Oregano's
Courtesy of Oreganos

When the Old Town Scottsdale Oregano's bailed on its original home and moved into the long-abandoned building that once housed an extravagant bar called Sugar Daddy's, we were a little shocked. But not as shocked as we were when we opened the paper and saw the ad campaign for their new location — which just happened to be a stone's throw away from Scottsdale's infamous smut hut, Zorba's. The ad proclaimed exactly that — "It's just a short walk to Zorba's (now open at Scottsdale Road and Earll!)." Because who doesn't need a little lube or a steamy video after an adventurous meal at Oregano's?

We shouldn't have been surprised – this small pizza chain has cracked us up for years with clever word plays on billboards, like "Make the Forks Be with You," "Don't Pass This Joint" and "Pick Your Seat on Our Patio." From time to time, Oregano's offers a $50 gift card to a customer who comes up with a particularly good ad idea; hey, it's cheaper than hiring those Mad Men types. Check Oregano's website for details.

In F. Scott Fitzgerald's influential novel The Great Gatsby, the titular gentleman is a stylish bon vivant with a mysterious nature and penchant for partying. Sounds a lot like another Gatsby we happen to know, specifically this 42-year-old photographer and scenester who fittingly drew his nickname from the book's most infamous character. Case in point: Dapper is shy about revealing his real name or too many details about his enigmatic past. He's dropped hints about having been involved with the nightlife world but won't drop dime on the full details. But while we're unfamiliar with the cat's history, his particular tastes are well known. When he's out and about, Dapper is usually just that, preferring to adorn himself with hip or throwback apparel, ranging from classic Panama straw hats or Salvatore Ferragamo loafers to fly Ben Davis work shirts. He also tends toward stylish accessories, like or the dark green 1969 Cadillac Coupe de Ville he pilots around town. On various nights throughout the week, Dapper likely can be found quaffing cocktails with his glamorous gal P.K. Peck at any of a number of trendy gatherings, popular club events, or down-low dance events taking place after hours. Regardless of where you might see him, the affable and loquacious Dapper is always up for chatting about such topics as 1930s film or his taste for Lagavulin 16-year-old single malt scotch. You stay classy, Dapper.

Most of the Facebook pages devoted to the Phoenix arts scene are given over to promotions of upcoming events and a whole ton of inner-circle schmoozing. But the Phoenix Remodernists page is somehow different. Interesting discussion actually takes place here, among a varied crowd of artists, art fans, and collectors. Sure, there are the usual plugs for an exhibit or two, but there's also a lot of insight into what the art crowd is actually up to when it's not plowing through another First Friday. One can find more than just gossip and dissension among the daily posts on this page, a sort of clearinghouse and message board for creative types who want input on what they're working on and how they're feeling about it. Check them out.

Por Vida Gallery

The Phoenix arts district, often noted for its growing mural project, saw a fresh coat of paint on the corner of 16th Street and Windsor Avenue in late December. Painter El Mac came back to town to lend an anonymous portrait and his signature to the street's newest gallery, Por Vida.

The gallery's owners and curators include local artists Pablo Luna, Thomas "Breeze" Marcus, and Lalo Cota, all staple names in the art community who signed a one-year lease and wasted no time in getting the place ready to showcase their work and that of other artists in the neighborhood.So far, the three have curated monthly shows featuring work by Douglas Miles of Apache Skateboards, Luna, and Un3ek sy5tem, among other local artists. And what's in the name? Cota says it was a natural fit — art is what they all do for a living and will do for life.
Lisa Sette Gallery
Andrew Pielage

More than 25 years ago, Lisa Sette opened the doors of her contemporary art gallery in Scottsdale. She had just finished studying art history and photography at ASU and says she wanted to find a way to be surrounded by art while providing a space and service for artists to showcase their work. Today, she represents 36 artists from around the country, including Arizona-based Matthew Moore, Mayme Kratz, Julianne Swartz, Enrique Chagoya, Angela Ellsworth, James Turrell, Rachel Bess, and Anthony Velasquez. This group is Sette's passion and focus, and her serene, well-lit gallery provides a beautiful stage for each artist's work and for her loyal following and local community to come visit, incorporating and celebrating all that's best about an art gallery. No wonder she's survived for so long, while others have come and gone. Brava.

