Social Question

evegrimm's avatar

Why do you think that Phoenix isn't counted among the "great" cities?

Asked by evegrimm (3695 points ) September 17th, 2009

By population (according to Wikipedia), Phoenix is the 5th most populated city in the US. However, when major events tour the country (art exhibits, Broadway and off-Broadway shows, comedians, music tours, etc), Phoenix is rarely included in the list of cities that are short-listed. (Usually, Chicago, Boston, New York City and Los Angeles are on the list.)

What are your feelings as to why Phoenix (and other largely populated cities) aren’t visited by cultural events?

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56 Answers

aprilsimnel's avatar

Phoenix needs something that sets them apart. What’s special about Phoenix?

Vegas has the Strip. Dallas has the oil. Chicago is the big blue collar town. Milwaukee is beer, even though the industry is mostly long gone. New York, well, it’s been the entry way to the US for most of our history, and LA is the movie capital of the country. Perhaps your town’s chamber of commerce or some other boosters need to come up with something special to share with the world about Phoenix. I only know it as the setting of a middling 1970s sitcom.

teh_kvlt_liberal's avatar

Exactly, what’s so great about Phoenix?

dpworkin's avatar

Insufficient Jews?

Mamradpivo's avatar

Too much sprawl. Way too much sprawl.

teh_kvlt_liberal's avatar

Speak out your mind Sarcasm! Don’t hold back

Mamradpivo's avatar

Also, there’s no port in Phoenix. Most ‘great’ cities are historically cross-cultural and international economic hubs.

Sarcasm's avatar

Not dense enough?
Los Angeles has 8,200 people per square mile, Chicago’s got 12,650, NYC has 27,440 according to Wikipedia, while Phoenix is sitting at a peasly 2,937 people per square mile.
(Even San Diego city has 4,174.)

Also I’d guess it’s something to do with it being a non-coastal relatively deserty region.

I’ve only been to Arizona once when I was younger, we were visiting a close family friend. I remember the scenery driving through was just dirt and cactus. (I wish I could remember where in AZ it was. I want to say Tucson, but I’m not sure)

rebbel's avatar

They have a F1-circuit, don’t they?

whatthefluther's avatar

Apparently Phoenix residents don’t let loose of their dollars for entertainment? Just a thought. See ya….Gary/wtf

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

it’s in the god damn desert.

Vegas is too but at least they have hookers and gambling…

nayeight's avatar

Yay for hookers and gambling!

YARNLADY's avatar

Not enough financial base, too expensive to fly there from anywhere.

idleVOID's avatar

It’s definitely a density issue. Phoenix is so widely spread out whereas cities such as Chicago and Manhattan have such a large amount of people in such a low amount of space.

aphilotus's avatar

Phoenix wouldn’t exist without air conditioning and water from elsewhere- there is no natural draw to it. Every major city that seems to “matter” had a specific historical reason to be where it is (a port, a watershed, good defense, etc). Phoenix is just random, and it’s architecture, sprawl, etc, reflect this.

deni's avatar

I personally love Phoenix and Arizona as a whole too. I love Sedona, I would give my leg to be there right now. I’m just kidding, I wouldn’t.

pathfinder's avatar

maybe is it because-The Phoenix is a young city among the others

tinyfaery's avatar

I live in L.A. and we get our water from elsewhere and couldn’t live without air conditioning either. But to answer the question, well, umm, it’s Phoenix. It’s hot as a muthafucka and has no big draw.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

I’ve been to Phoenix. The whole fuckin’ city looks like a big strip mall, at least the parts of it I’ve seen. The best view of it is in the rear view mirror of your car while you’re on your way to Tucson. Now that is a great city.

aphilotus's avatar

@tinyfaery I lived in LA for a little bit under a year, and it doesn’t really have much of a draw anymore either. I mean, yeah, there’s the ports and stuff… but it too is one big creepy strip mall. Get off of the highway anywhere a hundred miles north, east, or south of, say, Long Beach, and you’ll see a Best Buy, a Starbucks, and a Carls Jr.

