New Gilbert Art Center To Open in November

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Here's a scenario where art changed a life.

Two years ago, Alan Fitzgerald attended an Art Intersection/One Revolving Door workshop in the small Italian village of Vitiana. The program, founded by Phoenix-based artists Julie Hampton, Carol Panaro-Smith, and others, was one of Fitzgerald's first hands-on experiences with art during a life mainly spent at a his corporate desk job.

The experience stuck with Fitzgerald. He returned to the States and took more art classes, including courses in alternative photographic processes taught by Panaro-Smith and her husband James Hajicek, a longtime ASU photography professor who recently retired.

But Fitzgerald wanted more, so earlier this year, he bankrolled a 7,000-sq. ft. project that would offer traditional darkroom space for analog photographers, workshops in all sorts of disciplines, and a gallery featuring the work of heavy-hitting artists.

Soon thereafter, he bought the rights for Art Intersection, brought on Panaro-Smith as program director, and asked Hampton for creative-centric advice.

The result is Art Intersection, which is slated to open its doors to the public with a grand opening party and art reception on November 13 and 14.

Located in the oft-overlooked Heritage Court District of downtown Gilbert -- and a stone's throw from Liberty Market, which has been compared to the popular La Grande Orange -- the privately-funded endeavor is long overdo, according to Panaro-Smith. "Gilbert has no visual-art program," she says, "so this will be an interesting experiment."

Panaro-Smith, a veteran of the local art scene, has programmed the space through summer 2011. November and December will showcase "The Art of Giving" theme featuring the "Out of the Blue" contemporary cyanotype exhibit; local and handmade design savvy products from Hampton's a.ware retail project; and traditional photographic courses that "move away from the fast-paced world of digital photography," says Fitzgerald.

Panaro-Smith admits that she's pretty stoked for Art Intersection. However, she's been around long enough to know that the Valley is fickle when it comes to supporting the arts, especially when it requires a more-than-15-minute drive.

Says Panaro-Smith, "I get the same way where I don't travel outside of a 10-mile radius, but we have high hopes that people from Phoenix will drive out to Gilbert."

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