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Local Art Galleries Then: And Now

Traditional art galleries, a 19th century invention, continue to operate. Dying retail footprints first shrink the brick and mortar platform. And second; join the Meta universe, the 24/7 digital marketplace reaching an ever larger audience.

The Pandemic accelerated the learning curve on mastering the type of technology needed to reach the foot traffic crowd of in-person events.

Bohemian Index

For years, Richard Florida preached the gospel of the creative class. “If decaying cities wanted to survive, they had to open cool bars, shabby-chic coffee shops, and art venues that attract young, educated, and tolerant residents. Eventually, the mysterious alchemy of the creative economy would build a new and prosperous urban core.”


Larry Ortega, a master of multiple disciplines, blends his classical training in painting with an intuitive approach to sculpture. From his earliest days of brush and canvas, he has continually explored the vast landscapes of artistic expression. His journey has led him to the world of sculpture, where he operates as a self-taught innovator. Resins and rare-earth minerals are the primary medium in his work. Consequently, sculpture and light are themes in his works of art.

Ortega’s artistry lies in his unique interpretation of light and color. Much like a prism bending light waves, he manipulates resins, rare earth minerals, and their intrinsic properties to absorb and re-emit light. Creating a surface-captivating dance of illumination and shadow. As a result, this distinctive use of materials allows him to channel the transformative power of light, akin to the dynamic strokes of paint on a canvas.

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The Chalice is one of the latest sculptures.

His creations are not just sculptures but moods crafted through his understanding and application of color theory. Meanwhile, the latest addition to his artistic palette is a collection of botanical molds cast with a strong palette of rare earth elements. Consequently, the light and wave spectrums create an opportunity to use bold colors. In short, these elements infuse his sculpture and light with a luminosity that transcends the physical, touching the spiritual.

Ortega’s sculptures, glowing in the dark, harness the incandescence of these elements. The works of art create a glowing evocation. Something that strikes a chord with our innate spiritual nature, resonating with viewers on a deeper, more intrinsic level. In each piece, Ortega offers a visual experience and a spiritual journey illuminated by his artistry. His work is a testament to the transformative power of art, light, and the human spirit. Learn more:

I arrived from Hawaii in 1980. Scottsdale was a vibrant hub of art galleries and artists. Scottsdale began creating a regional connection with Santa Fe and Taos, primarily through tourism. The Southwest art scene of the 70’s emerged, influencing not only art but culture over the next two decades. Tourism was the catalyst for the robust Arts Distric development in Scottsdale.

The art hubs, as we know them in Old Town Scottsdale, continue to operate, but the former gallery space is replaced by day-spas, healthy & beauty practitioners, real estate offices, and other non-art-centric concepts.

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Sandra checks the camera.

Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix had vacant buildings, deserted streets & cheap rent. The resin and catalyst of the creative class.

Visual art and MonOrchid on Roosevelt was a strong anchor tenant for the art district. Places like the Ice House and the OIC building played an important role in maintainng the offbeat locations for art in the warehouse district. Jackson street for a time was home to the undergrond art scene, long before Bentley galleries and ASU Step gallery moved into the area.

The art hub of Grand Avenue is the work of Beatrice Moore and partner Tony Zahn. One day you are on the fringe and the next week you are at the center. As Roosevelt Row translated from cute and edgy to corporate, and slick, the benefactor of the migration was certainly the Grand Avenue hub. Today, a number of contemporary artist make Grand Avenue their studio home.

Cheap rent in downtown Phoenix has been an anomaly. The pending recession may create new opportunities for art space downtown. Old Town Scottsdale benefits from tourism.

Scottsdale has always embraced art, but some how lost the two most prominent and prestigious contemporary art galleries. Bentley Arts and Lisa Sette art gallery, who moved to downtown and uptown Phoenix. Restaurant openings have replaced art gallery openings as the badge of culture. Is this the sign of a dying industry?

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Ample time for discussions and renewed friendships.

Art-Centric Events

How an artist sells his work has been disrupted. Technolgy has opened the door for professional creatives to propel viewship and access to their art across the globe or locally. I found this interesting video created by an artists for the artist.

I state the following having observed the art scene for a long time.

“Artists with recognition, a chimeric personality, and a level of artspeak are leading the way.”

Larry Ortega

In 2017 we launched the Sunnyslope Open Studio Tour (SOST). As a result, we connected with the local visual artists in the community. A second art event was our Sunnyslope Plein Air Fest in 2019 and Soiree #2 was another Plein Air event. The pandemic limited the third SOST to a vitual show or drive-by show. Soirees became a solution during the pandemic.


The Soiree has replaced the Sunnyslope Open Studio Tour. It is “open” to invited guests who are professional creatives and their partner or guest. As part of Soiree #6, we invited two artists to show with their work along with Sandra and my work. Soiree #6 was on Saturday night and a gallery sale open to the public was held the next day. This was the second year as an articipent with Art Detour and Art Link and representing Sunnyslope.

What I found out was ” My studio and home has been the best gallery to show my work. The hidden in the hills location is private, and adjoins the desert preserve. It overlooks the lights of downtown Phoenix and the west. There is something “spiritual with the land”.

Our location has become a great source of inspiration. And I was called to “share it.” Some say, we elevated Sunnyslope’s “Bohemian Index” through what we do.

Artists and the Recession of 2022. What’s next?

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