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A disappearing retail category: art galleries

The role of travel agents continues to disappear, replaced by apps and algorithms to book a hotel, rent a car and buy tickets to a show. Video stores, bookstores, camera shops, the brick and mortar versions have vanished, displaced by technology.

Art galleries, cultural and art museums continue to downsize their physical footprint or their hours. Funding issues add complexity to the operation of the art gallery. The art gallery was invented in the 19th Century.  Change is invetible, evolution is harsh.

Urban venue spaces have always been the laboratory where many emerging artists begin their artistic journey. Downtown Phoenix was the epicenter of spaces that featured live music, visual art, dance, spoken word, and church service. Cheap rent, abandoned buildings, and the artist’s passion to show their work attracted the pioneers of the art world to downtown Phoenix.  

The Third Place

The chimerical invasion of Starbucks comes to mind as a version of Third Place. In downtown Phoenix, ASU became the primary anchor tenant that led to the migration of highly caffeinated student population seeking breweries, taprooms, restaurants, free art shows. As a result, Roosevelt Row evolved to cater to that demand.  Our monthly First Friday street fair became a version of a Third Place, bringing together the emerging culture of Phoenix.

All over the U.S., food halls became a microcosm of the emerging retail world of the 21st Century. For an example, the halls were featuring all things artisanal including walls adorned with local art. Restaurants were the anchor tenant at many of the food halls. That attracted retailers of cheese, flower, pottery, jewerly, gifts and and a myriad of specialty retailers. The service industustry fit in the tenant mix adding Yoga and fitness studios. Small stages featured local bands and entertainers. The pandemic closed down many venues, but even before the pandemic, the venues that had strong local retailers flourished, others struggled for a number of reasons.

In Phoenix the food hall Desoto at Central and Roosevelt was not able to sustain a viable tenant mix. First Fridays provided much needed traffic to the business’s, but in retail there are at least 30 days in a month and a few days a month of strong sales does not work.

Technology played the role of both disruptor and connector. It reinvented how we consume the arts. Where is creativity taking us? And why does it matter?

Art Galleries, Museums and Cultural Centers

Even before the outbreak of Covid-19, museums, cultural centers, and art galleries were closing their doors. “No one is coming out of this unscathed”. Eva Chimento opines. She is one of many voices in the LA art scene. Those galleries that remain open are adapting and experimenting. L.A. Galleries and Covid 19

Phoenix was no different. The lockdown closed down gallery and music venues and anything that required public visitation. Government galleries continued operations with virtual gatherings while others struggled with the concept of virtual viewing of local art. As a result, venues showing local art shifted. Artists whose lively hoods depended on sales were tasked with creating their own galleries and events. At first, smaller gatherings were allowed, second new places to show were soon created by artists who solved the issue of sales.

The DIY spaces with low overhead connected through social media and word-of-mouth. This is what we’ve seen work at Obliq Art and other ‘peripheral’ art communities.”

It sounded like the right name for something I was conjuring. The pandemic provided much-needed time to ponder the future. As a result, I laid out my needs as an artist. I needed a venue to show my latest work showcased in lowlight rooms. Sandra needed the traditional gallery, with brightly lit walls. At the same time, showing off our “studio” spaces, intrigues the professional artist cohorts and our collectors.

Panoramic Views & Secluded Location

I need to control the light. And by the time came to host Soiree #6, we dialed in the food, and the music. Our “hidden in the hills” location in the Slope became an ideal location to host private events, far from the crowd. Our studio/home shares a forty + acre desert canyon with less than a dozen homes. We overlook the valley while surrounded by the natural desert beauty of the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.  

The Soiree

Soiree #6 was our first art-centric event for 2022. It was the first Soiree that combined the private Soiree event with an open studio tour the next day. It also featured two additional artists that shared the space.

The shared space will become a feature of the Soirees as well as tying the event to an invitation for other artists to show work and importantly, sell their work.

Soiree # 7

Set for October 22 and the Open Studio Tour will be October 23. This Soiree opens the holiday season for us and has traditionally been our highest visited days at the gallery/studio. The addition of a curated online gallery will help us capture holiday sales through our online gallery.

If you are interested in showing at the Obliq Art Gallery please contact me to discuss art for our next Soiree.

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