The monOrchid, located in the heart of Roosevelt Row, the main arts district within downtown Phoenix, is a multiuse warehouse that encompasses event spaces, art galleries, co-working spaces, and studios for multimedia art.
Throughout the years, the monOrchid, with the guidance of its founder Wayne Rainey, has provided the Phoenix community with an opportunity to build itself from the ground up. What once was a blighted, dilapidated downtown has now become the densest urban core in the state of Arizona, with new artists, new businesses, and new residents moving in every day.
Wayne’s guiding principle is simple: everything they do there is about art. He is a firm believer in culture-driven performance, which is something he works to instill in his community every day.
Wayne grew up in a Phoenix that was devoid of cultural opportunities, yet has always been a huge fan of the theory of third places and how they affect us. When he was growing up, his version of a third place was driving around Metrocenter Mall or Christown Mall, hoping to stop at a traffic light, roll down his window and, if someone happened to roll their window down too, maybe have an exchange for a few seconds.
Today, he is trying to create a better version of that third space, right here in the heart of the city. The monOrchid serves as a third space for the exchange and sharing of information, where one can have interactions with one’s contemporaries, find their mentor or mentee, and spread around knowledge.
The space is a reminder to try to always think of the magnitude of what’s possible, and living out that vast, unforeseeable potential that we all have. This is one of the reasons Wayne has been so drawn to art.
There is a real, measurable return on investment that one can observe throughout the years, from when Wayne put down roots in the Roosevelt Row arts district to today, as evidenced by the number of rooftops within a quarter of a square mile radius of the studio space. The intersection of 3rd Street and Roosevelt Road has become the single highest density intersection in the state in the span of a year.
When Wayne, his team, and other fellow lovers of the art started locating to the area, it was comprised mostly of vacant lots and underused warehouses. Now, the area is being completely revitalized, with new developments, new businesses, and new residents flooding into the district by the day.
As with any rapidly developing neighborhood, there is a downside: gentrification has forced out many of the original artists who built a sense of community there in the first place. It is incredibly difficult to be an artist in a city that does not have the infrastructure to support them. Wayne believes that people like to romanticize the starving artist – but this life is far from beautiful, no matter how much it is glorified.
The upside to this rapid growth is that people like Wayne now have more opportunities to advocate for affordable housing for those that have been displaced, and can continue the tradition of a vibrant artists’ community in our downtown core. As aptly stated by Wayne himself, “a good city takes care of its creative forces.” This nurturing of local creative assets is what has continued to bolster the growth and development of downtown Phoenix, and the metrics are easily visible: people and businesses are coming back to the downtown core, after years of fleeing outwards to the sprawling suburbs.
Wayne is one of the people who realizes the dire importance of this newfound density to a desert city such as Phoenix, where resources like water and electricity are precious and thus should be in a tight, highly efficient package. He is of the school that this place – this exercise, really, has been about refining and redefining the idea and practice of living in a sustainable desert city. He does not know if we’ve answered that yet, but it’s a constant question that him and his team keep asking themselves. The way that he has found to get people to pay attention to the heart of the city is by offering opportunities to explore the creative equity in the area, really look into their own community and embrace the talent that they have here.
“We are creating opportunities by valuing the assets in our community, especially our cultural capital. How many cities are out there right now, where, if you want to make real change happen, you can do it by rolling up your sleeves? Here, you don’t need to have seven zeroes at the end of your bank account to make a difference.” — Wayne Rainey