Press RoomPhoenix Art Museum premieres first in a series of short films celebrating its 60-year history

Phoenix Art Museum premieres first in a series of short films celebrating its 60-year history

Phoenix Art Museum premieres first in a series of short films celebrating its 60-year history
Oct, 01, 2020

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Phoenix Art Museum premieres first in a series of short films celebrating its 60-year history

Through a grant from The Steele Foundation, Museum develops three original films that capture the PhxArt experience

PHOENIX (October 1, 2020) –Phoenix Art Museum has released the first film in a three-part series of short films created in honor of the Museum’s 60-year history. The series, made possible through funding provided by The Steele Foundation as part of a Museum initiative to innovate new digital-engagement efforts, was developed by the Museum in collaboration with Arizona-based filmmakers, including local writers, directors, actors, editors, and crew. The first film in the series, The First Time, premiered online today on, in celebration of the Museum’s re-opening to Members after the institution’s closure necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Forthcoming films Wish You Were There and Represent will premiere in December and February, respectively.

“These films, beginning with The First Time, seek to honor the history of Phoenix Art Museum at the heart of our community and illustrate how central that community is to our work and to our mission,” said Tim Rodgers, PhD, the Museum’s Sybil Harrington Director and CEO. “The Museum is exceptionally grateful to organizations like The Steele Foundation whose generosity not only impacts vital operations but also empowers us to develop innovative strategies to engage our audiences in new and meaningful ways.”

In 2017, Phoenix Art Museum developed a new initiative to innovate and strengthen online engagement with its community. In support of those efforts, local foundations stepped forward to provide vital funding. Through the generosity of Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, the Museum developed a new, comprehensive, and fully bilingual website, featuring a mobile-responsive design and custom content in both English and Spanish. The new site launched in March 2020, just prior to the Museum’s extended closure necessitated by the pandemic. The Steele Foundation also provided support for the Museum’s new bilingual site, along with additional funding to support both photography of the Museum’s collection for the institution’s virtual catalogue of artworks and the development of a short-film series.

Initially, Museum staff planned to create a documentary-style film about the history of Phoenix Art Museum, but as they began their work with Arizona-based filmmakers Chris Heck, Kieran Thompson, and Josh Gonzales, the project began to take new life as they reflected on the Museum’s history and its place in the community. “We started to think more about stories instead of dates and names,” said Nikki DeLeon Martin, the Chief Marketing and External Affairs Officer, who oversaw the film-series project for the Museum. What resulted was not one film but three, with each telling a different story about the Museum and the community it serves.

The First Time was written by DeLeon Martin and directed by Chris Heck. “The First Time, which premiered today, is really a love letter from the Museum to our community,” said DeLeon Martin. “The idea came from standing in the lobby on First Fridays and Free Wednesdays to welcome visitors and seeing their faces as they arrived, whether it was couples on a first date, kids visiting with their parents, or sometimes older guests visiting alone. Every time I got to watch people arrive, I thought about all the faces the Museum has seen come and go, for the first time, and sometimes, for the last time. I thought about all the moments in the galleries that no one else but the Museum itself was witness to. The First Time seeks to create that experience from the Museum’s perspective, to share those stories of the diversity of our audiences, and how important every visitor is to Phoenix Art Museum.”

The second film, Wish You Were There, was written by Heck and directed by Kieran Thompson. It tells the story of an older couple meeting for a first date and chronicles their love, connection, and memory-making as they explore the Museum’s North Wing galleries. Represent, the final film in the series, was written and directed by Heck. It tells the story of a teenager on a school field trip who finds a sense of belonging in an unexpected place. The Museum will release Wish You Were There and Represent in December and February, respectively, on

“It was an honor to work with Arizona filmmakers to create something that could uniquely tell the story of Phoenix Art Museum in ways that static images and words simply cannot,” said Michael Bartley, the Museum’s Assistant Director of Creative Services, who served as the project’s creative director. “We hope that viewers of the films will recognize that the Museum is more than just the artworks in its collection and the architecture of its buildings. It comes alive each day because of our visitors. It’s simply not a museum without them.”

For more information about the film series and Phoenix Art Museum, contact the Museum’s communications office at 602.307.2003 or The Phoenix Art Museum short-film series was made possible through the generosity of The Steele Foundation.

About Phoenix Art Museum

Since 1959, Phoenix Art Museum has provided millions of guests with access to world-class art and experiences in an effort to ignite imaginations, create meaningful connections, and serve as a brave space for all people who wish to experience the transformative power of art. Located in Phoenix’s Central Corridor, the Museum is a vibrant destination for the visual arts and the largest art museum in the southwestern United States. Each year, more than 300,000 guests engage with critically acclaimed national and international exhibitions and the Museum’s collection of more than 20,000 works of American and Western American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern and contemporary art, and fashion design. The Museum also presents a comprehensive film program, live performances, and educational programs designed for visitors of all ages, along with vibrant photography exhibitions made possible through the Museum’s landmark partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. To learn more about Phoenix Art Museum, visit, or call 602.257.1880.

Image credit (above): Alfredo Ramos Martinez, La Malinche (Young Girl of Yalala, Oaxaca) (detail), c. 1940. Oil on canvas. Museum purchase with funds provided by the Friends of Mexican Art.

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