I had to visit Shemer twice to understand it. The first time I was delighted by my conversation with Board Member Goldthwaite H. Dorr III and a particular Shemer Art Center show called New Art Arizona. I took no notes. After the 2nd visit, I received some explanatory information from Executive Director Shonna James. She emphasized what makes her art center special–the gift shop, an outdoor sculpture garden, rotating group and solo-artist exhibits, classes, workshops, lectures, and frequent community events. She summarized it as “truly a home for the arts”. I’d call it a “do-it-yourself art experience”.
The Shemer is at 5005 East Camelback Road in Phoenix. It’s in the very first home built in the Arcadia neighborhood. After 3 families lived in it, this home became a neighborhood art center after Martha Evvard Shemer bought it and donated it to the City of Phoenix. Her intent was to preserve its historic value and create a lively community center. Budget cuts almost resulted in Shemer closing in 2010, but civic-minded citizens took over operations and it’s now thriving. Visitors like me enjoy regularly changing exhibits by talented Arizona artists. Above is well-named “Zing” by Travis Rice, a scholarship award winner. There is no permanent collection by artists with familiar names. Locals get involved in classes led by professional artists, students from many high schools contribute to their own annual art exhibition, awards are given, sculpture competitions occur, kids show up for projects like “Yay oh Yay–Duct Tape Day!!”, etc.
Its building is part of the fun. The beautifully restored dwelling that will be 100 years old in 3 years is in Santa Fe Mission style. This means adobe walls, lots of cool rooms for art and its creation, and quietly landscaped grounds often alive with sculptures from Arizona artists. Because the Shemer’s eclectic creations from artists at all levels of development are both traditional and nontraditional, everyone will find something to admire and want to take home. Every city should have a Shemer.