Sette began her gallery career in the living room of her Tempe home, showing the work of Arizona State University students. Later, she set up shop in two different spots on Mill Avenue, until one day, late attorney and art collector Sy Sacks walked into her small space and famously asked, as Sette recalls, "What the bleep are you doing here?"
Her response: "Who the heck are you?"
And his: "You should move to Scottsdale!"
The rest is history — and will be one for the books when Sette's final Scottsdale show, of the work of painter Carrie Marill, closes. The first Phoenix show, "Hello Midtown!," will open this summer in an Al Beadle building under renovation near Third Street and Thomas Road.
Sette has plans to shroud the semi-subterranean building in fabric. Beadle's signature beams will stay exposed. There will be plenty of wall space in a setting that makes sense in the desert, and Sette is excited about a lot of things — including the fact that she will finally have a kitchen for her staff to use. (Previously, they washed dishes in the bathroom of the Scottsdale gallery, which Sette says someone told her makes the room a "shnitchen.")
This is a bold move for Sette. She's losing street traffic (the new gallery space is next door to her husband's design studio but little else) and density — because even in the middle of one of the nation's largest cities, there's still plenty of empty and/or unused space. But Sette has confidence in the central corridor — mentioning that her North Scottsdale clients already drive to the neighborhood to dine at Bink's Midtown and the Tuck Shop. With Phoenix Art Museum, the Heard, and Roosevelt Row to the south and Upward Projects restaurants (among others) to the north, Lisa Sette Gallery certainly will be a destination spot in the middle.
At least one Phoenician has every confidence in Sette.
"Lisa Sette has always had her visionary finger on the sometimes very erratic pulse of the fine art world and has shown work here that we'd never see anywhere else in Arizona," says Kathleen Vanesian, New Times' longtime art critic. "She's also been selectively supportive of a variety of local artists who have gained national and international recognition as a result of her auspices and hard work.
"Thank God she's decided to stay open and start a new phase of her long career in an iconic midtown architectural landmark she's invested in. I would venture to say she's the Leo Castelli of the Valley of the Sun."
"I feel like things are going to grow toward midtown," Sette says with a rueful smile. "It just can't take 20 years." — Amy Silverman
Charlie Levy | Performing Art
Odds are if you've seen a concert in Phoenix in the past decade, Charlie Levy had something to do with it.
While running his own venue, Crescent Ballroom, he also books concerts through his promotions company, Stateside Presents, at almost every Phoenix and Tucson area venue, not to mention other venues around the state. Coming off the huge success of March's sold-out Viva PHX festival (New Times was a co-sponsor), Levy reflected on Phoenix's music scene and what he has in store for the future.
Originally from Louisiana, Levy moved to Tempe to go to Arizona State University back when Mill Avenue was alive with venues and the university booked huge acts like Cher, Paul McCartney, and Sinead O'Connor at its activity center. Though he majored in sociology, he worked as the student government concert director and quickly found a passion for it.
After college, Levy started booking shows on his own starting in 1995 and transformed the now-closed Tempe venue Nita's Hideaway into a beloved music hub by booking local and national indie big shots like Neko Case and Yo La Tengo.
Flash-forward almost 20 years, and Crescent Ballroom, which opened in 2011, is doing well, though Levy says it's tough to keep the momentum rolling after the honeymoon phase.
"I think the hardest thing is to not burn out," he says. "At first, you're all excited and then fatigue sets in, like on a run or in a relationship."
Levy sees the music scene in Phoenix as unique, with music fans who truly are grateful for great shows. Though he believes concerts give people the most bang for their entertainment buck with a relatively low cost and high payoff, he says more locals than ever are beginning to see concerts as the thing to do on a weekend, too.
"I think people here are true music fans — so appreciative and loyal," he says. "I wouldn't want to open a music venue anywhere else, especially not snooty places like Portland or Seattle — forget that."
Levy says that local music and venues are thriving, but he doesn't see a major hub for music anywhere in town that compares to the Mill Avenue scene in the late