Local artist, Logan Phillips (Photo by Erika Howlett)

Connecting Art, Food, Land & More With Artist Logan Phillips 

May 9, 2024
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By Erika Howlett
By Erika Howlett

"We help create the place that we live in."

Tucson-based poet Logan Phillips understands making connections and he knows a lot about Southern Arizona, both of which inspire his art. He’s much more than a poet, he’s also a DJ, educator, performer, and culture worker, as he calls it. 

Phillips was raised near Sierra Vista, Arizona, where he spent lots of time in nature and he’s continued to be inspired by the land. At his house in Barrio Viejo, he maintains an elaborate garden, blooming with flowers, fruits, vegetables, and more using desert-friendly irrigation techniques. 

Local artist, Logan Phillips (Photo by Erika Howlett)

He currently volunteers for the Tucson Birthplace Open Space Coalition, a coalition of individuals and organizations that work to protect the land at the base of Sentinel Peak, also known as Tucson’s birthplace. He has also worked with Mission Garden, an agricultural museum that showcases the unique history of this land through crops. 

In Phillips’ own words: “There’s no place on earth quite like Tucson, Arizona.” 

In March, Phillips released his most recent book of poetry, the fourth edition in a series of books called NoVOGRAFÍAS, which combines multiple types of media into unique hand-printed works of art. You can check out his work and purchase copies on his website

We caught up with Phillips to discuss his work and land conservation, which inevitably brought us back to food. Check out our full conversation below.

Me: How does your art and work with conservation connect to our local food systems? 

Phillips: I look to people in the community who are doing this work explicitly. Like Feng-Feng Yeh in the Chinese Chorizo Project. I really admire Feng-Feng’s work in really making clear the connection between culture and food waste. My own relationship to it is understanding that a healthy community has all of these aspects in conversation with each other all the time. We can open as many restaurants as we want downtown, but there has to be something more than just options to eat. There also needs to be music and there needs to be poetry and plays and performance art and politically engaged actions and visual art, the things that push us to our learning edge. That’s what makes a healthy community.

Me: What’s new for you with your poetry?

Phillips: I am publishing NoVOGRAFÍAS, which is an ongoing series of what I call psychogeographic spellbooks. A psychogeographic spellbook is related to the intersection of dreamtime and waking life. I’m more interested in the artistic process than I am in the arts as a product. These books come from spending one hour before dawn every morning working and seeing what happens. I’m interested in how the built environment around us infiltrates and informs dreamtime, and also how dreamtime opens up new ways of seeing in our day-to-day and can help us stay awake. So, the books incorporate photography, design, poetry, sampling, and remixing, but I think of them as each spread of the book being a poem — whether or not there’s words.

Local artist, Logan Phillips (Photo by Erika Howlett)

Me: What are your thoughts on sustainability within Tucson’s food industry?  

Phillips: I look at it from the outside in because I’m not explicitly involved, but I would say there’s the obvious things like sourcing locally whenever possible and helping open opportunities for folks to try different foods that perhaps are more regionally appropriate or able to be grown here. I also think that the Tucson food scene and restaurants really rely on a fabric of culture, like I referenced earlier, and so it’s really important to recognize these connections and help strengthen them. And then, always supporting local agriculture at all times I think is the most important thing. We just have to think more widely about how to be less extractive. A lot of that has to do with coming into a better relationship with Indigenous ways of knowing and with the Indigenous people who are currently living and working in our community right now. 

Me: Tell me more about your activism and work with TBOSC.

Phillips: I tend to shy away from the idea of the label of activist, because I think then that puts everyone else in the category of “inactivist” and doing nothing, and I don’t think that’s true. I think people are consciously creating the world around them all the time. Whether that’s in line with the status quo or whether it’s pushing back against it. I think we’re all active in our own ways.

Currently, I’m volunteering for the Tucson Birthplace Open Space Coalition or TBOSC. It’s a group of organizations and individuals in conversation around helping create a pathway for a more positive future for the birthplace site. This is land that is ancestral and has been cared for and cultivated by humans and Indigenous peoples for over 4,000 years. Most basically, Open Space means no development, so Open Space is what honors what that land already is. It already is a wildlife refuge and a cultural resource for people’s past and present. TBOSC is composed of barrio residents, Indigenous members, artists, scientists, and everybody in between, and we understand that open space is the best possible outcome for that site.

Me: What are your favorite spots to eat in Tucson?

Phillips: La Indita is an absolute jewel of the Tucson food scene and a completely globally unique restaurant. They were gracious enough to host the release event for the latest NoVOGRAFÍAS book, and beyond being delicious are a living example of generational, ancestral knowledge, culture, and work, all coming together around food. 

I also love Los Chipilones, the Sonoran hot dog stand on the corner of 22nd and Sixth — my favorite Sonoran hot dog in town. 

I also love La Chaiteria on the west side. I think these are all places that embody what makes us who we are as Tucsonans. 

Me: How can we tie all these topics together? 

Phillips: Folks may ask “Why would a poet be involved in land or why would a poet be speaking about food? I think it’s important that an arts practice is about finding connections between things rather than supporting false dichotomies or categories. In my work, I hope to be honest with myself and ask questions that lead me to come into better relationships with the people around me. I would hope that my work would also be generative for others, meaning that my work would open doors for routes of inspiration, for other people to find expression in ways that are meaningful for them. 

I found it really important to remember that each of us has agency and we help create the place that we live in. We help enact the values that we want to see in the world. Whether that’s helping bring a better relationship to land or food, I think each of us has an opportunity and an obligation that is beautiful. 

To keep up with the latest, follow Logan Phillips at dirtyverbs.com.

Local artist, Logan Phillips (Photo by Erika Howlett)

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