Area artists come together to celebrate the Suns’ golden anniversary

The Sole of PHX 

Area artists come together to celebrate the Suns’ golden anniversary.

Photos by Tim Sealy

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

A Grand Canyon State native, artist Isaac Caruso has fond memories of Compass Arizona Grill—the never-ending view of the Valley, the colors and the Mother’s Day brunches.

“I recall looking out through the window and seeing the whole downtown skyline,” Caruso says. “It was beautiful.”

Caruso recreated the view on a 6-foot-tall sneaker dubbed The Compass Room in Phoenix City Hall. The artwork is part of The Sole of PHX, an oversized high-top sneaker art exhibit laced with designs influenced by the culture of basketball and the special people and places around the Valley.

The Sole of PHX exhibit is an interactive way to extend the Suns’ 50th anniversary celebration from the arena and into the community. The 15 Suns-inspired art pieces will be displayed throughout the Valley during the team’s 2017-18 golden anniversary season through May 2018.

Caruso painted two; the other, Phoenix is Hot, is at Luke Air Force Base.

“It was so hot this summer while I was working on this project,” Caruso says. “I left a cheap plastic cup in my car and it just melted. I thought it looked really cool. So, Phoenix is Hot is a comment on the weather here, and how incredibly hot it can be.”

Caruso grew up in the North Valley, graduating from Thunderbird High School and then attending NAU. When he was 13, he realized he loved art—in particular, spray paint.

“I got into graffiti and then I started going to art class in school,” says Caruso, who worked on a previous Suns project. “I realized I had a knack for it. At 16, I started going to First Friday. I really liked the vibe and how anyone can go there and try to sell their stuff. At 17, I brought pieces in and sold my first piece there.”

A full-time artist, Caruso also serves as a creative director for a website and tech firm. He is designing artwork for Valley Metro’s light rail extension. The 29-year-old is also creating a 500-foot-long mural inside the Desert Botanical Garden-affiliated Spaces of Opportunity.

Phoenix Suns’ director of marketing, Chris Kaiser, says he’s impressed by the works of Caruso and the other artists. He says the public has embraced the sneakers, which will be auctioned at the end of the season to benefit Phoenix Suns Charities.

“There’s a lot more engagement than we thought,” Kaiser says. “There’s nothing for us to benchmark it with. But we were hoping to set a specific goal, which is people seeing the shoes.”

There’s an interactive component to it, too. Fans can use the team’s official mobile app to scan the code on the description plaque to unlock Suns prizes, content and achievements. Prizes include 50th season rewards, discounts to the Suns Team Shop, and Suns tickets.

Fans who scan 10 sneakers will receive two lower-level tickets to a Suns game and those who scan 14 sneakers (all displays except Luke Air Force Base) will be entered to win a pair of courtside seats to the Suns matchup against the Golden State Warriors on Sunday, April 8, at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Among the artists are Phoenix Suns legends Dick and Tom Van Arsdale.

“That’s a great piece,” Kaiser says about the artwork at Talking Stick Resort Arena. “We approached them, and they jumped at the opportunity. They were the first ones to complete a shoe.

“We selected local and regional artists. We wanted them to be representative of the overall community and different styles of art. I think we ended up with a very cool list.”


Participating Artists

Phoenix Suns officials chose local and regional artists to honor the team’s 50th anniversary.

Here is a list of the artists and their shoes’ locations:

  • Dick and Tom Van Arsdale, Talking Stick Resort Arena
  • Thomas Breeze, Talking Stick Resort
  • Isaac Caruso, Phoenix City Hall and Luke Air Force Base
  • Timothy Chapman, Phoenix Zoo
  • Curt Condrat, Harkins at Crossroads Town Center
  • Estevan Curiel, Tempe Marketplace
  • Bill Dambrova, Desert Ridge Marketplace
  • Gabriel and Isaac Fortoul, Encanto Park and the Light Rail Station at Central Avenue and Roosevelt
  • Gilda Garza, Legends Entertainment District
  • JB Snyder, Mesa Arts Center
  • Robert Vargas, Westgate Entertainment District and the corner of Fifth Avenue and Drinkwater Boulevard in Scottsdale
  • Graffiti artist Clyde, corner of Mill Avenue and University Drive in Tempe

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