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August 25, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona ArtBeat: Light Constructions

  |   Video
  • Artist Pasha Rafat explores the “physicality of light” in an exhibition of light produced by neon and other gasses that’s currently at ASU’s Night Gallery.
  • Pasha Rafat - Artist
Category: The Arts   |   Keywords: art, lights, ,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: On tonight's "Arizona Artbeat," producer David Majure and photographer Scot Olson take us to the night gallery at Tempe marketplace, where neon art is all aglow.
David Majure: Like something out of Vegas, the brilliant glow of neon light beckons shoppers into the night gallery at Tempe marketplace. These light constructions are the work of artist Pasha Rafat, he’s an ASU alumnus who works at Las Vegas and teaches photography at UNLV, Rafat and his crew spent days of assembling these creations of glass, gas and electricity.
Pasha Rafat: Here I am, struggling with these lights, unpacking and these packing devices and electrodes and transformers, it's like hellish.
David Majure: It's much more involved than your average art exhibition.
Pasha Rafat: I'm trying to figure out a way to get away from this and make something else like the artists who roll up their drawings and put them in a tube and send them to a museum. Boy I mean, I know some of those artists –
David Majure: Don't let him fool you. Rafat could be hanging prints on a wall. He started his artistic career as a photographer. But what he found interesting about photography was not necessarily the subjects of his images, it was more the atmosphere produced by light, shadows, and color.
Pasha Rafat: You try to create some puzzles, some kind of situation with light and tubes and dimension.
David Majure: So he began experimenting with that photographic essence in a three-dimensional space. It seemed the natural evolution of his artistic pursuits.
Pasha Rafat: Those things I was interested in could be created through three-dimensional objects so this idea of lights and color came out of that. But it does come from photography.
David Majure: He calls his work light construction. Simple arrays of gas filled tubes that pulsate and illuminate when charged with electricity.
Pasha Rafat: The gas itself creates color, where you put them and what size tube you use, and how you put them together, it's tricky. In other words, it’s like if you put them together in certain ways and create poetry.
David Majure: A student of architecture, Rafat is acutely aware of how his sculptures connect to the space around him.
Pasha Majure: You need to be aware of the environment you’re in. In other words, context becomes everything.
David Majure: He's not interested in organic shapes and designs. Instead, he prefers the clean lines and angles of geometry.
Pasha Rafat: Every time I think you create those organic imagery, you make an association with something, which is, you know, it's an apple, something. Which is really ok. I'm just not interested in those things. I'm interested in geometry because basically geometry reflects or connects to something which has to do with the architecture and that interest me. I didn't know how to make the pieces so I stuck them in the corner and made a false wall. So they can go in them. In a way, I’m trying to get out corner, everybody says the corner is not important, you just put your pieces on the main wall. But to me, I think the corners become very important. Creating this light was to kind of create some kind of mystery.
David Majure: Rafat admits his work is all very experimental and doesn't expect you nor want you to get it.
Pasha Rafat: You don't know what you're looking at. You try and grasp it, and that's important. It's actually important not to quite get it. I'm actually interested in the kind of work I don't understand. Once I get it, I think I'm bored.
David Majure: He does want his audience to feel a connection if ever so briefly to the atmospheres he creates.
Pasha Rafat: Somebody looks at the piece -- aha. I think, that moment is very important to me. If it doesn't happen, obviously, I've messed it up. I mean, it's -- I haven't been successful. But I'm looking for that. That interests me.
David Majure: He lives for the aha moment when the light comes on, even if it doesn't stay lit for long.
Pasha Rafat: If you stay a little bit longer in front of the piece, then obviously, I'm much happier, but those few seconds if you respond to the work, I think that's ok.
Ted Simons: "Out of Vegas: the light constructions of Pasha Rafat" is at the night gallery in Tempe marketplace through September 25th. The night gallery is open Tuesday through Sunday from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.

ASU Homeowner Advocacy

  |   Video
  • The Civil Justice Clinic, part of ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, has established a Homeowner Advocacy Unit that will provide legal assistance to homeowners facing mortgage fraud and foreclosure, while giving law students an opportunity to gain real-life legal experience. Director of the unit, Mary Ellen Natale and ASU law students Barbara Strnad and Kyle Robertson discuss the program.
  • Mary Ellen Natale - Director
  • Barbra Strnad - ASU Law Student
  • Kyle Robertson - ASU Law Student
Category: Law   |   Keywords: foreclosures, housing, ASU, law,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. For decades, the civil justice clinic at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor school of law has given students an opportunity to gain real life experience by representing clients on a pro bono basis. This fall, the clinic is adding a homeowner advocacy unit to provide legal services to people facing mortgage fraud and wrongful foreclosure. Joining me to talk about the service is Mary Ellen Natale, director of the new homeowner advocacy unit. Barbara Strnad, a third year ASU law student. And Kyle Robertson, also a third year law student at ASU. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us
All: Thanks for having us.
