Issues & Experts series offers insight into future of Old Town Scottsdale Arts District

Managing Editor Terrance Thornton will serve as moderator during the March 6 Issues & Experts event focused on intrinsic value artistic expression provides to the community of Scottsdale. (File photo)

In Detroit they build cars and in Pittsburgh they manufacture steel, but in The West’s Most Western Town they make, cultivate and appreciate art.

Residents and visitors alike create, appreciate and consume the artistic expression by those who call Scottsdale home at a place locals call “Old Town Scottsdale” and within that area is the “Arts District.”

Many would agree value can be found in the price you pay for something ‑‑ but what value is realized in a community through its appreciation for both artwork and those who create it?

Does the artistic community — and its wares created through the mind of the artist — lay a foundation for both economic development and tourism?

The understanding of the realization of that value argument will be the focus of the next Scottsdale Issues & Experts Forum, which is hosted by the Scottsdale Independent and sponsored by the Scottsdale Coalition of Today and Tomorrow.

The event is from 7:30 to 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 6 in the Turquoise Room at the Scottsdale Community College, 9000 E. Chaparral Road.

The Issues & Experts Forum will feature a moderated conversation with Experience Scottsdale President and CEO Rachel Sacco; Dr. Gerd Wuestemann of Scottsdale Arts; and French Thompson, president of the Scottsdale Gallery Association.

Each community leader will represent their respective organizations with a passion for both the community of Scottsdale, the practice of creating beautiful things and how those beautiful things can help shape a community and its economic development prospects.

But first, how do these folks view art?

For Ms. Sacco, art and all of its versions has been a pivotal point for visitors to the city of Scottsdale — in particular the Old Town sector.

Experience Scottsdale President and CEO Rachel Sacco during a recent keynote tourism event. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

“Throughout my 33 years promoting Scottsdale’s tourism industry, the arts have played an important role,” she said. “The arts put Scottsdale on the map, dating back to the early 20th Century when the area became a haven for artists and creative minds. Later, the arts became a draw for the affluent visitors we rely on to this day.”

Under a 501(c)6 nonprofit umbrella, the private company known as Experience Scottsdale holds contracts with both the City of Scottsdale and Town of Paradise Valley to conduct marketing efforts on behalf of the municipalities.

“Scottsdale’s arts scene has evolved over the past century,” she said of the importance of artistic expression. “Paintings, murals and sculptures have added to the beauty of our city — beautifying our highways, our buildings, our public spaces, our resorts and more. And galleries, museums and arts festivals have been ingrained in our identity as a community and a tourism destination.”

For Mr. Thompson, the idea of what art is could be considered, “a loaded question.”

French Thompson, owner of French Designer Jeweler on Main Street, gets ready for the day the morning of Monday, Jan. 22, 2018 in Old Town Scottsdale. (File photo)

“Art is much like a black hole,” he quipped.

“It swallows everything that is thrown at it and it’s not affected by it at all. You can have bad art, good art, contemporary art, modern art, historical art, outsider art, insider art, amateur art and professional art.”

But for Mr. Thompson the appreciation of art is what is most important because solely the expression is what matters.

“Each and everyone of the above mentioned forms of art is — in fact — art,” he said. “Art is a creation of the human mind, intellect and body. It can be conceptual where it is only in the mind and it can be solid as a rock. It can be poetry, dance, literature, music and many other creations.”

Art makes the world a better place, Mr. Thompson contends.

“All of this is an enrichment of the human existence,” he said.

“There is even ugly art, hideous art, scary art and revolting art. All of which is still art. I am not sure what an elephant is thinking when it paints on a canvas but I do know that many people enjoy it as art. I am not going to say that art is everything, or that everything is Art. However it is integrated into our entire human existence whether we notice it or not.”

Join the Scottsdale Independent as Independent Newsmedia and the SCOTT organization offers a discussion on “What’s next in the Arts District of Old Town Scottsdale” 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, March 6 at the Scottsdale Community College.

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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