Tess Mosko Scherer of Shemer Art Center Shares Her Advice for Up-and-Coming Artists

Meet Shemer Art Center's artistic director, Tess Mosko Scherer.EXPAND
Meet Shemer Art Center's artistic director, Tess Mosko Scherer.
Marty Scherer

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 24. Tess Mosko Scherer.

Tess Mosko Scherer's creative endeavors have one chief aim. That is, through journaling, art books, and mixed-media works, the artist emphasizes "expression — yours and mine."

If her mission sounds broad, that's because it is. But it has to be, given her multifaceted career in the arts. Beyond her creative practice, Mosko Scherer serves as artistic director of Shemer Art Center, president of the Arizona Artists Guild, owner of Scherer Gallery, and as a coach and mentor to others, often artists. 

Not only does the 53-year-old split her time between ventures — she also splits it between parts of Arizona. Mosko Scherer grew up in Middletown, New Jersey, as the youngest of seven siblings. She moved to Sedona in 1997, and then to the Valley in 2009. "I currently reside in Peoria," she says. "I work in Arcadia. I feel an allegiance to both towns, as well as Sedona. I spend a lot of time driving to different parts of the city and the outlying areas."

She credits her successes to focus, risk-taking, and "pursuing something deeper within myself that just wouldn’t quit." But then again, those successes stretch beyond herself: She has seen her gallery artists placed in prominent public and private collections, worked in public positions to help connect and transform others through art, and has heard from viewers that her works of art have changed them for the better.

Cracked Open is a collaborative mixed-media piece created by Mosko Scherer and David L. Bradley that consists of ceramic material and paper.EXPAND
Cracked Open is a collaborative mixed-media piece created by Mosko Scherer and David L. Bradley that consists of ceramic material and paper.
Courtesy of Tess Mosko Scherer

Although the process of creating brings her joy and inner peace, she says, "hearing the impact of my work on others fills me with a different kind of joy. As an artist, I am gratified knowing my work has impacted the lives of my collectors. I am humbled and grateful when I read a thank you from a client or a note someone feels compelled to write because the work moved them to do so. That is the best."

Her latest project is a series of mixed-media pieces (some of which are collaborative works) that are about, as she puts it, being cracked open. The works begin as sketches that are hand-embossed into paper, which is then torn, scraped, stabbed, and combined with water color, pastels, colored pencils, and graphite. Finally, the torn pieces are sewn together with waxed Irish linen thread. "What events in life crack us open – or conversely crack us closed?" she asks. "Sometimes, it is an event or a question that sears the soul."

Inspired by nature and human nature, the artist says she doesn't have a clear explanation for how she stays motivated to continue creating and managing multiple undertakings. But she does have a bit of advice for artists working to build careers. 

"Never dim for the sake of another," she says. "Shine brigh,t and those around you shine, too. Work hard. Play hard. Take care of yourself."

I’d like to say I came to Phoenix with my dog. Or I came to Phoenix with a dream. Or something equally poetic. But the reality – my reality – is that I came to Phoenix by default.

I moved to Phoenix after spending three years traveling the U.S. I was creatively ignited and needing to nest, to settle in and plant roots for myself. I was untethered, as we had closed the gallery after 37 years, and my marriage of 22 years had unraveled. Although Phoenix chose me more than I chose it, it has offered an unexpected opportunity for me to step fully into myself as an artist and as a woman. Not as a wife, daughter, sister, businesswoman, or any of the many other hats I had worn throughout my life. I found myself on my own, with my dog, and strong family ties. Guided by a deep curiosity, I dove into my art.

I make art because it is an inherent way for me to express myself. Shy as a kid, I made art as a way to connect to something beyond myself. Which is so interesting because what I connect to when making art resides deep within. My art allows me to communicate to a broader audience. What I have come to learn is that even if it touches just one person, a life has been changed because of it. This is important to me.

Mosko Scherer's The Witness Trees combines pastel, colored pencil, and graphite with Irish linen thread.EXPAND
Mosko Scherer's The Witness Trees combines pastel, colored pencil, and graphite with Irish linen thread.
Courtesy of Tess Mosko Scherer

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I'm most productive when I get enough sleep, and have a healthy balance of obligations and studio time. If I am overwhelmed or stretched beyond my capacity, I flounder. And I get really crabby.

My inspiration wall is full of ... I live in my inspiration wall. I have a broad library of art books and psychology/personal growth books. I have a collection of objects I have found in nature, including birds’ nests, stones, driftwood, shells and feathers. I collect words and textures and other people’s art. My inner circle of artist friends are free thinkers / original thinkers. It is important for me to be with like-minded creatives who view the world through their own lens.

I've learned most from my mistakes. And trust me, I have had my full share of mistakes. They inform my decisions both in and out of my studio. If I find myself holding back creatively, my mantra is "I have nothing to lose and everything to gain" – and then I am all in. But probably my biggest mistake in life was to put myself last. Not honoring my creative calling early on. However, the life lessons I learned are seared into my work. So it is all as it is meant to be and all part of the process.

Good work should always invite you in – aesthetically and emotionally. Expression and originality are important to me. I am moved when I view art that clearly comes from a place deep within – from the heart, the soul, a higher self, or whatever you want to call it. It’s one thing to be technically skilled. It’s another to risk expression of one's heart, soul, or mind. To be so deeply personal that it becomes universal.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more connectedness. I don’t know how that can be achieved due to the widespread geographical area. My hope is that through my work at Shemer Art Center and Arizona Artists Guild, I will have an opportunity to impact how we connect artists as well as arts organizations.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney
68. Laura Dragon
67. Stephanie Neiheisel
66. Michael Lanier
65. Jessica Rajko
64. Velma Kee Craig
63. Oliver Hibert
62. Joya Scott
61. Raji Ganesan
60. Ashlee Molina
59. Myrlin Hepworth
58. Amy Ettinger
57. Sheila Grinell
56. Forrest Solis
55. Mary Meyer
54. Robert Hoekman Jr.
53. Joan Waters
52. Gabriela Muñoz
51. ColorOrgy
50. Liz Magura
49. Anita and Sam Means
48. Liz Ann Hewett
47. Tiffany Fairall
46. Vanessa Davidson
45. Michelle Dock
44. Nia Witherspoon
43. Monique Sandoval
42. Nayon Iovino
41. Daniel Davisson
40. Andrew King
39. Michelle Moyer
38. Jimmy Nguyen
37. Tiffany Lopez
36. Kristin Bauer
35. Donna Isaac
34. Douglas Miles
33. Sierra Joy
32. Francisco Flores
31. Amy Robinson
30. Julio Cesar Morales
29. Duane Daniels
28. Kelsey Pinckney
27. Ben Smith
26. Rembrandt Quiballo
25. Corinne Geertsen


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