By Bill Orovan, October 2015 Issue.
Scottsdale’s Main Street wasn’t always the art center of Arizona. Back in 1972 there were only five galleries on the now-venerable street – all in the one block between Scottsdale Road and Marshall Way, with a smattering of other galleries spread out around the downtown area of “The West’s Most Western Town,” as they liked to refer to Scottsdale in those days.
Three of the galleries, Steckler, Stagg and The Pavilion, decided to make the scene a little more complete by inviting the visiting Utah Repertory Ballet Company to perform on the street one Saturday afternoon. This was the beginning of the 43-year-old Art Walk, the longest running event of its kind in the United States.
Shortly thereafter, the other two galleries began to participate, as well as more and more galleries which had migrated to Main Street, and the Saturday afternoon event was intelligently moved to Thursday nights – a much more comfortable situation, especially during the 100-degree plus summer months.
Entertainment remained an important part of the Art Walk, and included everything from strolling guitarists to full orchestras. Many of the galleries started serving wine and baked goods, often homemade, and with people walking from gallery to gallery, a glass of wine in hand, it made for a popular way to spend a very pleasant evening.
Soon the gallery scene was really booming, and the second block, from Marshall Way to Goldwater Boulevard (then called 70th Street) began to be populated by even more galleries. And the restaurants in the neighborhood became reservations-only on Thursday nights.
The gallery scene was again expanded when Elaine Horwitch pioneered Marshall Way between Indian School Road and Fifth Avenue by opening a gallery in a brand new building built specifically for an art gallery – a first in Scottsdale. This set the precedent for this adjunct art center and, before long, both blocks were lined with galleries as well. Main Street and Marshall Way joined together for a really giant Art Walk – so big it was almost impossible to see it all in the three-hour window on Thursday evening. To add further to the festive atmosphere, many galleries began to move their artist’s openings from the weekend to the Art Walk evening.
At its zenith, the Art Walk was comprised of more than 80 galleries in the four blocks of Main Street and Marshall Way. Although the walk was started by contemporary galleries, the Scottsdale arts complex now features styles as divergent as contemporary, experimental, western, classical, limited editions and even decorative, so there’s something for everyone. There are names that everyone recognizes, such as Renoir and Keith Haring, as well as local museum-collected artists and unknowns who might become tomorrow’s biggest stars.
Now, 43 years later, THE Art Walk has become a household name for residents and visitors alike. Scottsdale is considered one of the major art centers of the U.S., and a destination for serious art collectors worldwide. All this from three insightful galleries trying to give their clientele a more complete art experience.