100 Creatives

Vanessa Davidson on Why the Phoenix Art Scene Deserves More Recognition

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 46. Vanessa Davidson.

Vanessa Davidson first became enamored with the arts while spending a year of college studying in Buenos Aires and São Paulo. She says, "And I never looked back."

Davidson studied Hispano-American literature at Harvard and went on to earn her Ph.D. in Latin American art history from New York University. She says it was through a combination of hard work, passion, good advice, and luck that she came to where she is today: serving as the Shawn and Joe Lampe Curator of Latin American Art at Phoenix Art Museum.

It's a lengthy title with a lengthier list of responsibilities. "I’m responsible for researching, organizing exhibitions, writing publications, and giving gallery tours and lectures on art in Latin America from the colonial period to the present day," she says. "It’s a lot of ground to cover, but I feel very fortunate to work with a stellar team and also to have the opportunity to think about and work with art that feeds my passion every single day."

At present, it means she's hard at work organizing three upcoming exhibitions: one showcasing the work of Argentinian artist Horacio Zabala; another focused on contemporary Brazilian art from the São Paulo Museum of Modern Art's collection; and the third a survey of Brazilian artist Valeska Soares' work in collaboration with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art that's part of the Getty Foundation’s 2017 Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles/Latin America initiative.

Davidson's tenure at PAM has included some high highs. "I think I’m most proud of the 'Order, Chaos, and the Space Between: Contemporary Latin American Art from the Diane and Bruce Halle Collection' exhibition I curated with Beverly Adams in 2013," she says, "and also the 'Art Is Our Last Hope' international exhibition of contemporary mail art that I organized at the museum and monOrchid in 2014-15."

Both were well-received, must-see shows. "But," Davidson says, "I still feel that the best is yet to come."

I came to Phoenix with high hopes.

I curate art because new discoveries inspire me every day.

I'm most productive when I’m caffeinated.

I've learned most from my mentors Robert Storr and Edward Sullivan, and the artists I’ve been lucky enough to work with.

Good work should always make you think.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more recognition. It’s fierce.

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
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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