Phoenix Art Museum Reopens to Members, Celebrates With Film Release

Posted By on October 2, 2020
Image from The First Time

Phoenix Art Museum has released the first film in a three-part series of short films created in honor of the Museum’s 60-year history, just as it is reopening its doors to members.

The series, made possible through funding provided by The Steele Foundation as part of a Museum initiative to innovate new digital-engagement efforts, was developed by the Museum in collaboration with Arizona-based filmmakers, including local writers, directors, actors, editors, and crew.

The first film in the series, The First Time, premiered online on, in celebration of the Museum’s re-opening to Members after the institution’s closure necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Forthcoming films Wish You Were There and Represent will premiere in December and February, respectively.

“These films, beginning with The First Time, seek to honor the history of Phoenix Art Museum at the heart of our community and illustrate how central that community is to our work and to our mission,” said Tim Rodgers, PhD, the Museum’s Sybil Harrington Director and CEO. “The Museum is exceptionally grateful to organizations like The Steele Foundation whose generosity not only impacts vital operations but also empowers us to develop innovative strategies to engage our audiences in new and meaningful ways.”

In 2017, Phoenix Art Museum developed a new initiative to innovate and strengthen online engagement with its community. Through the generosity of Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, the Museum developed a new, comprehensive, and fully bilingual website, featuring a mobile-responsive design and custom content in both English and Spanish. The new site launched in March 2020, just prior to the Museum’s extended closure necessitated by the pandemic. The Steele Foundation also provided support for the Museum’s new bilingual site, along with additional funding to support both photography of the Museum’s collection for the institution’s virtual catalogue of artworks and the development of a short-film series.

Initially, Museum staff planned to create a documentary-style film about the history of Phoenix Art Museum, but as they began their work with Arizona-based filmmakers Chris Heck, Kieran Thompson and Josh Gonzales, the project began to take new life as they reflected on the Museum’s history and its place in the community.

“We started to think more about stories instead of dates and names,” said Nikki DeLeon Martin, the Chief Marketing and External Affairs Officer, who oversaw the film-series project for the Museum. What resulted was not one film but three, with each telling a different story about the Museum and the community it serves.

The First Time was written by DeLeon Martin and directed by Chris Heck. “The First Time is really a love letter from the Museum to our community,” said DeLeon Martin. “The idea came from standing in the lobby on First Fridays and Free Wednesdays to welcome visitors and seeing their faces as they arrived, whether it was couples on a first date, kids visiting with their parents, or sometimes older guests visiting alone. Every time I got to watch people arrive, I thought about all the faces the Museum has seen come and go, for the first time, and sometimes, for the last time.”

The second film, Wish You Were There, was written by Heck and directed by Kieran Thompson. It tells the story of an older couple meeting for a first date and chronicles their love, connection, and memory-making as they explore the Museum’s North Wing galleries.

Represent, the final film in the series, was written and directed by Heck. It tells the story of a teenager on a school field trip who finds a sense of belonging in an unexpected place. The Museum will release Wish You Were There and Represent in December and February, respectively, on

Frontdoors Media

About Frontdoors Media

Frontdoors Media celebrates the people and groups who give generously and work to build the future of our community. It’s the premier source of information – and inspiration – for those who strive to make the Valley of the Sun a better place to live.