People who stopped to watch David Bessent painting live during the Lost Lake Festival in October 2017 probably couldn't have imagined he’d be murdered just one year later as he headed home after work in the Roosevelt Row arts district.
Bessent was walking with Zachary Walter along the south side of Roosevelt Row near Third Avenue around 3:30 a.m., after working the late shift at Jobot Coffee & Bar during First Friday on October 5, 2018.
Both men were emerging artists. And both were shot by suspects who tried to rob them, according to a Phoenix Police Department update issued on August 21. Two of those suspects have been arrested and charged with first-degree murder, even as law enforcement continues its search for at least two more suspects.
Now, Bessent’s family is working to honor his memory. They’re creating a foundation with a dual purpose: supporting emerging artists and addressing gun violence, even as the community continues to mourn the loss of two beloved creatives.
Before the murders, Bessent had spent a year creating a new body of work, which includes 27 large-scale abstract paintings. They’ll be shown for the first time on Third Friday, September 20, during the opening reception for a free exhibition called “David Bessent: A Life of Art Cut Short by Violence.”
It’s happening at Gallery 119, a studio space belonging to creatives and married couple Jo-Ann Lowney and Joel Coplin. They learned of Bessent’s work through mutual friend Clarke Reidy, a former apprentice to renowned sculptor John Waddell.
When Reidy moved to Hawaii in 2012, he left behind a working art studio located in an industrial area behind Sky Harbor Airport. Then, he remembered a former art student who was particularly gifted and invited him to use the studio for a year.
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That student was David Bessent.
Now, the works he painted there are being exhibited for the first time, in an art show that also includes sketchbooks filled with hundreds of his drawings.
“We are hoping to raise awareness about an emerging artist who will never emerge because of gun violence,” Lowney says.
"David Bessent: A Life of Violence Cut Short by Art." The free opening reception runs from 6 to 10 p.m. on Third Friday, September 20, at Gallery 119, 119 South 11th Avenue.