100 Creatives

Laura Dragon of {9} The Gallery on Building Her Version of the Factory for Phoenix

Every other year, New Times puts the spotlight on Phoenix's creative forces — painters, dancers, designers, and actors. Leading up to the release of Best of Phoenix, we're taking a closer look at 100 more. Welcome to the 2016 edition of 100 Creatives. Up today is 68. Laura Dragon.

After years spent working in corporate America, Laura Dragon desperately craved change. 

"I opened {9} on a wing and a prayer," she says of her Grand Avenue gallery. "It has been the greatest experience of my life next to raising my son."

The 53-year-old was born in Bessemer, Alabama, but moved to New York City's Greenwich Village at 11. She spent most of her life there.

It's that upbringing, that closeness to creativity, that has informed her curating, planning, and appreciation of the arts. "I am inspired by so many artists – I adore street art and anything with an edge, she says. "Growing up in New York in the '70s and '80s has colored my life in so many ways."

The work of Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Jackson Pollock, Robert Mapplethorpe, Keith Haring, and Patti Smith "touch me like no other," she says. 

"Owning a gallery, I have the gift of working with tons of local artists, musicians, dancers, and writers. We incorporate ALL mediums of the arts at {9} so there is always an electricity in the air."

And there's always work to be done. "Running a business is running a business," Dragon says, and that means she's busy with everything "from curating the upcoming season, developing advertising social media campaigns, accounting, patching, and painting walls to mopping floors — and everything in between."

Projects come and go, and the gallerist is at a point where she can pick and choose what she wants to pursue. On Friday, July 1, she'll present an exhibition titled "Rue Femme," exploring the work of local women street artists (who've been left out of more than a few recent exhibitions spotlighting local graf and mural artists).

But a larger project looms. "I am knee deep right now in opening Grand Arthaus which will be a co-op working arts studio," she says. "I kind of picture it as my Factory."

I didn’t really “come” to Phoenix. I was in a major life transition and was working my way back to the east coast from LA. Phoenix really came to me. It felt easy, and perhaps was more an act of providence than anything else.

I make art because it is necessary. My mother is an artist and sculptor. She taught art when I was a child, so the arts have been a part of my life always. As a teenager, I worked in theater and dance in New York, and I later produced fashion events nationwide. There are times I paint, as it is therapy for me, but moreover I focus on the creative process of building, supporting, and encouraging “living art” in all that I do.

I'm most productive when I am inspired or on a strict deadline.

My inspiration wall is full of art (lots of art), poetry, photographs, hand-crafted jewelry, a $2 bill, buttons and pins. It all goes on the wall…

I've learned most from my mistakes along the way.

Good work should always inspire deep emotion from the viewer. It touches the soul.

The Phoenix creative scene could use more connectivity and communication. The urban sprawl of Phoenix is in some ways its greatest downfall; it separates the arts communities, which stifles collaboration.

The 2016 Creatives so far:

100. Nicole Olson
99. Andrew Pielage
98. Jessica Rowe
97. Danny Neumann
96. Beth Cato
95. Jessie Balli
94. Ron May
93. Leonor Aispuro
92. Sarah Waite
91. Christina "Xappa" Franco
90. Christian Adame
89. Tara Sharpe
88. Patricia Sannit
87. Brian Klein
86. Dennita Sewell
85. Garth Johnson
84. Charissa Lucille
83. Ryan Downey
82. Samantha Thompson
81. Cherie Buck-Hutchison
80. Freddie Paull
79. Jennifer Campbell
78. Dwayne Hartford
77. Shaliyah Ben
76. Kym Ventola
75. Matthew Watkins
74. Tom Budzak
73. Rachel Egboro
72. Rosemary Close
71. Ally Haynes-Hamblen
70. Alex Ozers
69. Fawn DeViney