Ted Simons: I kind of gave an overview here. What are we talking about with this service, this unit?
Mary Ellen Natale: We're very excited about this new program. Over the next three years, we're going to be educating between 80 and 90 law students how to represent homeowners who are faced with wrongful foreclosure of their home. It's a new project, we're excited and provides students with hands on experience and provide a much needed service to the community.
Ted Simons: Talk about the role of student attorneys in this particular case.
Mary Ellen Natale: Well the student attorneys will be representing clients under the supervision of faculty members. So the clients get a benefit of a whole team of expertise and the students have the opportunity for the one-on-one client interaction and the opportunity to represent the clients in a hands on basis and get the real world experience.
Ted Simons: We're talking about foreclosure fraud, how far does something have to be wrong for you guys to step on in?
Mary Ellen Natale: Well there are a lot of ways in which homeowners are being wronged, unfortunately . Some of the cases we'll be taking are for instance people in a mortgage modification who have been making places and yet their homes still scheduled for foreclosure sale. Those are some of the homeowners we have been and will be representing in the project.
Ted Simons: And litigating the process? Going the whole nine yards here?
Mary Ellen Natale: Well, we hope many of the cases can be resolved without litigation. Litigation, of course, is always a last resort but we do expect we may need to file suit for homeowners whom the problem can’t be resolved without litigation. In that event, some cases may settle early on, some may end up being longer term but the students involved every step.
Ted Simons: Barbara, you got involved with this, why?
Barbara Strnad: I got involved in the clinic for two reasons and in this homeowner advocacy unit specifically for two reasons. The first is because I believe it provides me an opportunity to get some hands-on experience to work with clients, to potentially get the opportunity to actually go to court to be someone’s lawyer and I feel that's invaluable for when after I graduate and pass the bar and actually get to be a full attorney. And the second reason is because I feel that this is really rewarding. It gives a lot back to the community. We know that people are in crisis dealing with foreclosures. Dealing with modifications gone wrong. Banks doing things that maybe they shouldn't and so we're providing a great service and helping our community.
Ted Simons: Kyle, what got you interested in this service?
Kyle Robertson: I first became interested between my first and second year of law school. Working for the United States bankruptcy court and being there, I saw sometimes 24 foreclosures a day come through the bankruptcy court and it was a vast disconnect between the knowledge of the homeowner and the knowledge of the bank. And there wasn't a party in between to negotiate this. To settle this. And to make the best outcome for everyone involved in the situation. So I wanted to find a way that I could help and this is a perfect avenue to do that.
Ted Simons: With that in mind, what kind of cases are you expecting to see? What situations and problems are you expecting to solve?
Kyle Robertson: Well, the number of problems and the type of cases we'll take will be vast. I mean, it really is mortgages and the mortgage securitization process and everything going on is extremely complicated. So we're here to help people from step one to step 10 and there's probably a lot of steps in between and that's what I'm expecting, a vast array.
Ted Simons: Same question for you Barbara. Is there something you're interested in doing. Are you expecting to be surprised once you find these cases and start working on them?
Barbara Strnad: Well, actually we've already started a little bit of work. We're only a week into school and Kyle and I are already working on a case together. It's a couple who came in. Through their bank, through their mortgage lender, they went through the modification process, went through trial modification payments which means they have to make three payments in a row and on time and the couple did that. After that, they're supposed to be put into a permanent modification for their loan and happy on down the road, unfortunately what we've seen happen is they've not been placed in the permanent modification program and their home is still set for foreclosure. So that’s one of the big type of cases we’re working with. Those are the people who don't belong in foreclosure and those the people we're hoping to help.
Ted Simons: How are clients chosen for the program?
Mary Ellen Natale: We work very closely with our community partners and we receive referrals from agencies who know the type of cases we're taking and working with the Arizona foreclosure taskforce and also get references not only from the taskforce but the member agencies, agencies such as neighborhood housing services and community legal services. So they refer clients to us because they know the types of cases we're able to take. We have a waiting list of clients who need our services.
Ted Simons: I was going to ask that. You know, how does this fill a particular need? Are there simply not enough trained professionals out there to represent these people?
Mary Ellen Natale: Unfortunately There are not enough professionals who are able to represent people who -- well, the people don't have the means to hire private counsel. There are a lot private attorneys who would want to help, but homeowners face can foreclose just don't have the money to retain them they just don’t have the money. What our project will do is educate 80-90 new homeowner advocates who can take these cases, maybe as part of what they'll be doing for the bulk of their practice, maybe as a pro bono case, but it will provide not only resources for the homeowners during the life of the project, but each student attorney that’s working in our clinic will have those skills and knowledge and experience to take with them.
