Nic Wiesinger Founds Rhetorical Galleries in Downtown Phoenix

Phoenix artist Nic Wiesinger recently founded something called Rhetorical Galleries. But it’s no-brick-and mortar art space. Instead, he explains, Rhetorical Galleries is a vehicle for curating and showing new works.

It's name reflects a simple question posed by Wiesinger: What if we made this space into a gallery? That space could be just about anything.

Wiesinger says he created Rhetorical Galleries to “fill a void” created earlier this year when Halt Gallery co-founder Becky Nahom moved to New York City to attend graduate school. Like Rhetorical Galleries, Halt Gallery was what Wiesinger calls “a space without a place.”

Before relocating, Nahom had been curating Halt Gallery exhibitions inside one of three shipping containers located in the Roosevelt A.R.T.S. Market. Ted Decker curated exhibitions in the other two, known collectively as the Hot Box Gallery.

Artist and Roosevelt Row CDC co-founder Greg Esser, who spearheaded the original shipping container project funded by a 2014 ArtPlace grant, talked a while back about planning to close the shipping container galleries for the summer as he worked on giving them new life as part of an innovative artist work/space.

Instead, he invited Wiesinger to curate exhibitions in the shipping container galleries for a period of three months. Wiesinger recalls taking Esser up on the offer just one hour after getting his e-mail in May. Rhetorical Galleries was born.

Wiesinger describes the enterprise this way on his website: "Rhetorical Galleries strives to create unique, site specific exhibitions that challenge the ideas of place and art making while showcasing and nurturing new and under exposed artists in the valley and beyond."

Wiesinger’s inaugural exhibition, titled “Desert Wild,” featured three artists (New Times contributor Mikey Estes, Matthew Mosher with Tony Obr, and Danielle Wood) — each showing in one of the shipping container galleries. Artist Takashi Hara created a text-based mural on an exterior wall for one of the containers. The exhibition closed on First Friday this month.

Come August Third Friday, he’ll open a second exhibition featuring three artists showing works united by a single theme: place. Participating artists include Molly Koehn, Estrella Payton, and William LeGoullon. Details of the final exhibition for his three-month shipping container run, which opens during September Third Friday, are still a work in progress. It’s too early, he says, to know what will follow.

But he’s got some ideas, many informed by conversations with fellow artists and other community members. He’s heard the area needs more places to show sculpture, more places for installation art, and more places to meld visual and performance art. He’s hoping Rhetorical Galleries can help make it happen.

For now, he’s plenty busy with curatorial tasks, his website (The Arts Beacon) featuring local art-related content from interviews to reviews, and being a new dad. First child Vivian Alexis was born on July 30, during the run for “Desert Wild.”

Instead of feeling torn between his art practice and his other art-related activities, Wiesinger considers both Rhetorical Galleries and The Arts Beacon a part of that practice. Only 10% of his art practice currently involves making actual art, he says. Another 60% is spent on his website and the final 30% on the Rhetorical Galleries gig.

“A lot of my artwork turned into social practice and community practice,” Wiesinger says. “This is an extension of that.”

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