A snapshot of Greater Phoenix’s dynamic art community

Published: 06/04/2024

GPEC celebrated the impact of arts on the economy and livability of the region

The arts play an integral role in enhancing the lifestyle and livability Greater Phoenix is known for while spotlighting the unique history and creative talent of the region’s communities. The industry is a major economic driver, too – the Bureau of Economic Analysis found in 2022, the arts and culture sector added $14.2B to Arizona’s economy, amounting to 3% of the state’s total GDP while employing 84,479 individuals statewide. This impact created a 16.2% industry growth rate in Arizona in 2022, evidence of a notable increase when compared to the 7.8% rise for the U.S. as a whole.

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) recently launched an initiative to position Greater Phoenix as “The Most Decorated Region,” celebrating the dynamic public art scene and convening local stakeholders to collaboratively bolster future opportunities. Currently, GPEC is engaging its communities and local artists to document their public artworks on the global Street Art Cities platform. This crowdsourced cataloging will allow visitors and residents alike to easily find and interact with the thousands of pieces of accessible art that showcase the region’s rich culture, history and vision for the future while giving GPEC a benchmark to drive further momentum, recognition and support for the creative community with public and private organizations.

To further the visibility of the work of local artists, GPEC hosted an art exhibition opening featuring a panel of local artists on May 16, including:

  • Russell B. Anderson, Artist 
  • Brent Coulter, Artist 
  • Tara Gamel, Artist 
  • Cyn Silva, Artist 
  • Stefanie Carson, Art Director, GPEC (moderator) 

The artists who joined the panel are featured in GPEC’s latest exhibition, Snapshot of Greater Phoenix, a hybrid display celebrating the people, places and experiences that come together to create a dynamic region. Since 2018, GPEC has hosted 15 rotating exhibitions featuring more than 600 artists and over 1,000 works while fostering connections between Greater Phoenix’s creative and business communities.

In an insightful conversation, the panelists shared about their creative processes and experiences working in Greater Phoenix. Anderson, a fourth-generation artist who realized his passion for the craft at an early age, is an art instructor for the City of Tempe and has works in private collections and juried exhibitions. Growing up in New Mexico, he absorbed the communal nature of artists in Santa Fe, which is heavily influenced by the work of indigenous artisans. When asked about how he sees the region’s art market progressing, he shared, “There are a number of artists drawn to the Southwest and painting around this area now, and a lot of the galleries here, it’s fun to see that they are growing. When I first moved here, you’d go to galleries in Scottsdale and see cowboy art, and that’s about all you could find in the early '80s. Now you can find all sorts of art and it’s fun to see that growth.”

Pop art and having grown up in the ‘80s are major influences for Gamel, who moved to the region for art school and weaves art into her work as a teacher. She dives into the creative process organically, sometimes starting with a color scheme and incorporating a face or nostalgic object as a lighthearted pop art element. When approaching art with her students, Gamel allows them the freedom of expression and often finds that they create from experiences. “I think that is the most therapeutic thing they can do, being able to have a voice on canvas ... I just let them express themselves and a lot of times it’s kind of healing for them to get it on canvas.”

Silva, who exhibits her work in galleries in Scottsdale and San Francisco, creates one-of-a-kind paintings, including plein air works, distinguished by being created in the outdoors. She shared her work captures her experience of a specific moment in time. “You can look at the same landscape, but it depends on the artist, who can create a feeling, whether they want it to be soft, strong, abstract — the sky’s the limit.” In tandem with her creative side, Silva also holds a real estate license and has carved out a unique market for her work which is commissioned by interior designers, luxury estates and corporate art collections.

The four artists shared the draw of Greater Phoenix and how the region’s culture and landscape is a constant source of inspiration. Coulter, a nature photographer, spent more than 30 years photographing around Colorado, and when he felt the passion in his work dwindling, he and his wife left to explore the Western U.S. in a travel trailer for four years. “We kept coming back to Arizona, and I just love the landscape down here. It’s so much different than Colorado … here, I’ve got Saguaro cacti, I’ve got big mountains, boulders, and every five minutes, the light changes and the scene changes. Exploring all the different landscapes and weather conditions down here is just inspiring.” While their initial plan was to stay 12 to 18 months, Coulter and his wife have been here for more than four years and have no immediate plans to leave.

From the growing artistic market and community to an abundance of natural inspiration, Greater Phoenix provides a supportive ecosystem for artists to create and thrive. When reflecting on the impact of the region to his art, Anderson said, “Arizona kind of gets in your blood.”

Meet the Panel

Cyn Silva

Stefanie Carson (Moderator)
Art Director
Greater Phoenix Economic Council