This town is no place for a cowboy. At least, that’s the impression one might get from the presence of decidedly urban trappings like boutique hotels, gourmet cupcake shops, tea lounges, film festivals, fashion weeks and wine bars.
But next week, the Valley will get a giant-belt-buckle-sized chance to remember its cowboy-boot roots, when the 44th annual Cowboy Artists of America Sale and Exhibition returns to Phoenix Art Museum.
The fun kicks off Thursday at the first Scottsdale ArtWalk of the season. Below, we give a primer for both, so you can go Western with gusto.
From epic paintings of sunlit cattle drives to sculptures of native chieftans in feather headdresses, this is the show for anyone who grew up playing cowboys and Indians, Annie Oakley or — perhaps for “Young Guns”-inspired 20- and 30-somethings — “regulators.”
It unveils for the first time more than 130 new works by the Cowboy Artists of America, a storied group in Arizona history and a well-known fraternity in the art world (and not just for their trademark Wranglers, cowboy hats and mustaches).
Founded by cowboys and artists Joe Beeler, Charlie Dye, John Hampton and George Phippen (of Prescott’s Phippen Museum fame) over beers at Sedona’s Oak Creek Tavern in 1965, CAA brings together some of the most prominent cowboy artists from Montana to Texas and all points in between. Their chief aim: to put forth authentic representations of life in the West, both as it was and is. More than half have worked as real cowboys, and others have worked on Disney’s “Lady and the Tramp” and “Spiderman” cartoons.
The yearly show is the only time when all 23 members exhibit together in one place, and its sale is a highly anticipated Western fine art event. Collectors come from far and wide to bid on the pieces and mingle with the cowboys in a string of $99 to $3,500 ticketed mixers and banquets. Last year, several pieces sold for six figures, and the sale grossed $1.8 million. (Part of the proceeds benefit the museum.)
For everyday folks, admission to the show falls to an affordable $10 (even less if you go on one of the museum’s donation-only nights) beginning Oct. 18.
Perhaps it’s only fitting that “The West’s Most Western Town” kicks off its arts season with a Western ArtWalk.
Timed to coincide with the arrival of cowboy artists and Western-art collectors in town for the CAA event, the freewheeling soiree will feature the usual ArtWalk accoutrements: galleries showing off new work and passing out paper cups of bubbly, trolley and carriage rides, and plenty of people-watching.
There’s also live music by Western quartet O.K. Chorale, singing cowboy Gary Sprague and alternative country artist Mary Hoffman. Bandera and Bacon restaurants and Lulu’s Cupcakes will give free food samples, and you can win prizes from Changing Hands Bookstore and Don and Charlie’s restaurant.
Several cowboy artists will make appearances at the district’s most prominent Western galleries: R.S. Riddick, John Coleman, Oreland C. Joe Sr. and Mehl Lawson at Legacy; Martin Grelle and Ed Mell at Overland; and Don Crowley, Wayne Baize, Bruce Greene, Herb Mignery, Clark Kelley Price and Dave Powell at Trailside.
In addition, several non-Western galleries are debuting a show of new drawings — unusual since sketches are typically used by artists for studies and practice, not for display or sale.
What: Peruse a wide variety of artwork at this arts district open house featuring street musicians, food samplings and meet-and-greets with artists who double as cowboys.
When: 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday
Where: along Main Street and Marshall Way in Old Town Scottsdale