100 Creatives

Tiffany Fairall of Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum on Why the Arts Are a Good Investment

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 47. Tiffany Fairall.

Tiffany Fairall knows museums.

While studying art history and graphic design at Arizona University, from which she has a master's, bacherlor's, and a fine arts degree, the Phoenix native interned at Phoenix Art Museum and the Heard. Over the course of eight years at ASU Art Museum, she worked her way up the chain from work-study student to the position of curatorial assistant at the museum's Ceramics Research Center and assistant registrar. 

And for the past 10 years, Fairall has spent her time at another reputable East Valley institution. She serves as curator of exhibitions at at Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum at Mesa Arts Center, bringing thought-provoking exhibitions to the museum's galleries and working with Phoenix-area artists to showcase local talent. 

"I am a catalyst that exposes people of all backgrounds to contemporary art," she says of her work. 

She has organized exhibitions that push past typical museum fare. Last year, "Boundless" examined books transformed into contemporary art. In 2013, "Messin' with the Masters" looked at contemporary works riffing on classics. Back in 2008, she presented "Beneath the Skin," a show of artwork inspired by tattoos. 

But Fairall, 40, says her greatest accomplishment came more recently. "I have many that I am proud of, but my greatest thus far has been the installation of Desert Rose (Nuevas Generaciones), El Mac’s 35-foot-tall mural in the museum’s courtyard."

The mural was painted in conjunction with "Aerosol Exalted," an exhibition of El Mac's work originated by the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. The artist got his start in street art here in Phoenix, where he grew up, though he's since moved to Los Angeles and gained international notoriety. 

"Aerosol Exalted" closes August 7. And Fairall is busy putting the finishing touches on the museum's fall offerings, which focus on visual art influenced by literature, and looking toward spring. "The big curated exhibition is 'Off the Page,' and there are four solo shows: Arizona creatives Daniel Martin Diaz and Corrine Geertsen and international artists Béatrice Coron and Dina Goldstein," she says. "We are also partnering with ThinkSpace Gallery on several exhibitions in the spring."

I came to Phoenix naked with an umbilical cord attached! I was born here.

Technically, I don’t make art, but I am in this field because I am passionate about it. I love how art is a reflection of the society it is from and how it can spark a meaningful dialog about contemporary issues. 

I'm most productive when I am inspired by a new idea or project. 

My inspiration wall is full of ideas for my home, future travel adventures, and exhibitions. My personal life consists of mental home-improvement lists and website searches of places I would like to visit. For work, I keep e-mail draft lists of artists who might fit an exhibition theme I am toying with.

I've learned the most from travel. It breaks me from my bubble and exposes me to new ideas and perspectives. So far, I have been able to keep a promise I made myself in 2000, which was the first time I had travelled outside the U.S. — visit someplace or experience something new every year. It helps me maintain a sense of wonder about the world and keeps my mind open to new ways of thinking.

For me, good work should always invite closer contemplation. Quality, aesthetic, and meaningful commentary are all good guidelines. Sometimes, I like something because of the feeling I get when I view it or it challenges me or I admire the artist’s craftsmanship and/or use of material. There really is no magic formula for what will be universally considered “good art,” so I often like to say that I am only one opinion in a sea of critics.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more financial support from businesses, governments, and individuals. The arts are an investment, and should be treated as such. Every great civilization that we study in history had a strong art-focused culture. In many cases, art is the only evidence we have that a society even existed. I’ve watch as the arts have been cut from schools and public programs because of limited funding. Professional artists are also extremely generous, always giving or underestimating their time and talents. Creativity is intellectual property, and the arts hold intrinsic value.

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
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Becky Bartkowski is an award-winning journalist and the arts and music editor at New Times, where she writes about art, fashion, and pop culture.
Contact: Becky Bartkowski