Under the Sun: The Business of Art

Lauren Lee’s mural on the side of Shaneland Arts, the former home of a frame shop.EXPAND
Lauren Lee’s mural on the side of Shaneland Arts, the former home of a frame shop.
Robrt L. Pela
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Ten or 15 people come into Shaneland Arts each week, looking to have something framed, the retail gallery’s co-founders said last Friday afternoon.

“This used to be a frame shop,” Shane McCall explained.

His partner, Mike Stein, rolled his eyes. “Where are the frames?” he said, echoing a frequently asked question.

“We don’t sell frames,” Stein concluded.

The couple opened Shaneland this past August. Their goal, McCall said, was to be inspirational. “People get to come into a space that inspires them,” he said of Shaneland. “We have a gallery here, and the show will change every month or two. We have a classroom where local artists teach art classes. We sell art supplies and art books, and we have four bays for artists in residence, where they make their work while you watch.”

Across from these open-air artist studios, McCall has an office where he offers solace and advice.

“I’m the creativity coach,” he explained. “It’s like a life coach for creatives. Maybe they have a spouse who tells them they shouldn’t be an artist. Or they had a bad critique, and they think they should stop painting.” Those people, McCall said, come to him to get back on track.

“I had a client who hadn’t painted in eight years,” he began. “Now she’s painting every day. She’s so much happier because she found her artist again. I help art students who’ve gone into the corporate world to navigate all the non-creative restrictions placed on them. I talk to artists about how to price their work, how to set up a show.”

Shaneland’s doors were thrown open to a sunny afternoon and some Camelback Road traffic. A Nile Rodgers song played on the PA. Upfront, surrealist paintings by Diane Sanborn were displayed alongside large portraits by an artist named Ize. “He works in spray paint,” McCall pointed out. “He came in two weeks ago and pitched me, and now he has a space right in the front. We call this easel art, to keep it separate from the gallery.”

“He’s done really well in here,” Stein said of Ize.

“I sold two of his paintings last week,” McCall agreed.

Ernest, an artist who rode right into Shaneland on his bicycle last week, now has a trio of paintings for sale there. “He’s getting a lot of love from people,” McCall thought.

Stein and McCall came to Phoenix from Chicago in 2007. “We’ve lived here before,” Stein clarified. “Shane and I met here in 1991, and then later we moved to Chicago.” There, McCall studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, then went to work for the American Girl doll company. Stein worked for FAO Schwarz. Back in Phoenix, McCall earned a paycheck with PetSmart for 11 years.

“But he was dreaming about Shaneland for years,” Stein said.

“We pitched this idea to 15 banks and investors,” McCall remembered. “And we heard no 14 times, and then we finally heard yes, and here we are. We took this stinky building, it was just such a pit. There were homeless people living here. We had to redo the sewer line in the alley, and we ripped the ceiling out to make it feel like a loft, added the classroom, and put in ADA bathrooms.”

The bathrooms are gender-neutral. A sign next to one of them was marked with images of a fairy and a unicorn. It read, “Whatever, just wash your hands.”

“We wanted to create a gallery where you felt comfortable talking,” McCall said. “Where there’s no ‘don’t-touch’ mentality.”

“People notice the difference,” Stein insisted. “I don’t think anyone in Phoenix has done all of these things under one roof before.”

Art lovers are still discovering Shaneland. The murals on either side of the building — one by Lauren Lee, the other by Diego Perez — are helping. “People see them and literally do a U-turn,” Stein said, then smiled.

“Our model is whatever you do, be creative,” McCall said. “I hope we’re inspiring people to create all the time, whether they’re a novice oil painter or a quilter. We want people to keep growing and creating and not letting other people tell them who they should be. That’s what we’re about.”

The couple are looking forward to a group show in the Shaneland gallery next month. Later that day, the artist Darlene Mount Ritter was going to teach a class on making bleeding tissue scarves. Next week, the artist Scott Hile will show kids how to do backwards painting on plexiglass.

“The reception has been great so far,” Stein said, “but it’s still up and down. People are starting to find us on First Fridays, so that’s good. But it’ll take a while.”

In the meantime, McCall said, people will probably keep coming in looking for frames.

“We don’t sell frames,” Stein repeated.

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