For decades, the Icehouse in Phoenix’s warehouse district has been a staple of the local art scene, mounting diverse exhibitions and legendary performances. It has seen ups and downs, and many transitions, but the Icehouse is still standing tall. It now operates primarily as a rental venue for events, but not without a fine art component. The Icehouse Gallery is currently in full swing and is generating new life, with the recent addition of artist Joe Holdren as director. Holdren is excited to make the gallery a hub for art lovers and hopes to help it become a destination for those who want to learn about and collect local artwork. He shared what he is up to and how he sees his mission for the gallery.
Tell us a little bit about your history as an artist.

I decided to follow my passion to become a full-time artist six years ago, after a long career in manufacturing. I spent the past six years getting my BFA at the University of Alabama Huntsville, then my MFA here at ASU. I have always painted large-scale works, so upon completing my studies, I had to move out of ASU’s wonderful Grant Street Studios and needed a new place to put up with all my art baggage. One of my professors suggested the Icehouse. I met up with Jayme Blue, who manages the space and organizes the events.

Then you became the gallery director? What does that involve?

Yes, Jayme made me the art gallery director to help her showcase just what a wonderful space the Icehouse is. I open the gallery to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. I organize the exhibitions and install the artwork. Together we select the artists to
exhibit in the gallery and those who are willing to show during events.
Are you open for the First Friday and Third Friday art walks?

We are open for most of them, but it isn’t guaranteed. If the Icehouse has events during those times, the events will take priority. However, the art remains up during events, so it’s an opportunity for the work to get in front of a diverse cross-section of people, and oftentimes it’s a crowd that wouldn’t normally show up for art events, so that helps get it seen by new eyes.

What future goals do you have for the Icehouse?

Our plans for the venue are to see more events take place there. We also want to protect the integrity of the Icehouse, and to showcase the great art that Phoenix has to offer.

What’s your earliest memory of this long-running space?

Since I have only been here for three years, I don’t have an early memory of the Icehouse. However, I have truly enjoyed hearing other people’s memories. Longtime residents have shared so many great and interesting stories that I think they should all be compiled into a book.
What’s your take on the local art scene, and how would you like to impact it?

I think the local art scene is growing rapidly, and I look forward to being a part of that growth. I see every person I meet as a potential art lover, supporter and collector. My strength is the ability to encourage first-time buyers to purchase work by local artists, not only for themselves, or for the artist’s benefit, but so their children will someday have the artwork. I love to see ordinary families build art collections.

I’ve been here in Phoenix for a short time, but I absolutely love it. I moved here with my wife and four kids, and we’ve fallen in love with the city and its people. I have been shown enormous support from this community and am incredibly thankful for that.