By Amy Silverman
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Calverley remembers a time when Scottsdale's ArtWalk was thriving.
"Twenty years ago, on a Thursday night, it wasn't unusual to get 1,200 people down here," she says. "When I came to town, it was a much smaller community with much less to do. Back then, ArtWalk was the thing to do on a Thursday night. There was just the Biltmore and Biltmore Fashion Park, but now you've got Tempe Marketplace, Chandler Fashion Square, and all these other forms of entertainment."
Things have slowed down on Marshall Way in the past few years. "It's a very difficult time economically for a lot of people," Calverley says. "Galleries are shutting down, and artists are not getting representation. We had all these big, empty spaces right across the street."
Many of those spaces are owned by Dewey Schade. Several months ago, Calverley, who owns the Bentley Gallery property, approached him with a proposal: Why not rent those empty spaces to emerging artists for an affordable rate, at least until he could find tenants to pay full rent?
Schade seemed open to the idea, but it was Calverley's willingness to sign the lease for those spaces herself that sealed the deal. "I'm persuasive," she says. "Plus, he had the confidence of dealing with a 20-year tenant."
Calverley says she'd seen pop-up galleries in London but didn't know that's what they were called. "A lot of times, they'd say, 'We're here this week, but we may not be here next week,'" she says. "There's an urgency to it — some of the retail spaces in New York are only renting to artists for a week. That's an effective way to market — 'Get it now because we might not have it tomorrow.'"
Neither Calverley nor the artists in the pop-up galleries would disclose exact rent figures, but there are rental rates available for similar retail spaces on Marshall Way. The empty space at 4222 North Marshall Way, which formerly housed the Cervini Haas Gallery and sits right in the middle of the new pop-ups, rents for approximately $40,989 a year.
A little further down Marshall Way, near Fifth Avenue, there's a slightly larger empty space available for $55,200 a year. Much smaller retail spaces on Fifth Avenue and Craftsman Court in Old Town Scottsdale are listed at $16,200 and $18,000 a year, respectively.
Space in Old Town Scottsdale isn't exactly cheap, and that's why many emerging artists didn't set up shop there. They just couldn't afford it — until now. Thanks to Calverley, local artists once relegated to vendor booths on Roosevelt Row during First Friday art walks in downtown Phoenix can pay rent directly to her and have galleries in Scottsdale.
Calverley asked her preparator, Craig Randich, to find artists who could rent and use the empty spaces. The only stipulation: Galleries had to be open on Thursdays and Saturdays, when Calverley says they get the most foot traffic. (Bentley Gallery, though, does not participate in ArtWalk from June through October.)
Randich, a former member of eye lounge on Roosevelt Row, started sending out e-mail blasts to his contacts in the downtown arts scene. Within a couple of months, a handful of artists — many with roots in downtown Phoenix's popular First Friday art walks — answered the call.
Among them were Emmett Potter and Spencer Hibert of Soyal — two downtown Phoenix guys who'd never expected to open a gallery in Scottsdale. Hibert's own live/work space is the former Kitchenette space off Roosevelt. He shows work there on First Fridays. Potter worked with an art collective at Second Street and Garfield, then later out of a house on Third Avenue and Portland, and most recently, a place at 15th Avenue and Grand. "It had a leaky roof, and it was kind of cramped," Potter says. "At our shows, people would just pile in and walk right out. But here, people can come in and talk about the art and look at it."
It's a bright Thursday afternoon in late May, and local artist Baron Gordon is giving a tour of his favorite spots along Marshall Way. He's wearing dress slacks, a dark blue button-down shirt, and a pair of sunglasses he never removes.
From the street, Rhodes' fluorescent greens and pastel purples shine through the gallery's front windows, each filled with sharp angles and images of strange creatures in a wild juxtaposition of colors.
Dan Diaz's work includes hand-painted Vans shoes and benches made of painted skateboard decks and leather. Gordon's features a foam painting of Angela Davis with a big Afro and a map of the United States-Mexico border with historical anecdotes and anti-SB 1070 statements written all over it.
There's also a wall dedicated to the pop culture portraits of Jason Rudolph Peña, including a screaming green She-Hulk and a portrait of Hellboy in red.
All the artists at 5 and 6 are under 40, and some have shown and sold their art on Roosevelt Row during First Fridays.
In 2008, Gordon ran the Produce gallery at Ninth Avenue and Pierce Street. "When I had Produce, we had a lot of different artists' work, which was great, but I didn't get to show my stuff," Gordon says. "So this is good. 5 and 6 gives us an opportunity to stay focused and create new pieces and be continuous and fresh."
Bravo!! A truly accurate representation of what is going on!!
Very well done. I'd like to see more of this type of in-depth reporting on the arts in the valley. a good news story with wide appeal that does justice to the art it covers, too. good job. more, please.
Kudos on this excellent article! Proof positive that art/culture can be reported as NEWS without having to marginalize creative-types' work & efforts via "What Are You Wearing/Eating?"-type puff pieces that barely mention the art itself.
This story is the real deal. Thanks!