Zaku's avatar

Other ideas that come to mind include the stories of the people who are there. Many retired there from other parts of the country because it’s warm and they have ideas they want to lie around where it’s warm (yet be in air conditioning almost all the time). As for art, I didn’t see much evidence of popular interest in art there. The art museum I visited was pleasant but small and almost un-attended. There also seemed to be no particular city center – mainly just great expanses of very dry housing and shopping and roads. The centers of attention and wealth were where people watered the ground often enough for there to be plants other than cacti, which just seemed like a waste of water in the desert.

There is a great fire engine museum there (The Hall of Flame), and the cacti are great. It was also amusing listening to the local traffic news and hearing about apparently routine traffic delays due to people getting out of their trucks and brawling on the highway.

deni's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex I love Tucson! Ever been to Mt Lemmon? Ahhh.

tinyfaery's avatar

Nope. Get off the freeway. LA is never boring.

cwilbur's avatar

Boston, for instance, has a long history of interest in culture and the arts. If a Broadway show or art exhibition stops here, people will go to see it. Boston is also dense—if you’re in Boston or one of the nearby suburbs, you’re not far away from the city center where the art exhibition or Broadway show is likely to be.

This is one of the things that astounded me when I visited Houston – there’s a nice dense city center, but then it’s surrounded by sprawl. I was there for a conference, and the airport and the hotel were both in Houston, and I was too tired to figure out public transit or hotel shuttles, so I just used a cab. I mean, in Boston, if you go ten miles from the airport in any direction, you’re not in Boston any more. An hour later, without having left Houston, he dropped me off at my hotel—and he wasn’t driving me around in circles either.

From what I understand, Phoenix is even worse, as far as sprawl goes, and doesn’t really have a city center.

Kraigmo's avatar

Too much sprawl. Too many authoritarian-conservatives in power (which prevents nightlife from establishing itself in the city… any psychedelic clubs, groundbreaking art, goth culture, gay culture, marijuana culture… will get snuffed out before it can bring money and popularity to the city). Horribly hot weather exceeding 100°, And in a state that doesn’t respect workers in its labor laws.

JLeslie's avatar

Interesting question. Originally I was thinking that when tours travel by bus, they look for cities close together like Boston, NYC, and DC, for financial and timing reasons. You can do three cities in three days. But, Phoenix is reasonably close to Vegas, LA and San Diego if my geography is correct. It has to be an assumption that the population there aren’t going to come out for the events? I’m assuming you have the venue to support these types of shows? Maybe, also, the theatre world is a tight knit group? I don’t know, just thinking aloud, and not the right people live in Phoenix to persuade or influence the scheduling of these things?

We get the shows in Memphis, I would not have assumed Phoenix doesn’t get them. Maybe you are so close to Vegas people go there for shows?

Sarcasm's avatar

@JLeslie But, Phoenix is reasonably close to Vegas, LA and San Diego if my geography is correct.
I’m not sure what to think about this.
It’s about 350 miles from any of those locations to Phoenix, which adds up to around 5 hours (more for LA due to traffic getting out).
But a huge majority of all of those drive times are just vast and open spaces.
The drive distance is about the same from NYC to Richmond, VA.

Whereas (as google tells me) NYC to Boston is a 4-hour trip, but 215 miles and it looks like you’d be driving through cities most of the way there. So I’d guess the traffic could really change that timing.

Axemusica's avatar

I used to live in PHX and I thought it was a nice place to live. A bit expensive and people are a different breed, but I often wondered why it’s not considered a “popular” place too. Someone was arguing with me that it’s not as big as NYC not population wise and I was explaining how wide it was. I used to live in Tempe and at one point I had a job in off of deer valley north phoenix it was about a 45 min drive and that’s not even leaving the city limits and that’s without a lot of traffic. Traffic would take much longer. Lets say someone lived in queen creek and worked in north phx. It would probably take close to 1.5 hours. Phoenix is a huge place, even though all there is to see is brown, lol.

deni's avatar

I think since Phoenix is 5 desert hours from any other large city, people maybe just don’t see a need to drive that whole way? It doesn’t have Las Vegas casinos, or the beach, or any hot shot things. Personally I prefer cities that aren’t extreme tourist destinations though.

