The Art Behind the Phoenix
Updated: Nov 13, 2019
The Phoenix Theater’s graffiti is an iconic part of Petaluma culture. With longstanding contributions from various local artists, the art has given the building a sense of character that few can replicate.
Tom Gaffey, owner of the building, offered some insight on the Phoenix’s transformation into a local hotspot. “When we switched from movies to rock and roll, we had a lot of extra time on our hands because we weren’t showing movies every night. We’d removed a bunch of the seats so we could have a dance floor, and the kids that were just kinda hanging around asked if we could put some skate ramps in,” Gaffey explained.
The Phoenix’s transition from a movie theater to a venue for the people brought changes to the building. Namely among these, the building was now predominantly used by teenagers. Tom detailed the desire to graffiti by the local teenagers: “And about that same time they asked if they could put art on the walls. And the part of no that I don’t understand is the part that says ‘I can’t’. So we decided we’d let the kids use the building.” Tom’s willingness to let random teenagers and artists spray paint the walls completely changed the Phoenix’s vibe. People have spray-painted art in, around, and behind the Phoenix since its remodel a few decades ago, and the art has become a community staple ever since.