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Arts businesses rebound as patrons worry less about the pandemic

Deep into the first quarter of 2022, businesses connected to the arts have seen a financial boost from patrons who feel the worst of the pandemic is behind us.

Boutiques, galleries, and even concert halls showcasing the beauty of what art means to their lives are opening or rebounding.

April White’s 2019 album, “Violet and the Sun,” was the inspiration for a new small business she launched.  

The first weekend in March, she opened Cowgirls and Fairies, a whimsical arts-inspired boutique in Williams, fueled by the style of her record and her career in marketing.

“I wanted it to be Western-inspired because I am in Williams which is the quintessential most-adorable Western town that you could ever find. I wanted that mixed with this more ethereal nature because I call ‘Violet and the Sun’ ethereal pop,” she said.  

White’s store sells framed art, jewelry, apparel, and soaps among other items. She waited until now to open a physical store because the pandemic seems to be winding down and as tourism increases, there’s an opportunity to connect in a more personal and physical way with artistically-minded customers.  

“We’ve gotten used to everything virtual but you still want to have an experience, especially if you’re on vacation,” she said. “You pop in, and you have a little adventure. You discover this place and all of the things in it and rifle through them.”

At Sedona Artist Market & Gallery off Highway 89A, ceramicist Sonia Luedke wrapped up a purchase for a customer before talking about what the store offers. 

Boasting more than 150 Arizona artists in every medium as well as a large cache of non-toxic art supplies, Luedke said the pandemic has actually increased customer traffic and exhibitors.  

“The interesting thing is I found that before the pandemic we had not as many artists here and not as many people buying art. After the pandemic, something clicked and people realized they wanted to be surrounded by art and beauty. They want to be doing things that make them feel good and maybe not focusing so much on mundane, everyday life,” she said.

Located on the west side of Sedona, the massive exhibiting space acts as an added social-distancing safety net.

“Because we have such a large space with 8,000 square feet, we were able to offer the type of social-distancing that made people feel more comfortable. People were like, ‘if I can’t enjoy life now, then when?’ I did the same thing for myself. I found myself spending more money than I normally would have because I felt like, ‘if not now, when?’” she asked.

In the Valley, The Finer Arts Gallery in Cave Creek has experienced a dramatic boost in customer traffic since opening in September. It’s located in a rustic building known as Cave Creek Station, shaded by a large, 150-year-old Tamarisk tree.  

“The month of September, we had a little over 300 people visit the gallery. This past February, we’re up to over 950 visitors.” That’s per month according to gallery manager Linda Lindus, who is also a landscape painter. From her perspective, increased foot traffic is a sign the arts, and businesses showcasing them, are thriving once again.  

“So, we can see that it’s rebounding with visitors as well as sales. Our sales have increased dramatically,” she said.   

Marlene Sabatina, another manager of the artist-owned gallery, said after six months in business, they are refreshing how the art from over 30 local creatives is displayed.  

“We like to keep it fresh” she said. “We like to have people see something new every time they come in. We move walls around, and when I say walls, the art goes on different walls. We have a little lottery and the artists get a fresh look. We bring in new art and the public gets a new view of the fabulous art.”

Many live event venues still struggle to reach pre-pandemic audience levels. That includes the Phoenix Symphony. But director Tito Muñoz said this season has seen a good rebound despite reluctance by some attendees to return.

“In the end, live is why we exist. That’s what we offer and it has been very successful this year. We have had audiences come back. Sure, there is trepidation of course among different populations, different groups of people. Everybody has their reasons for not wanting to fully engage,” said Muñoz.

Recently, the Symphony worked with famed conductor Steve Hackman to present a collaborative performance of Johannes Brahms’ “Symphony No. 1” interspersed with music from Radiohead’s “OK Computer” album.   

As COVID-19 hospitalizations diminish in Arizona, one of the business sectors hardest hit by the pandemic is making a profound comeback. While some things have changed forever, the love of arts in the state has never wavered. 

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Tom Maxedon was the host of KJZZ’s Weekend Edition from 2017 to 2024.