Axemusica's avatar

@deni I guess if you’re a ASU fan or go to college there it’s something to see. Not to mention P.I.R. & Firebird raceway which are pretty cool. Also, Bondurant racing school is located right on Firebird lake if that tickles your fancy. One of the best new years parties I’ve ever been to is the Tempe Block party on Mill ave. It’s usually during the Fiesta Bowl. I’ve been and lived many other states and PHX seemed like there was a bit more to do. Although I did have more friends there than the places afterwords.

deni's avatar

@Axemusica Oh i’m sure there’s plenty to do. But I’m sayin when you think about cities that are famous and everybody seems to want to go to, like Vegas, LA, New York, Miami…you don’t think of Phoenix. Which is a shame! And, I almost applied to ASU! I love the desert.

JLeslie's avatar

I just googled and it seems the Dodge theatre in Phoenix does get Broadway tours Seems Grease will be there in late October.

cwilbur's avatar

Does Phoenix have good theater facilities, like the Wang or the Schubert in Boston? Good theater companies, like Boston’s American Repertory Theater? Or Boston’s Symphony Hall, for orchestras? Or great museums, like Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, Institute for Contemporary Art, Museum of Science?

If there’s an established community that goes to museums and concerts and theater productions, travelling groups are more likely to visit.

evegrimm's avatar

@all, Many of you seem to be saying the same thing that @cwilbur is saying: “If there’s an established community that goes to museums and concerts and theater productions, travelling groups are more likely to visit.”

What do you do, then, if you don’t have that community? How would Phoenix get such a thing? (It seems somewhat circular—if you don’t have the community, you won’t get the traveling shows, and the community is usually built by good shows/exhibits/traveling shows.) What would you do to promote shows (of all kinds)?

(I’m not a city official or anything; I’m honestly sort of annoyed by the lack of art/theater/music/etc in the city and curious to see what Flutherites have to say.)

dpworkin's avatar

Get you some Jews. Maybe you thought I was kidding. I wasn’t. Jews and Gay people. They’ll city you right up.

tinyfaery's avatar

Small community theaters
Local artist displays
Local author book readings
A venue where bands can play—unkowns and rising stars
Community festivals focused on local artists and the like

deni's avatar

@pdworkin You’re right, look at the life that gays bring to SF!

YARNLADY's avatar

I wonder if it has anything to do with municipal taxes? In Sacramento, the ballet, the theater and the arts are supported by the taxpayers.

evegrimm's avatar

@YARNLADY, really? That’s great!

(I know, for instance, that many of the Phoenix Symphony members have to have “day jobs” because they get paid horribly. Obviously, Phoenix doesn’t send taxes their way.)

tinyfaery's avatar

I guess you actually have to like the arts and support them to have artists come to your town. Why would they bother with a place where they have no audience?

JLeslie's avatar

@pdworkin I agree with the Jewish thing, but I looked up on wikipedia and it seems there are Jews down there in the Phoenix area if I am reading the map right? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Jews look down towards where they discuss population. But, maybe not dense enough. When I go to the theatre in Memphis a significant portion is filled by Jews, so true, but there is a love of music and live performance in the city from its musical roots also. At fundraisers for the local theatre, which is VERY good, a wonderful surprise when we moved here, there are many non-jews and local business who help support the theater.

Maybe @evegrimm means she wants big productions to be established in her city, like have a Broadway, or be a city that has ongoing shows similar to the cities named like Chicago and San Francisco? As, I said above the Dodges seem get the tours, and it looks like you do have a symphony? http://www.phoenixsymphony.org/ their calendar of events looks very nice. I am not sure if I am missing something?

evegrimm's avatar

@JLeslie, yes, we do have a wonderful symphony. However, we don’t have much of anything else that “puts us on the map”, so to speak.

JLeslie's avatar

@evegrimm If it makes you feel any better I always think of Phoenix as being a nice place to visit and live. My “picture” of Phoenix in my mind is a very positive one. As opposed to most peoples picture of where I live now, Memphis. When I told my parents we were moving her my dad said, “oh no…uh…you’re gonna hate.” Many others talked about the terrible crime, and asked why am I moving there. Needless to say not many of my friends visit like they did when I lived in Boca Raton, FL. :).

dpworkin's avatar

Oh, I think of Memphis as being a music dream world. And imagine the food to be so wonderful! Am I wrong? Wait. don’t tell me, I don’t want to know.

