Art

Laura Dragon Steps Away From Managing {9} The Gallery

Laura Dragon during the opening reception last year's "Heart of the Dragon" exhibit at {9} The Gallery.
Laura Dragon during the opening reception last year's "Heart of the Dragon" exhibit at {9} The Gallery. Lynn Trimble
Laura Dragon is turning management of {9} The Gallery over to Carrie Beth and Sean McGarry. Moving forward, Dragon will be a consultant sharing ideas and assistance, rather than handling operations at the downtown Phoenix gallery.

“I’m so excited they’ll be taking over the space,” Dragon says. “Carrie Beth and I have the same eye for art, and I know they will be totally devoted to {9}.”

Dragon founded the Grand Avenue art space in 2012. She named it for the number 9, which has proven significant at various times in her life. “The brackets represent all the possibilities for what’s between them,” she says.

Today, {9} The Gallery is a staple of the downtown arts scene. Dragon also co-founded Grand ArtHaus, another Grand Avenue arts venue, in 2016.

Last April, Dragon was diagnosed with stage-four lung cancer, which meant she had to focus on her health. She began looking for ways to keep the gallery moving forward without her constant presence.

She started by forming {9} The Collective, which launched last October. It’s a small group of artists who show work in the space and help with gallery operations.

Installation view of a previous Aileen Frick exhibition at {9} The Gallery. - LAURA DRAGON
Installation view of a previous Aileen Frick exhibition at {9} The Gallery.
Laura Dragon
Now, she’s transitioning to a new model.

Starting this month, {9} The Gallery will be managed by the McGarrys. Between them, they’ve got degrees in art history and arts management. And they paint using the shared pseudonym FunWOW.

Dragon met the couple during the Grand Avenue Festival in 2016, and says they’ve been friends ever since. “I’m so relieved to have found someone who cares about the gallery just as much as I do,” Dragon says.

Even so, she isn’t walking away from the gallery. Instead, Dragon will serve as a consultant, sharing ideas and helping out as needed.

Over the course of more than five years, Dragon has presented over 100 exhibitions, showing primarily work by local emerging and established artists.

click to enlarge Previous "Tiny Works|Tiny Dances" exhibition at {9} The Gallery. - LYNN TRIMBLE
Previous "Tiny Works|Tiny Dances" exhibition at {9} The Gallery.
Lynn Trimble
Some, including her “Tiny Works|Tiny Dances” shows that pairs small-scale artworks with live dance performance on small stages, have become popular annual traditions.

The McGarrys collaborated with Dragon on putting the next show together. It’s called “Deck’d,” which features more than 50 skateboards transformed by local creatives. It opens on Friday, March 16, and continues through Sunday, March 18.

More exhibitions will follow, but so will other endeavors, such as ramping up the gallery’s online retail presence. “We want to help emerging artists launch their careers,” Sean says.

But most of all, they want to build on Dragon’s success. “We want to be sure we honor Laura’s legacy,” Carrie Beth says.

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Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts
Contact: Lynn Trimble