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Foote doesn't make it easy. He expects a lot out of his artists, especially the students. If they get below a C on schoolwork, skip class, or mouth off to a teacher, their work gets pulled. And while Foote encourages his kids to visit nearby galleries, they know one complaint will ruin their chance to sell.
"It's more trying to get them to realize that they're students, and they're representing every student that comes through here. So be respectful," Foote says.
The gallery brings together the best of both worlds — the art has to be quality but the prices aren't untouchable. Esser sees Foote as a go-between. "He's basically the person who's made the connection between the Scottsdale art buying market and downtown [Phoenix] visuals," says Esser. "He's brought the vitality of the downtown community to the Scottsdale community."
Some of Art One's most faithful clients, Foote says, are contractors, real estate agents, designers, and young art collectors — people looking to hang affordable art in their homes and offices without resorting to generic prints from IKEA. Typically, prices max out at $1,500 and start as low as $150.
Foote's had his ups and downs, and some experiments haven't been successful. For almost four years, he ran a second location in downtown Phoenix on Grand Avenue, sandwiched between The Trunk Space and The Bikini Lounge.
But the First Friday mayhem was too much of a departure from Foote's calmer home in Scottsdale. "It got to the point where our clients wouldn't even go down there," he says. Late in summer 2007, Foote left Grand Avenue. Almost immediately, Vestar Development Company offered Foote an 8,000-square-foot space in the new Tempe Marketplace. It was a temporary gig: six months, free of charge.
"We were treated like royalty," Foote says. About 70,000 shoppers passed through during Art One's brief stay in Tempe. The Tempe location closed in March 2008; that's when things started looking grim.
With the economy faltering, Foote's found himself in the hole.
"As far as what's happening right now, this is the worst we've ever had in 14 years," he says.
June 1 was marked as doomsday, but after talking to his staff, Foote decided to stick it out. "I just sat down and I said, 'What do you guys want to do? How important is Art One to you?' And they said, 'It's everything.'"
Others agree. His landlords (who own the neighboring stationery store, The Paper Place) are helping with rent. Artists not only slashed prices but donated works to the gallery. Employees took wage cuts, and Foote even put his house up for sale.
"You know, I sat here and I looked at all of these high school kids and I thought, 'I've seen them grow up. How can I just walk away?' and I thought, 'You know, I'm just going to lose it all anyway, so I might as well battle for it.'"
A few doors down at Lisa Sette Gallery, it's a different story. The high-end gallery represents powerhouse artists like James Turrell and William Wegman. Sales are good, things are busy, and they're seeing an increase in international sales. Owner Lisa Sette says she was sorry to hear of Foote's struggles.
"I like Kraig and was happy when he became our neighbor," she says. "Art One provided the community of younger artists a great place to learn about the business of art."
Sette refuses to even consider Foote's defeat, or what Art One's exit would mean for Marshall Way. "I'm not going to speculate on how the street would change if he were to close," she says, "in hopes that he does not."