JLeslie's avatar

@pdworkin Well, my parents LOVE it here when they visit. Graceland is awesome! It changes how you hear Elvis’ songs for the rest of your life. There are many very good museums here, and as I had said above the local theatre is wonderful. I enjoy the local ballet company as well. I have not been to the symphony yet, but want to. There are a couple of art museums, I have not been to the Dixon, which is supposed to be very nice, with gardens there as well. The bbq I could do without, that is kind of what Memphis is known for, I like Carolina bbq, the vinegar better than the red sauce, but Gus’ fried chicken is amazing. Beale Street, which is the street downtown with live music, is dissappointing in my opinion. It is a little too sketchy for me. I spent too much time in Boca Raton, FL which is like Disney World with everythign well kept and pretty. You might be interested to know that there are about 9,000 Jews here last I looked, and a surprising percentage are Orthodox, but there is not one kosher restaurant from what I can tell. I always think there is opportunity for that…even if it is just a pizza place. I worked for an orthodox woman and the community is very close, people frequently got to each others home for dinner, it is very nice, and housing and overall cost of living is much more reasonable than most of the cities the Orthodox live in around the country, but of course housing is jacked up in the Jewish areas.

dpworkin's avatar

When I grow up I’m going to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis Tennessee.

JLeslie's avatar

You can make a week out of it if you do the Clinton Library/Museum, which is absolutely wonderful, Memphis and Nashville.

IchtheosaurusRex's avatar

@deni , yeah, took the scenic drive to the summit of Mt. Lemmon a couple of times. Want to do it on two wheels one of these days, if we ever get back there. Done some hiking in Sabino Canyon, too.

cwilbur's avatar

@evegrimm: In Boston’s case, it started with a number of wealthy people and families who believed strongly in the arts. Most of the arts institutions of the city—the Public Library, the Symphony Orchestra, the Museum of Fine Arts—were founded between 1850 and 1900. The density of colleges and universities and the proximity of Cambridge probably helped.

But I think Phoenix probably has the problem that because there is no culture of going to the museum and the symphony and the opera and the theater, people who move there or grow up there don’t expect it or value it, so there’s no fertile ground for that culture to grow. So you probably need to start small and local. To be honest, if you want to live in a place with a strong arts culture, it’s probably a lot easier for you to move somewhere that has it rather than to create it in Phoenix.

JLeslie's avatar

I don’t know how it is in Phoenix, but here in Memphis I get to see the Broadway Tour shows for significantly less than I would in other cities. This is one thing I enjoy about Memphis, even though it is not a cultural center like NY or Chicago. You can practically see two shows for the price of one Broadway show in NYC.

dpworkin's avatar

Also, I will let you in on a NYC secret: All the residents are very pleased that they live in a cultural mecca. None of them ever take advantage of it. All of the claim to wish they did. All of them would rather lock the three locks and watch TiVo.

JLeslie's avatar

@pdworkin so true. Most people in the theatres are tourists I think. I did go to the Nutcracker every year at Lincoln center though, nothing like the NYC production, simply magical.

deni's avatar

@IchtheosaurusRex Ah, its beautiful. I’d like to bike up it someday too. Someday soon hopefully. I would love to get back to Tucson. We went up Mt. Lemmon on the most perfect day, the skies were so blue, oh my. How wonderful.

LincolnPJKenney's avatar

Phoenix is know as a retirement haven and as a winter resting place for snowbirds. It does not have a strong history or a long history of culture as does NY, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco or LA. Native American culture and history is what is associated with the great city called Phoenix.

Axemusica's avatar

@LincolnPJKenney you must live there if you know the term snowbirds. Do they even know how to drive? lol

JLeslie's avatar

Snowbirds from those cities are the very reason they should have some performing arts stuff goiing on. Look at southeast FL. Not that they are a mecca, but Miami, FT Laud, and Palm Beach all have performing arts centers, plus local theatres, Miami has a good Ballet, and even Boca Raton has a very good local ballet and ballet school.

Irishmar's avatar

Maybe because of the heat, and the trafffic….....

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