238 Tempe, AZ: House by a Road

ASU's Nelson Fine Arts Center where the Hopper hung looked like a Mayan Temple. Across Mill Avenue from it, a series of small stucco homes had been adapted into businesses such as Internet start-ups, lawyers, and even a Dairy Queen, or into frat houses that looked like cheesy roadside motels.

To get into the museum, I had to descend a series of concrete stairs into a dim, below-ground courtyard supported concrete pillars. This protected the works of art from the harsh desert sun. The work here is one of Hopper's less known and less successful, so when I visited, the Hopper was in storage. I checked in at the front desk with a woman named Doris who was sixtyish, with a hunched back and crooked nose. She wore big, gold glasses and a light blue shirt with dark blue flowers printed on it. Her hair had red and silver highlights and straggled over her tiny, silver tortoise earrings.

To my question, she answered, "If you live here, then you're part of the community. You certainly can't be isolated unless you choose to. I’ve lived here on and off for three years."

"And you know a lot of people here?" I asked.

"No," she confessed, "I really don't because everyone is either too old or too young. I'm from Milwaukee. There's a lady, it's like her first year here as a professor, and she's from Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. You always are going to meet someone. It's a small world."

"Are students integrated into the community? "

"I think the community is integrated into the students," she countered. "The college has a lot of influence on the community from a point of visitors, family, all of this. It would be a totally different city without the school. I would never think of going to an art museum. But now that I've been involved in this program, I certainly can understand why people do. It's a really nice, peaceful, restful activity."

Three women walked into the front desk and one inquired in a high-pitched voice, "Excuse me, where is the shop?"

"Right behind me," Doris huffed and rolled her eyes.

No comments: