Best Gallery 2013 | Lisa Sette Gallery | People & Places | Phoenix
Andrew Pielage

When talking about the Scottsdale art scene, or the state of the art community in the state, it's impossible to leave Lisa Sette out of the conversation. The local tastemaker has a long history in the community — starting with a degree from Arizona State University and a gallery in her own living room during college. Sette's always been an art fanatic, but her passion's made a huge impact in Scottsdale, where she owns and operates Lisa Sette Gallery.

For decades, Sette has handpicked a roster of über-talented artists whom she represents and showcases to a loyal following and curious Scottsdale audience. More than two decades after opening her gallery, Sette has represented artists including Matthew Moore, Mayme Kratz, Julianne Swartz, Enrique Chagoya, Binh Danh, Angela Ellsworth, James Turrell, Anthony Velasquez, and Rachel Bess. A spot on her roster is a sure sign you've arrived.

Without illustrators, this world would be a lot less interesting. Illustrators speak in pictures and images — transforming written language into shapes and colors and translating sentences and stories into creative works of art. In February, designer and illustrator (and New Times contributor) Joshua Rhodes, who goes by Subtle Takeover, and wife/photographer Sarah Rhodes — together, they're known as Arrow and Apple — hosted an exhibition in their living room.

The show featured work by 10 Phoenix-based illustrators, including Aaron Nestor, Brock Lefferts, Doug Penick, Huilin Dai, Kelsey Dake, Rebecca Green, Mark Dudlik, Britteny Young, and Ricky Carrillo. The setting was casual and friendly and a great opportunity to drink a few PBRs and rub elbows with some seriously talented creatives — before it turned back into a living room.

James Turrell's Air Apparent is still quiet. Though the artist continues to enjoy international recognition for his work with light, his installation at ASU's Tempe campus near the light-rail stop on Rural and Terrace remains a relatively undiscovered gem in the desert. Air Apparent is one of many Skyspaces, which Turrell has been making since the '70s. Designed with the help of local architect Will Bruder to be an immersive art experience, Air Apparent is a structure that frames the sky with programmed LED lights to optimize color perception at sunrise and sunset. If it sounds a little out there, it's because it is. Turrell's biggest project, the Roden Crater, is a series of tunnels under an extinct volcanic cinder cone in northern Arizona. The man is clearly onto something. Until the crater opens to the public, you can find us in Air Apparent, thinking about the sky.

Whenever Dave Quan comes town, we know he's up to something creative. The artist (who also goes by Luster Kaboom and is a New Times contributor) moved to New York last year, but he comes back to his hometown every once in a while to paint a new mural or collaborate with old friends. In April, the artist came back with big plans, including a floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall installation inside Scottsdale's Civic Center Library.

And the result was quintessential Quan. Titled Luster Kaboom's FunHouse, the installation featured circus-inspired murals and underwater scenes, as well as interactive dioramas, fortune tellers, funhouse mirrors, and a two-story interactive display. Quan said the FunHouse was inspired, like much of his art, by his two kids, Lily, 9, and Lando, 6, who were illustrated on the exhibition flier and banner posted at the entrance of Scottsdale Civic Center Library throughout the summer. And if we're lucky, he'll find another excuse to come back to Phoenix and inject a little more fun.

When Rebecca Green's work started popping up around Phoenix, we knew the art scene was in for a treat. The illustrator and painter is from Michigan, but when she landed in Phoenix, she took the local art scene by storm, showcasing work at The Lodge on Grand Avenue as well as GROWop Boutique and Palabra on Roosevelt Row.

In March, the artist took to the outside of her resident gallery, The Lodge, with an enchanted scene of a girl holding a book surrounded by woodland creatures. The setting is awesome, the detail is incredible, and the mysterious sense of nostalgia and magic Green manages to fold into her characters is downright inspiring. This summer Green took off for, um, greener pastures — Denver, to be exact — but not before showing a lovely "farewell" exhibition. We can only hope she'll grace the city with another large-scale fairy tale when she comes back to visit.

