Melissa Almquist, who frequents the Southern fusion gastropub The Parish, likes a side of art with her steak salad.
The restaurant, which opened in 2011, rotates art exhibitions in its dining room every three months. The current exhibit, dubbed Lens Flare, showcases the work of University of Arizona photography students.
Almquist, who runs the commercial furnishings business AlmquistOne, is a regular at The Parish and appreciates the work on the wall as she dines and chats.
"It changes all the time, so I notice it every time because I like art," she said.
UA photography student Jimmy Fennewald approached owner Steve Dunn, who opened the restaurant with Bryce Zeagler and chef Travis Peters, with the idea for Lens Flare. Because Dunn is a photography aficionado, he didn't need much persuading.
"I was a photographer all the way up to halfway through college, then restaurants took over my life," Dunn said. "I'm very passionate for photography and local arts in general. It's the pulse of the community, and we're definitely about supporting that."
Dunn says the artwork helps keep the Parish lively.
"I don't even know what the next one is going to be, but it just always kind of seems to work out," he said of the exhibits. "It gives us a new look every three months. Some people don't realize what's going on when they walk in. We have a lot of funky stuff."
Fennewald is grateful for the rare opportunity to show off his work.
"Besides the Etherton Gallery, in Tucson nobody exhibits that much photography as art," Fennewald said. "We decided, with this show, to make it all photography and see how successful it would be."
Fennewald, 23, pulled together work from 18 classmates, as well as his own, for the exhibit. His contribution is a series of colorful desert scenes named after the hours he shot them, such as "12:00," "2:00" "4:00" and "6:00."
"I'm really interested in perception and the way you perceive the world," Fennewald said. "The way the human eye works like a camera."
Fennewald said he used the changing shadows to paint with light as time lapsed, giving his images different looks and dimensions.
"I think it's awesome. It's a great collaboration," Fennewald said of the exhibit. "People who wouldn't normally go look at art will go and have dinner and appreciate what we're showing as art."
Shannon Partridge, a 24-year-old UA senior who graduated from Marana High School, submitted an homage to macabre Victorian-era portraits with a series called "The Others." Using software, she superimposed ghostly images on top of original portraits.
Partridge, who plans to turn her own portrait studio (www.facebook.com/scpartridgephoto) into a career after graduating in May, said she was pleased with the opportunity.
"This is my first time exhibiting in a restaurant, and I thought it was an awesome thing," she said. "This is my last semester and I'm submitting a lot, trying to get into as many exhibits as possible."
Almquist said she's impressed with The Parish's commitment to local art.
"I think it's great to support local artists," she said. "Any restaurant that supports the community is a good thing."
IF YOU GO
• What: The Parish.
• Where: 6453 N. Oracle Road.
• Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight daily.
• Phone: 797-1233.
DID YOU KNOW?
"Gastropub" is a restaurant concept based on serving high-end beer and food. Gastropubs take standard pub fare and attempt to elevate it to gourmet levels with creative ingredients and presentation.
Contact reporter Phil Villarreal at 573-4130 or email@example.com