Art is a profession that requires skills in every odd trade – patching walls, drafting press releases, sweeping floors, cultivating patron relations, and more – besides the more visible craft of making art. Artists have the benefit of being identified with their labor; if they show up with paint on their sleeves, all the more authentic! But curators and art administrators, whose job it is to create the infrastructure of public access, take pride in the myriad invisible labors done in the name of culture. Longtime Phoenix curator Nicole Royse practices this truism both at her gallery, Royse Contemporary, and as a writer and consultant for other galleries in the Valley.
“I’m a one-woman show: I sand and paint the walls, I keep up the website, I write the press releases,” Nicole related over the phone from her gallery in Scottsdale. Emotions, her most recent show, falls around the gallery’s two-year anniversary. Her dedication to the gallery and the artists she represents comes from a personal place. “Art has always been a way for me to express my feelings. I had a rough childhood growing up, and art became an outlet for me to reconnect.” Besides her own art practice, Nicole is passionate about supporting local artists, often inviting artists outside of the gallery’s representation to exhibit alongside her stable of artists.
Every group show is an opportunity to bring in a new artist Nicole has her eye on. Casey Wakefield is a painter whose hard work and dedication caught Nicole’s attention at an art marketing workshop Nicole held last year. “Casey has been working really hard to connect with the arts community and push her own practice. She is a perfect fit for this show because her work has many emotional connections behind the canvas.”
Diane Sanborn is an academic artist whom Nicole was eager to work with because of Diane’s passion for the arts – both through her visual art practice and her commitment as an arts educator. “Diane pours all of her energy into her teaching, but she also has an incredible body of work. She spent many years teaching in the arts through her own arts organization in Scottsdale, so I was always careful to pay attention to her.”
Nicole views her own role as an arts writer and consultant for other galleries as sharing the same purpose as her gallery. “I do work all over for a number of other spaces. I work to support the arts. I want to see artists in the media. And I want to see people coming out to enjoy the arts.”
Nicole’s passion for promoting the arts began on Roosevelt Row in the late 2000s when she started curating at MonOrchid. She recalls the earlier days of the First Friday Art Walk bustle and the artists she met through working at the gallery. Over time, however, Nicole felt that the once-a-month program lost its initial energy to capitalize on the Art Walk audience. “First Friday isn’t what it used to be. There used to be double the number of galleries on Roosevelt Row, when the Art Walk used to really be about highlighting the galleries and their artists. The music and the street fairs, while wonderful, detracted from the original purpose. I would see three to five thousand people walk through the doors of MonOrchid from 6 to 10 p.m., but their primary interest wasn’t necessarily the art.”
After working on Roosevelt Row for so many years, Nicole felt the need to plant her practice in Scottsdale, where an established arts district and the influx of young patrons are providing fertile ground for her business. “There are new high-rise condos, lots of businesses, and more young professionals supporting the arts here,” Nicole said. The Scottsdale ArtWalk, which runs weekly (Thursday evenings) instead of on a monthly schedule, provides more opportunities to promote and engage with artists and patrons. With increasing support from the City of Scottsdale for the ArtWalk, Nicole feels her location better provides the opportunities she wants to pass along to her artists.
Looking to the future, Nicole is eager to continue her work as a promoter for artists. The September show, Emotions, showcases five local artists exploring the theme through idiosyncratic styles and free-form textures on canvas. “This exhibition offers an eclectic selection of work, with artists working in painting, collage, and mixed media, highlighting art that is visceral, authentic, and engaging,” writes Nicole.
Emotions opens to the public with an artist reception on Thursday, September 5, at 6–9 p.m., coinciding with the Scottsdale ArtWalk. The evening will include light refreshments as well as the opportunity to meet featured artists and the curator. Emotions will be on display at Royse Contemporary through September 28.
With Charmagne Coe, Dan Pederson, Diane Sanborn, Daniel Shepherd, Casey Wakefield
7077 E. Main St., Suite 6, Scottsdale