Patron of the Artists
Students and local creatives find a home at Scottsdale’s Art One Gallery.
By John Roark | Photography by Brian Goddard
CELEBRATING A QUARTER-CENTURY milestone, Art One Gallery owner and founder Kraig Foote insists that he could never have done it by himself. From the hundreds of student and local artists he represents— who range in age from 5 to 90 years—to the design professionals who welcome the accessibility of fine art at an approachable price point, to a long list of benefactors who have always stepped forward when needed most, he’s never been alone.
“Helping artists get their start is what we’re all about, but the community has always been there for us,” Foote
says. “I’m probably the worst gallery owner from a business standpoint. Our clients have saved us many times. Whenever we’ve needed a boost, it appears. When a student needs assistance, it’s there.”
Foote admits that part of Art One’s genesis has a touch of mystery. “I worked pulling fabric samples for a local interior design firm,” he recalls. “I was living with an art professor. During the summers, students would come by the house to work on their projects. Many were so strapped for cash that they’d create art on anything they could find. They were really struggling.
“I had a big chalkboard by the side of my bed that I’d scribble on whenever I was inspired,” Foote continues. “One night, I got up and saw that it said, ‘Open an art gallery for students.’ It was in my own hand, but I had no memory of writing it. I don’t have an art degree. I knew nothing about art or artists. I had never run a business. But there was a definite need for a place where talent could be encouraged and shared.”
The idea was originally met with resistance. “The small business association said we’d never make it,” Foot recalls. But he pressed on, driven by the desire to create a venue that would provide opportunities for talent that might otherwise not have a chance. After securing a modest startup fund, he placed fliers calling for artists on a kiosk at Arizona State University.
Word spread among students who wanted an opportunity to show their work. Foote widened his net to include high schoolers. “If we can teach young people at an early age, it arms them with skills and knowledge that will serve them well in life,” he believes. “If they’re making an income from works that we sell, they can continue to create and save money for college.”
From inauspicious beginnings in the 920-square-foot storefront that the gallery still occupies today, Foote, along with gallery manger Max Smith, has created a legacy in the Valley art scene. High school students receive 100 percent of the profits of every piece of theirs that the gallery sells; college-aged and local artists take a 50 percent cut. Prices generally range from $20 to $1,500. “Local artists help us keep the lights on, but our No. 1 priority is the students,” Smith says.
Getting the helping hand that Foote’s vision provides can mean the difference between giving up and moving forward, says John Babbit, a fine artist who worked at the gallery throughout high school and college. “I not only got to learn what it means to be a painter but also how to interact with people and the business of selling my work. Without that, I don’t know that I could have accomplished what I have as a full-time artist,” he says. “Selling my first canvas changed my life. It was then that I saw my dream was attainable.”
To date, the gallery has sold more than 700 of Babbit’s canvases. Other Arizona artists who got their start at Art One, including Brian Bogner, Jeff Cochran and Ian Davis, have gone on to achieve significant careers with representation by major galleries. “These kids were just having fun when they were here,” says Smith, who began working at the gallery at age 14 and will inherit it when Foote retires. “Some are now making up to $90,000 per painting.”
In addition to benefiting budding talent, Gallery One also serves artists in need through the NCBFST Foundation for Student Artists. An acronym for “Nurture, Create, Believe, Flourish, Succeed, Transform,” the 501(c)(3) organization provides student artists and local school art programs with funds to purchase necessary supplies and equipment.
The gallery has certain criteria for representation. “One is that you are continually producing new inventory. We want someone who is constantly creating and moving their career as an artist forward,” Smith says.
“We also have a rule that if you’re going to paint, you’re going to talk. If you don’t want to talk, then you can’t show. We want you involved and supporting the community. If another artist asks you how you did your piece, tell them about it. That can make a whole world of difference.”
The lion’s share of Art One’s sales comes from Valley interior designers and architects. “Local artists who might never have the chance to exhibit in a gallery setting are given a real opportunity here. It inspires them to move forward, opening their minds to the possibilities,” says interior designer and Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner Lynda Martin, who has known Foote for more than 30 years. “Art One is my go to because Kraig and Max present art in a nonthreatening way. They have created a wonderful resource for beginning collectors, who feel welcome as soon as they come through the door.”
Foote remains humbled and grateful for all that life has sent his way. “It was always the kids who were the driving force,” he says. “What keeps me going is the excitement they feel when they show us their work, and the joy they experience when they sell a piece. This has been the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Art One Gallery owner Kraig Foote shares his advice for beginning collectors.
We try to discourage people from buying art for their entire house all at once. Where is the fun in that? Travel. See other galleries. Enjoy the process.
Buy what you love and can afford.
Don’t purchase just to fill a space. Select pieces that will follow you for a long time, that mean something to you and that you can pass down to your kids or family.
You’re careful when you buy clothes. Why wouldn’t you be just as choosy when you’re selecting a piece of art?