Celebration of Fine Art
Jake Potje and Susan Morrow Potje connect artists and collectors
By Lauren Wise
For almost 30 years, the Valley has hosted one of the country’s premier art events: the Celebration of Fine Art. Sprawled under white tents in Scottsdale from January to March, this juried, invitational show and art sale showcases over 100 artists from around the country, who continuously create and sell their pieces from within personal open studios. Patrons are free to wander about, chat with artists, and experience the artistic process while seeing new pieces come to life. Visitors can also learn about the inspiration, techniques and stories behind mediums during the Friday afternoon one-hour Art Discovery series, from blown glass and jewelry to steel sculptures and impressionistic influence.
Arts & Antiques Magazine called the Celebration of Fine Art, which is spread over 40,000 square feet, “One of the West’s Premier Art Events” – and much of these accolades come from the work of Susan Morrow Potje, the second-generation owner of the Celebration of Fine Art. Along with her husband, Jake, she’s increased the annual revenue to over six million dollars and is known for her unique approach to connecting artists and their customers. We talked with Susan about the origination of the Celebration of Fine Art and what defines the Arizona art scene.
How did the Celebration of Fine Art originate?
In the late ‘80s, the original founders, Tom and Ann Morrow [my dad and stepmom] spent time in the Laguna Beach area visiting three art shows; each ran for about eight weeks during the summer. It occurred to them that Scottsdale would be a perfect spot for an extended art show in the winter. The early days had many learning curves, and over the years the show has evolved into a truly one of a kind experience for both the artists and the visitors/collectors. It is a true community that fosters a sense of excitement and joy and enthusiasm is shared freely.
My husband Jake and I have been involved in one fashion or another since the beginning of the show. Jake built all of the display walls for the artists’ studios prior to the opening in 1991. In 2004 we became partners and took over ownership a few years after that.
How would you describe Arizona’s art scene?
Arizona has long been a destination for both artists, who are inspired by the atmosphere and light as well as collectors, who know that they can find works of art from premier artists. The Celebration is widely known as an integral part of the art experience in Scottsdale.
Tell me about the process of jurying artists.
The Celebration of Fine Art is a juried and carefully curated show limited to around 100 artists. The jury looks for a variety of things including quality of art, variety of styles and mediums, ability for the artist to be present during the 10 weeks and ability to connect with visitors.
Why should people check out the Artist Discovery Series?
Each Friday brings discoveries and insights that allow guests to see the world of art through the eyes of the artist. Even though I know more about most of the artists then probably anyone here, I always learn something new myself.
What’s something that visitors might not know about the Celebration of Fine Art?
Each season we have people who tell us they have been driving by for years and finally decided to stop in and see what it is all about. Although we might be known as the “big white tents art show,” people literally forget about the tent once they take a few steps into the show. Everything about the Celebration is a transformative experience. Starting from the fact we turn an empty lot, blank canvas into an extraordinary art community. The show is thoughtfully curated throughout the year in order to offer an extraordinary art collection as well as kind, giving and enthusiastic artists willing to share their gifts with the visitors. We also have a cafe and courtyard where people can relax.
How do you see the Celebration of Fine Art evolving?
Buying art is usually an emotional response to the art and how it makes a person feel. It is impossible to leave here without feeling better than you did when you arrived. Art lifts spirits. Connecting with others lifts spirits. This truly is a Celebration of Fine Art and a celebration of life!
The Celebration of Fine Art runs January 12-March 24, 2019, and is located on the southwest corner of Hayden Road and the Loop 101. Admission costs $10 for adults and is free for children 12 and younger. For more information, visit celebrateart.com
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