The ‘Tis Art Center and Gallery offers a remarkably wide range of art-centric programs, events, and services to many different groups in the culturally rich community of Prescott, Ariz.
With a beautiful high-altitude location and a rich collection of Victorian-era homes and buildings, the town of Prescott in Arizona’s central highlands is a vibrant center for culture, tourism, and retirement living. The ‘Tis Art Center and Gallery serves as an important community hub, offering two galleries of contemporary art by Prescott-area artists as well as jewelry and wearable art, plus a remarkably broad range of popular art education programs, events, and other services for residents and visitors.
The Center is headquartered on Prescott’s historic Courthouse Plaza in a building that dates to 1893 and was one of the only survivors of a devastating fire in 1900. A two-year restoration project, completed in 2009, kept historical elements in place, including original ceiling tiles and brickwork behind the gallery walls (the gallery’s home page offers an excellent 360-degree virtual tour).
Visitors enter into a main gallery that features monthly themed shows of affordable fine art paintings, photography, and sculpture, displayed museum-style. A parlor area with a comfortable settee features one of Arizona’s best selections of handcrafted jewelry and wearable art, while an upstairs mezzanine gallery is rented to one or more artists at a time for their own signature shows.
Presenting and Connecting 400 Local Artists
“We now have about 400 artists on our roster, and we’ll often connect two or three whose work we think is complementary for the mezzanine exhibits,” notes Patti Ortiz, the Center’s marketing and art education programs director. “We’re constantly changing the exhibits. On the main floor, new shows go up the Wednesday before the 4th Friday of the month, when Prescott has its monthly Art Walk, and we host artists’ receptions that day. The mezzanine shows switch out mid-month. With the frequent changes the GalleryOne art hanging system is really handy.
“From day one the plan was to create rotating theme exhibits, and the GalleryOne was the perfect choice to protect the walls from those frequent changes. We love that we can move the hooks up and down and the hangers from side to side, and it’s a big plus to be able to securely hang pieces up to 60 pounds.”
‘Tis also generates activities in the nearby ‘Tis Annex Art Education Building. Opened in 2013, the Annex is home to weekly adult art classes and workshops, and the STEPS Art Education Program for Children ages 5 – 14, which fills a gap in available programs for area youngsters.
GalleryOne art gallery hanging systems are used in the Annex to present project samples and student works-in-progress during classroom hours, and at the end of each class series the main hallway becomes a gallery space for a professional exhibit of student work.
“Art education is being downplayed nationally and around here,” says Ortiz. “Our elementary schools had one art teacher for about 8 different schools, and the kids just weren’t getting much from the limited exposure to the art experience. Our program is absolutely free, and it’s been especially valuable for home-schooled students. We limit the class size to 12 to keep instructor-student interaction intimate, and in a normal year have about 200 students enrolled in the program.”
Additional GalleryOne hanging systems are used in the Annex to present project samples and student works-in-progress during classroom hours, and at the end of each class series the main hallway becomes a gallery space for a professional exhibit of student work.
Studio Tour Attracts Hundreds of Visitors
The picture hanging systems also come into play the first weekend in October, when the Annex is transformed into studio and gallery space for ‘Tis artists to work and meet the public during the annual Prescott Area Artist Studio Tour. As Ortiz explains, “a lot of them have studios that are remote or tough to reach, and this makes it possible for them to participate. The number of people who come through and interact is amazing – we get 500 to 600 visitors through the doors over the three days.”
Other community-oriented activities include the Journeys in Spirit exhibition of traditional and contemporary Native art, produced in collaboration with Prescott’s Museum of Indigenous People and now in its 12th year (it’s featured in another fine virtual tour).
The ‘Tis Art Center and Gallery (a 501(c)(3) non-profit agency dedicated to the promotion of Prescott area artists, various styles of art, affordable original art and art education) is the brainchild of Ann Carson Dater, an Ohioan who later moved to Prescott. Dater, who lived to be over 100, was responsible for the restoration of the Oddfellows Building in Gallipolis, Ohio, which is now the Ariel Opera House and home to the Ohio Valley Symphony. After her move, Dater was responsible for saving two of Prescott’s historic buildings, the 1893 Knights of Pythias Building, which is now the ‘Tis Art Center and Gallery, and the 1905 Elks Theatre which is now the Elks Theatre and Performing Arts Center.
“The pioneering author and urban theorist Jane Jacobs said it best,” says Ortiz. “New ideas need old buildings."