Heard Museum

Since it opened in 1929, the Heard Museum has been a wealth of Native American history, stories, and artwork that have shaped this city and community. Here, you can find century-old Katsina dolls and archives of traditional baskets, as well as small- and large-scale paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and clothing created by members of Native tribes throughout the country. If your taste is more contemporary, check out the museum's Berlin Gallery, where you can see (and purchase on the spot!) work by local and national artists who often stop in for lectures and meet-and-greets. This year, the museum's director packed her bags for New Mexico, leaving the future — and legacy — of the museum in the hands of its board, which is now in the middle of a search to find a leader who respects the museum's past while pushing the boundaries of Native art in contemporary culture. Sounds like a tall order to us; we hope it's filled wisely.

SMoCA Lounge

A couple of years back, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art hosted a lecture. That's not unusual — museums do that kind of thing all the time. But this was a particularly inspiring speech, one we've remembered. Adam Lerner, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver, came to town to talk about his unconventional approach to audience development. This has included a series called Mixed Taste that brought together disparate interests — imagine, for example, a lecture that combines the topics of absinthe and Arctic ice caps. Or video art and migratory birds. People in Colorado flocked to the programs and stayed to see the art.

Super, we thought, but how can that happen here? Two years later, we're pretty sure our own SMoCA is setting the bar. Led by writer and performer Tania Katan, SMoCA Lounge is now putting on creative programming that would make Adam Lerner proud — like artists arm-wrestling to earn grant money, a video series about what Katan does at work (tongue firmly in cheek), and the cherry on the sundae, a series called Lit Lounge, featuring terrific local writers (including New Times' Robrt L. Pela and Sativa Peterson) reading their work along with performances by bands like The Pübes. We can't wait to see what you do next, Tania.

If you're lucky enough to catch a ride with one of the artists who frequent the graffiti tunnels in Phoenix, you'll want to pack a few extra cans of paint. In the tunnels (often dried-out drainage tunnels), you'll find years of graffiti history by names such as MAC, SUCH, KAPER, SWIFT, and FICE. These are their practice grounds, their history books, and their means of communication with other artists who stop through town looking for a creative outlet. There's no map on the books or list of access points hidden on some online forum. It takes a long-timer to know where these spots are and a smooth talker to be able to get a tour.

Behind just about every stop sign in Tempe is a sticky collection of hellos, goodbyes, and markings of "So and so was here." This is no slapdash affair. Sticker art has been around for decades, but many trace slap sticking, sticker tagging, or creating art on stickers, name tags, and post office labels and sticking them around town to the early '90s and an artist named Shepard Fairey. Fairey made a sticker with a bold face of wrestler Andre the Giant. He printed thousands, stuck them all over the streets, and mailed them to other artists around the world.

Today, the best spot in town to find work by emerging street artists is on the back of a street sign in Tempe. It's here you'll spot small-scale work that's rarely peeled off by city law enforcement (because of placement and the number of parties and other legal infractions they keep themselves busy with). It's an ephemeral gallery, and the artists — often in art school at ASU or part of the city's quickly expanding art community — don't mind being stuck up for days, weeks, or even better, months.

Tempe's Mill Avenue and Scottsdale's Marshall Way are college kid hangouts, late-night watering holes, and shopping meccas for anyone in the market for ASU apparel or a collection of cowboy art. But this year, the two main drags became canvases for artists, thanks to Kirstin Van Cleef and Maja Aurora of Scottsdale and Tempe's public art programs. In 2010, Van Cleef launched IN FLUX, a program that filled vacant storefronts with art installations and gave everyone a brighter view of the economic downturn. This year, Van Cleef called Aurora, who brought Mill Avenue on board. The two streets are now home to works by Logan Bellew, Craig Randich, Peter Bugg, Christina Mesiti, and Mary Neubauer and Todd Ingalls. These artists, through site-specific installations with tiny budgets, are connecting the communities between scenes that are much stronger together.

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