Ted Simons: And that experience -- you mentioned that's one of the things you were looking for was to get that experience. When you go from here, will something like mortgage issues and banking issue and financial issues be what you're looking at?
Barbara Strnad: Unfortunately, even in the law and the legal environment we know that the market is tough. I know going out next year after graduation, I may not be able to pick and choose, but after even just starting this experience, I know it's an area of law if someone offered me a job, I think it's a rewarding area and I would jump at the chance.
Ted Simons: If you could pick and choose, obviously you have a little background and interest in this before the program started, is this the avenue you would take?
Kyle Robertson: I think I'm very interested in litigation and I have a background in this kind of thing so it's definitely an avenue I want to pursue. And even if a student isn't pursuing this type of avenue, there's things you can't learn in a textbook, can’t learn in class. And this clinic helps you deal with a client who is facing a tough situation.
Ted Simons: How important are these training clinics for these budding lawyers? These people are going to be out there in the workplace and doing this work in the future. How important is it doing this kind of work now?
Mary Ellen Natale: It's important giving the experience and representing clients. It's a wonderful complement to the classroom experience that the student attorneys get. It provides a holistic education, it provides the knowledge they get in the classroom and the skills that will be provided in the clinic to make them effective advocates for their clients.
Ted Simons: This includes outreach and CLE, correct?
Mary Ellen Natale: It does. One very important part of our project is for the students to be out in the community working on community education and outreach and letting homeowners know what resources are available to them to help them prevent foreclosure and help them deal with foreclosure once they're facing it.
Ted Simons: And I believe the Arizona attorney general's office is supplying a grant for this program, is this true?
Mary Ellen Natale: That's true. We received the grant from the attorney general’s office. It's allowing us to implement this wonderful program and we're excited about the whole initiative.
Ted Simons: When you're finished with the whole initiative, what do you want to leave with? What do you -- do you want to leave knowing you've helped someone? Obviously, you want that a little bit. Also want to get education as well. What do you hope to learn?
Barbara Strnad: I think personally, you know, obviously, I'm excited about the work we do for the community and what we provide. Personally, as you go out and you're a baby attorney, we call them, I think one of the big things that people lack is practical experience and confidence. And I think getting this hands-on experience, being someone's student attorney will provide both of those things for me.
Ted Simons: What do you think you'll learn out of all of this?
Kyle Robertson: I think when you're faced with a difficult situation like this, especially in the law, it's easy to become jaded and I think if we can be successful helping a few people, that will give me a lot of confidence in my career.
Ted Simons: Very good. For those homeowners who think they can use the help, how can they get in touch with you guys?
Mary Ellen Natale: They should contact the Arizona foreclosure prevention taskforce. It has a hotline and a website and that hotline will provide them with the resources they need and again if we're able to take the case, their case may be referred to us.
Ted Simons: And again that's the Arizona foreclosure –
Mary Ellen Natale: Prevention hotline.
Ted Simons: Prevention hotline. Good luck to both of you. Thank you for joining us on "Horizon."
All: Thank you for having us.

The Diving Lady Neon Sign

  |   Video
  • On October 5, 2010, a storm destroyed the iconic “Diving Lady” neon sign that towered above the Starlite Motel in Mesa. Victor Linoff, President of the Mesa Preservation Foundation, describes what’s being done to restore the historic animated sign.
  • Victor Linoff - President, Mesa Preservation Foundation
Keywords: motel, icon, diving, lady, signs,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: In October of 2010, a storm destroyed an iconic neon sign in Mesa. The animated "diving lady" at the Starlite motel smashed to the ground, but soon thereafter, the Mesa preservation foundation stepped in to save her. The foundation is raising money to restore the 78-foot tall sign. The restoration work is being done by neon light artist Larry Graham. His shop is carefully putting the diving lady back together, giving her a much needed facelift and replacing her shattered neon lights. The overall restoration project is expected to cost about $80,000. If all goes as planned, the diving lady welcome diving again by October 5th, the one-year anniversary of her accident. Joining me now to talk about the restoration effort is Vic Linoff, president of the Mesa restoration foundation. Good to see you again.
Vic Linoff: Good to see you.
Ted Simons: We kind of got a look at here there, but in terms of the diving lady in her prime, describe her.
Vic Linoff: She was an absolutely incredibly -- well, first, nobody talks about the sign as a physical entity. They talk about it as a person. She's got a name. She's the diving lady and for 50 years, every -- well, about six times a minute, she would do an animated dive from the top of that pole.
Ted Simons: There she goes. Over and over again. The diving lady Six dives a minute? That’s a lot of work.
Vic Linoff: You should see her when she has to climb back up.
Ted Simons: Where is the starlight motel? Where was the sign located?
