1Spot Gallery in downtown Phoenix is closing after Third Friday, September 16, says Damian Jim, the Navajo artist who co-founded the gallery in 2012 with fellow artist Michelle Ponce.
The gallery, which specializes in showing works by indigenous artists, is located in Roosevelt Row. In 2013, it earned a New Times Big Brain Award in visual arts for Jim and Ponce.
Losing 1Spot Gallery is the latest shift in the local arts landscape. Just last month, a trio of galleries including Lotus Contemporary Art and Five15 Arts closed after the building that housed them changed owners.
Earlier this year, Andrew Pielage closed his Drive-Thru Gallery located next door to 1Spot Gallery, moving his photography practice to his new home in the Garfield neighborhood just east of Roosevelt Row.
Now that space is home to Bassim Al-Shaker’s new Babylon Gallery, which celebrates its official grand opening the very night 1Spot Gallery is holding its farewell show.
Roosevelt Row has undergone significant change in recent years, comprising mostly multilevel housing developments that some artists hail as gentrification destined to drive them out of the very area they helped build.
But that’s not why Jim is leaving.
Instead, it’s the investment of time and energy it takes to run a gallery.
It’s been a year or so since Ponce, who’s focused on raising her young child, has been involved with the gallery. And it’s been a year of significant reflection for Jim, now 43, who suffered a heart attack at the gallery early in 2015.
“Being a gallery manager isn’t easy,” Jim says. “I’m already overworked and not getting enough painting done.” In addition to being an artist, Jim holds a full-time job outside the arts sector. So does his girlfriend, Katja Lehmann, who's been helping with gallery operations while launching a publishing startup called Kryptic Leaf.
“It’s a matter of priorities,” Jim says.
At this point, he’s ready to focus on his own art practice and sustaining a healthy lifestyle. Although he doesn’t plan to reopen 1Spot Gallery in another location, he’ll still be making art – and working on several additional projects, including publishing some of his work.
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The final exhibition at 1Spot Gallery will feature primarily paintings, some old and some new. Recently, he’s been working on a new series called Bii Bitoodnii, inspired by his mother’s Deer Springs clan.
Looking back, Ponce says the gallery has made important contributions to the art community. They opened after a successful pop-up show of indigenous works at the A.E. England building during Art Detour 2012. And they’ve shown diverse works by indigenous artists, including Jeff Slim and Averian Chee, ever since.
“We’ve opened up the possibility for other artists to take the initiative and go out there and do it,” Jim says. Still, he’s feeling sad about bringing his 1Spot Gallery days to a close.
“It’s been a big chunk of my life,” Jim says.