner, Gallo Blanco and a plant shop, The Bosque.
Brick by literal brick, the two have been raising funds to turn a blighted lot into a neighborhood asset. They’ve met more than half of their goal already through grassroots fundraising, and are also looking into alternative funding sources like larger corporate donations.
You can donate to the park and contribute to the ongoing evolution of the neighborhood by purchasing a name-etched brick, bench or entry monument online.
“It just widens up everything we can do, and it would increase our self-sufficient capacity,” Moody said. “One of the problems we’re going to have in the future is being inclusive, because when you start hearing words like gentrification, you’re starting to push people out. Our goal is not to push people out, but to help those that are here, stay here.”