Vic Linoff: The sign -- The Starlite motel is just west of Lindsay road on the north side of main street in Mesa. The motel was built in 1958 and by two brothers from Kansas. And they -- well, let's put it this way, in the late '50s, early '60s, a pool was a real amenity. Particularly in Arizona, and if you had a pool, you wanted to tout the fact this was a motel that had a pool. So Paul Millet, who fabricated the sign originally was called in, he fabricated the Starlite sign which was a smaller sign identifying the motel, but he was called in when the pool was built to really do something that would be a landmark, that could be seen for miles.
Ted Simons: Is he a well known neon artist?
Vic Linoff: Paul Millet is probably the premier name in neon art in the valley. And that’s really what it is. Certainly signs are commercial. And they require a huge amount of artistic skills.
Ted Simons: With that in mind how much damage was done to the sign?
Vic Linoff: Well, I don't know if you have pictures of it, but when she fell, all of the neon was broken. Obviously, a fall from that height is going to crush the sheet metal. What we learned in taking it apart was that there was considerable damage just from age. It was built before some of the codes and water proofing so there was a lot of rust, deterioration and birds have been nesting inside, under most circumstances people would say it will be a total loss.
Ted Simons: Who decided to restore?
Vic Linoff: Well, the Mesa preservation foundation did. We were meeting to do something with the Buckhorn baths which is only a mile way and the Buckhorn was progressing and lo and behold we had a horrible storm last October and the sign fell and we thought we have to do something about that. Because it takes some real skills to put a project like this together, because not only are you restoring a piece of history, you have to go through all the modern codes and permitting and that sort and we stepped in and the motel owners had been gracious in understanding how difficult a project this is and gave us free rein to put it back together.
Ted Simons: Expensive project too. Was there insurance on the sign?
Vic Linoff: There was a modest amount of insurance. Not nearly enough to cover the damage and it may have been based on the original cost. In 1960, about $6,000 to build that sign. About $80,000 to repair it.
Ted Simons: Who is donating so far to help get the diving lady, diving again?
Vic Linoff: First and foremost, it's important to know that the community is really behind this. We've received over 100 contributions from $5 to $500. And with the five dollar contributions, people say it's not much, we know that, but we want you to know we support what you're doing. And then the large corporations need to step in and one of the best partnership so far is Hunt Construction, Able Steel and EMJ Engineering are combining to fabricate and install and put new wiring to the pole. That alone is about $30,000 of the cost.
Ted Simons: And we do have a website up there for folks who want to help save this part of Arizona history. Certainly the valley's history. The man doing the repairs is a neon artist by the name of Larry graham.
Vic Linoff: Larry is an unusual fellow and we knew that Larry was the one we wanted to do the repairs because he had been mentored by Paul Millet before Paul died and when Paul closed his shop, Larry bought most of the equipment, plus Larry knew Paul, there’s some great stories, one story, there's a ladder near the top of the sign, if you look at the old photographs and we were wondering why there's an rickety eight-foot ladder welded to the frame of the sign. And Larry said I know exactly why that is, Paul's crane only went that high and he had to get higher. So he welded himself a ladder.
Ted Simons: But now with the restoration work, will the diving lady look exactly the same or will there be changes?
Vic Linoff: The changes you'll see are not anything -- let's put it this way, you won't see the changes. We've improved the framework structure and lightened the load by using some other materials, but the original skin of all of the pieces represents about 90%. We've only replaced those things which are damaged beyond repair. And we believe that we've done it in a historically sensitive way, so that we can actually apply and have this sign put on the national register of historic places.
Ted Simons: What kind of time frame are you looking at for getting this completed?
Vic Linoff: Our goal is October 5th. We'd really love to have a ceremony, relighting ceremony on the first anniversary. I have to tell you that mayor Scott Smith and Robert Britain who is the president of the Mesa convention visitors' bureau, our honorary co-chairs of the restore the diving lady committee, they're excited to be out there and turn that sign back on again.
Ted Simons: For folks wondering why you're taking so much time and effort and raising so much money to get this done and why we're talking about for this length of time on "Horizon," why is something like this important?
Vic Linoff: History means a lot in a community. In my view, it's very difficult to find a path to the future if you don't know where you've been. And it's a measure of the quality of life, it's a measure of the community's past. In the case of the diving lady, it's part of the highway system that was so important to the development of the valley. Four highways ran through the valley -- main street, Apache Boulevard, Van Buren and grand avenue. 60, 70, 80, and 89. I don't know if there's any other place in the country that has that length of federal highways all running along the street and represents an era when the growth began to take place. Preserving history brings heritage tourism. People love to come see that.
Ted Simons: Diving lady, October 5th. Vic, good luck to you and thanks for joining us.
Vic Linoff: Thank you very much.