As with most graffiti writers (at least those who choose to keep a low profile and stay out of trouble), the artist who goes by NAIM manages to keep his identity secret, his signature well known, and his NAIM — er, name — hard to forget.

You might have seen NAIM's four-letter autograph painted in thick white letters on an industrial building off Loop 202 in Tempe or dripping with decorative, painted icicles on the back of a billboard. He's collaborated with local artists and has brought up a number of emerging writers in the community. NAIM's work is often massive, eye-catching, and in spots not many graffiti writers dare to reach, and if you pay close enough attention, you'll start to see his name just about everywhere.

Nothing's quite like a couple. There's a creative drive and energy that can't be matched, and there's often a little competition that makes everything more interesting. In the case of Cavin Costello and Claire Aton, the results are breathtaking.

The two emerging creatives come from different backgrounds. Costello graduated with a master's in architecture from Northeastern University, driving from the East Coast to Phoenix to find a job and figuring out he'd rather create his own projects. Aton graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with degrees in English and Communication. Their skills combined form The Ranch Mine, a redesign and redevelopment firm that's dedicated to the long-term improvement of the urban cores of greater Phoenix.

Since they've been together, Costello and Aton finished redesigning and redeveloping the first-ever Phoenix Green Construction Code project, The Castaway House. They've been handpicked by Seed Spot, an entrepreneurial program that supports local ideas, and they've made big plans for the future that include a modular concept called the Carriage House, published work in a publication from the University of Georgia Press, and a wedding.

We won't judge if you need a quick break during your First Friday route — when the art season is in full swing, it can be pretty hot out there, and we won't go into the bongo players, fire breathers, or slushy drinkers who likely are blocking the entrance of the gallery you were hoping to check out. It's best to take a breather, and there's no better spot than the patio behind Drive-Thru and 1Spot galleries on Sixth Street on Roosevelt Row.

Grab a seat under the big mesquite tree (complete with bubble lights), take in live music typically coordinated by the owners of 1Spot, and, if you're lucky, snack on a few s'mores from friends of Andrew Pielage (a New Times contributor who runs Drive-Thru). If you're not fully recovered, you can do some people-watching or pop into The Roose Parlour and Spa, which also shares the roomy patio. And once you've fully recovered, you can continue your creative outing and check out the guaranteed stellar artwork at Drive-Thru and 1Spot galleries.

Pyracantha Press isn't easy to find, but once you wind down the staircase in the Art Building on ASU's massive Tempe campus, hang a sharp left, and find either a printmaking student or kind professor to let you into the door, you'll want to remember its location — and find a way to sign up for a few credits.

The underground classroom is a trove of letterpress resources. Established in the early 1980s, Pyracantha Press officially is the production and research imprint of the School of Art's book-arts program, according to ASU. The countless drawers of metal and wood type and presses that date back a hundred years are overseen by professor John Risseeuw as well as Dan Mayer and Gene Valentine, who have taught hundreds of students the basics of letterpress and the art of crafting a message with type, ink, and paper. Lucky us, they're continuing a tradition — and opening the studio from time to time for public demonstrations and interactive activities.

If you've ever wanted to get your hands on a photograph by Mark Klett, Betsy Schneider, Carol Panaro-Smith, James Hajicek, or an up-and-coming photography student, you won't want to miss ASU Photographers' Association's annual auction. It's here, at First Studio in downtown Phoenix, where hundreds outbid each other on large-scale and tiny works that feature a variety of subjects, compositions, and techniques at rock-bottom prices and for a good cause.

The auction benefits the ASU Photographers' Association, and funds raised are used to host visiting artists and speakers, support workshops, and establish scholarships for students learning and perfecting the art of photography. And even if you're not in the market for a piece of artwork (it's cool — less competition for us), the auction is always a killer exhibition you won't want to miss.

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