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A Homegrown Artist Colony Is Rising in Sunnyslope

Behind the senes at Aileen Frick's art studio in Sunnyslope.
Behind the senes at Aileen Frick's art studio in Sunnyslope.
Aileen Frick

When you think about art colonies, places like New York’s Woodstock, California’s Carmel-by-the-Sea, or New Mexico’s Taos probably come to mind. Turns out, there’s a creative colony coming together right here in Phoenix in Sunnyslope, a neighborhood north of downtown.

Sunnyslope is home to some of Phoenix’s best-known artists, including Fausto Fernandez, Aileen Frick, and Larry Ortega. Collectively, they’re creating a vibrant arts enclave that blends city comforts with desert surroundings.

The Sunnyslope area is centered around Seventh Street, where Cave Creek Road meets Dunlap Avenue. It sits just south of North Mountain Shaw Butte, and west of Phoenix Mountain Preserves, which is one reason Ortega finds it so appealing. “We love the mountains and the privacy,” he says.

Larry Ortega enjoys working surrounded by nature in Sunnyslope.EXPAND
Larry Ortega enjoys working surrounded by nature in Sunnyslope.
Larry Ortega

He’s lived in Sunnyslope for 20 years now, witnessing all kinds of creatives move into the area from downtown Phoenix or Scottsdale. “We have an eclectic mix of artists, poets, musicians, and filmmakers,” Ortega says. Some are lured by the mountains, and others by affordable housing.

Aileen Frick, an artist best known for elaborate collage pieces, moved to Sunnyslope 17 years ago. “It was partly affordability,” she says. “That’s where art starts, in places where artists can afford to live.” But she’s also fond of the area’s overall vibe. “People that live here have an amazing sense of community.”

Some artists live in Sunnyslope, whereas others just have studio space. Frick has a three-bedroom house, where nearly every room gets used for art-making. There’s a room where she stores panels and paintings, and another where she spreads her paper pieces out on the floor to make large-scale collages that sometimes detail parts of Phoenix’s urban landscape.

Fausto Fernandez is one of the latest creatives to embrace the Sunnyslope vibe.EXPAND
Fausto Fernandez is one of the latest creatives to embrace the Sunnyslope vibe.
Fausto Fernandez

Fausto Fernandez lives in another part of Phoenix, but shares space inside a warehouse called Ironwood Studios, where other creatives include furniture craftsman Scott Mills and yoga expert Leah Bosworth. He found the space in early 2017, after returning to Phoenix following a series of art projects in California and New Mexico.

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“I was looking for a space to live and have my studio, but to my surprise Phoenix had changed a lot,” Fernandez recalls. “Spaces along Grand Avenue and the warehouse area were scarce, so I found another place through Facebook.” He’s happy with the choice, in part because he likes working near other creative types. “I just really embrace our little community,” he says.

Fausto is one of several artists participating in an open studio tour on Saturday, October 27. It’s a chance to go behind the scenes with more than a dozen creatives, and see how art, music, food, and fashion are converging in Sunnyslope. He’ll be there after 1:30 p.m., so the yoga studio can use the space for morning classes.

More than dozen additional artists are participating in the studio tour, including JoAnn Auger, Kris Kollasch, Kathy Taylor, and Joan Thompson. “I’m really excited for the studio tour,” Frick says. “It’ll be interesting for people to see what all it takes to put our work together.”

Sunnyslope Open Studios Tour. Saturday, October 27, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free. Locations vary. Get details on the event webpage.

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