What's Next for Laura Dragon's {9} The Gallery on Grand Avenue?

Installation view of a previous Aileen Frick exhibition at {9} The Gallery.
Laura Dragon
Installation view of a previous Aileen Frick exhibition at {9} The Gallery.
Laura Dragon is transforming {9} The Gallery into an artist-run cooperative. Participating artists will include Aileen Frick, Lynn Hoyland, Carrie Beth McGarry (who goes by FunWOW), Kathy Taylor, and Jon Wassom.

Dragon founded the Grand Avenue art space in downtown Phoenix in 2012. Today, it's a staple of the arts scene. She also co-founded Grand ArtHaus, another Grand Avenue arts venue, in 2016.

In June, Dragon celebrated the {9} The Gallery's five-year anniversary with an art show and auction titled "Heart of the Dragon." That exhibition came on the heels of Dragon's diagnosis with stage four lung cancer. Participating artists donated work, with proceeds going toward Dragon and her gallery.

For Dragon, the collective is a way to assure that the gallery continues to thrive. Now that she's focused on cancer treatments, she's eager to spend less time on gallery operations and more time with family and friends.

click to enlarge Laura Dragon inside {9} The Gallery. - KIM BLAKE
Laura Dragon inside {9} The Gallery.
Kim Blake
"I'm really excited about the collective," Dragon says. "They're all amazingly talented, community-oriented people."

An official launch event is scheduled for First Friday, October 6, but Dragon has yet to announce the details.

Through the years, {9} The Gallery has presented over 100 solo and group exhibitions, featuring primarily emerging and established artists based in metro Phoenix. Annual traditions include the "Tiny Works|Tiny Dances" show, which features small-scale artworks and dances performed on four-by-four-foot stages.

"Current creative endeavors like poetry, meditation, and theater will still have a home there," Dragon says of the gallery moving forward. She's already got the "Tiny Works" show booked for December.

Several exhibitions each year will feature collective members' art, but they'll also show work by guest artists, Dragon says.

And there's another new development for {9} The Gallery.

Dragon has partnered with Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art,  a nonprofit founded in 2009 by Ted Decker, Greg Esser, and Eddie Shea. These days it's run by Decker, a longtime curator, collector, and arts educator who will help the {9} collective with planning and implementing its ideas.

"I'm tickled that I'm working with Ted," Dragon says. "He brings so much knowledge of collectives, and he's already got great ideas on the longevity of the gallery."

Once the collective is in place, money raised through art sales will be split three ways, Dragon says. Eighty-five percent will go to the artists, 10 percent will go back into gallery operations, and 5 percent will go to Phoenix Institute of Contemporary Art.

At first, Dragon hesitated to give up her day-to-day role in gallery operations. But lately, she's come to terms with it. "Letting go has never been easy, but sometimes it's the better way."