Culture News

Why Photographer Andrew Pielage Left Downtown Phoenix's Roosevelt Row for the Garfield Historic District

Photographer Andrew Pielage has closed Drive-Thru Gallery in downtown Phoenix's Roosevelt Row. But the artist isn't done with the gallery business. He's already announced plans for a new gallery opening later this year in the neighboring Garfield Historic District. 

Pielage is an occasional New Times contributor whose work drew widespread attention after he captured a 2012 haboob hovering over the Valley. More recently, he's been photographing buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Pielage opened Drive-Thru Gallery, a staple of the First and Third Friday arts scene, in January 2013. He showed works by more than 50 photographers in the space. Pielage also operated a small adjacent space he called the kitchenette, where locals often spotted his artful photographs of desert landscapes and architectural design. His last day there was June 15.

The space that formerly housed his Drive-Thru Gallery already has a new artist who’s getting ready to roll out exhibitions during First and Third Fridays.

The space will become both studio and gallery for Bassim Al-Shaker, an Iraqi-born painter who decided to make Phoenix his home after participating in ASU Art Museum’s International Artist Residency at Combine Studios. Those who follow the local art scene may remember hearing nearly two years ago that 10 of Al-Shaker's paintings were stolen from a different studio space. 

Pielage isn’t ready to reveal the name or address of his new gallery, but says he’s excited to be “just two streets down” from Garfield newcomers Gallo Blanco and Welcome Diner. “I’m just across Seventh Street,” he says.

The future gallery space is an existing add-on for a historic 1918 home Pielage purchased with his wife, Lori, after more than a year of house hunting in the Garfield neighborhood, which spans much of Seventh to 16th streets between Roosevelt and Van Buren streets.

Lately, he’s been busy getting the new gallery ready, along with studio space for photo shoots with clients for his photography business. Already he’s ripped up carpets and taken out an interior wall, but still needs to install gallery-appropriate track lighting.

It’s actually an addition off the main home, where he’ll use the same business model he did before – operating both a studio and presenting exhibitions of works by emerging and established photographers.

Expect the first exhibition this fall or winter, Pielage says.

The Garfield neighborhood is best known to art walk attendees as the home of Alwun House, one of the area’s first alternative spaces to show contemporary art. But it’s caught the eye of other arts organizations, including Rising Youth Theatre, which created plays inspired by Garfield neighborhood stories and performed in a neighborhood park.

Pielage says his move was necessitated in part by changes happening in Roosevelt Row, the once-scrappy arts district that’s become a favorite for multi-level housing developers since being named one of the country’s best neighborhoods by the American Planning Association.

“I love Roosevelt Row,” Pielage says. “But I can’t afford to live there.”

He’s attracted to the Garfield district in part because it’s got different zoning laws, so the type of developments happening in other parts of downtown Phoenix aren’t happening there. “It’s still kind of the Wild West out here,” he says of his new home and work space.

“A lot of wonderful stories have been told in Roosevelt Row,” Pielage says. “But a lot of Garfield stories haven’t been told yet."