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Friday, May 26, 2017

16th St. Buzz: Bees Knees and the Hive

Creativity is ultimately about transformation. Transforming raw materials into things greater than the sum of their parts is not confined to art. It is an essential ingredient in any urban revitalization program. This may explain, at least in part, the renaissance that is slowly and carefully turning 16th Street in downtown Phoenix into a cultural district, one with a distinctive identity.
With the popular Barrio Café attracting crowds, an art gallery next door and assorted specialty shops establishing themselves along 16th Street, Steve Helffrich and Julia Furnier chose to make this section of the city home to their business, the Hive and the Bees Knees.
Part architectural studio–Helffrich is a practicing architect in the Valley for 20 years– part boutique with assorted clothing items for men and women and part art gallery, the space is very much a multipurpose facility. “You can’t stick with one thing,” said Julie Furnier. Diversity, as it turns out, is key to a space that blurs the boundaries between retail store, studio, event facility, community resource and art gallery.
In a city where fine art-only spaces have struggled to survive, those that opt to multi task are the ones with the best chances of longevity. The “ Hive” is the gallery space, and the Bees Knees the vintage resale boutique, the concept of a one stop cultural center with a community minded slant is a reality. Space is even available for rent for private functions, and there is the option for free gathering space for select non-profits, providing a community based component to the proceedings.
If diversification is key to any venue’s survival, flexibility has to be another important ingredient to success. This is where plans, desire, opportunity and practicality converge. Fortunately for 16th street, this particular building and location proved to be a conduit for the future that Furnier and Helffrich envisioned.
While the original idea was to be on Roosevelt Street or Grand Avenue, two areas that are still popular art enclaves, the logistics ruled them out as locations for the couple. What 16th Street offered was accessible and affordable space–and plenty of it. Add in a unique building that did not demand extensive renovations to become a space suitable to what they were seeking to accomplish, the right combination came together.
Armed with some retail experience, Furnier retired from the education field before opening the shop in January, 2011. It is the first venture of this kind for Furnier and Helffrich.
“It is a beautiful building in a different location,” said Furnier.
It is a building as distinctive as the neighborhood in which it is located. With its stone corner, sleek roof line that actuates the horizontal, the entire structure is complimented by a colorful mural. The mix of modernist architecture and urban mural art brings together two highly unlikely elements that manage to co-exist nicely. The same can be said for what takes place inside the building.
An unexpected open cout yard is inside, giving the entire space a real European feel, but also a uniquely Phoenician one. It also makes for a relaxing space to view art. Currently on exhibition in the Hive, father and son Ken van Brott and Robert van Brott present two-dimensional art that uses nature as its thematic subject in the appropriately titles “Flora and Fauna, Father and Son” exhibition.
In April, the Hive is presenting a photography show curated by Montye Fuse, who has shown at the Artist’s Studio at the Farm in South Mountain. His work deals with contemporary cultural and political issues that reflect the difficulties of living in the present times. The reception for the show is scheduled for April 20th from 7 to 10 p.m.
Maintaining an active calendar of events, they also offer a Belly Dancing Workshop scheduled for April 28th from 9 to 11 p.m. Cinema is also a part of what can be found here as well. Every second Thursday, films are shown and sponsored by the Phoenix Film Festival.
Valley art is filled with surprises and one arresting exhibition displaying the drawings and wall-scale mural of James Karabin is noteworthy for the level of creativity. Using the most basic of drawing materials in the most direct way possible, he has fashioned some stunning small-scale work that is arresting in its simplicity. What makes his efforts even more intriguing is that they are all abstract, produced by an artist who is only in the eighth grade. What is equally interesting is that there is a place for this work to be seen and appreciated. He also managed to sell a number of his creations.
As cliché as it may sound, something is definitely a-buzz here with adventuresome risk taking. Independent entrepreneurs and creative professionals are finding expression and sanctuary in sections of the city in need of renewal. It’s a renaissance that is slowly and carefully carving a space for itself in Phoenix is creating its own cultural identity.

The Bees Knees & The Hive
2222 N 16th St
Phoenix, AZ 85006
Hours: Wednesday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Open Late for First Fridays and Third Fridays and other times for special events
602-254-1641

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