For months, Flagstaff’s bustling downtown streets have displayed posters plastered in windows and on boards. The group behind the stylish, text-only fliers planted them in common areas from here to Tucson.
Behind the posters are ASU students Matthew Briggs and Garrett Johnson, who call on artists, composers, dancers — wherever, whomever they could reach — via LISTSERVS and online music communities to build pieced inspired by hapax legomenon.
The Ancient Greek term pertains to single words within an author’s piece or body of work appearing just once. Shakespeare, perhaps the most famous user, invented his own words snuck into texts in a single instance. Spring-boarding from hapax, Briggs and Johnson imagined a greater richness with their mini-festival, “Something Said Only Once.”
Two more installations with 15 more pieces will take place at Firecreek Coffee Co., 22 E. Route 66, Saturdays, May 23 and 30, beginning at 7 p.m. Admission is $5 at the door. To learn more, call 774-2266, visit www.ssoo.media or check out SSOO on Facebook.
For the last two Saturdays in May, the hip coffee shop hugging the Route 66 corridor has hosted a stunning display of individuality and the power of one fleeting moment in time through mind-bending sounds, visuals or any amalgamation without hindrance. As the artists creating within the space this month have displayed, their imaginations and parameters of creativity are limitless.
In a recent interview, the creative pair shared its inspirations and excitement about SSOO run in conjunction with Firecreek events manager, John Quinonez.
“I know for me personally I want this to be the kind of outlet I wish I had when I was a teen — a well of resources to develop oneself outside of the classroom and bedroom,” he said. “It becomes too easy for an artist to feel like there's no way for them to really break into their passions, few spotlights on those that do pursue them, and even fewer resources to those groups that need those outlets most.”
Briggs and Johnson have been developing SSOO for months, arguably their entire artistic careers, and decided Flagstaff would play delicate host to the project’s initial push. Even Firecreek’s quirks and limitations have played into the artists’ pieces, Johnson said.
May 2 saw Lauren Hayes sit with the coffee house’s rickety upright piano and adapt her show to fit the confines of the space and the less-than-tuned quality of that instrument.
“There are so many ways you can take this problem in art,” Johnson said. “There are so many different manifestations which could be realized. It’s fascinating to see how artists have reacted to that fact because some of them have gone ways with this I could’ve never imagined; that we didn’t expect.”
With this inaugural festival, performances have included work from artists scattered all over the globe — Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tucson, Los Angeles, Berlin and Scotland to name a few — all represented on stage and even on the floor of the downtown coffee spot. SSOO, during each show, also hosts gallery artists representing their photography and more.
As the project builds momentum in the coming weeks, Johnson enlisted the help of his Cincinnati-based colleague to close out the final performance, the experience he said is “so profoundly based on place.”
“We will send live video feed from Cincinnati to here and vice-versa so we can actually play with this idea of suturing space — which aren’t my words. I owe that term to other people by whom I’m influenced — but bringing two different places together and allowing them to interplay and have a party with people in Cincinnati.”
After the party, the team will continue to purse nonprofit status to further the project’s basis in Arizona and beyond with a goal of carrying the mini-festivals from city to city while hosting workshops and developing space to perform, Quinonez said. Once it is solidified, they plan to return to Flagstaff and host workshops with the artist, the educator, and the town it all launched, in mind.
Quinonez added, “My dream is to eventually break down some of these inherit ‘can’ts’ and walls, but in the meantime SSOO will at least provide a ladder — if not a hammer.”