The Paper Heart:
Anchoring the Grand Avenue Revitalization
Story by Mark Greenawalt,©2005
Photo by Don Crossland,©2005
Originally published in Contact
Magazine, (December 2005)
Thriving in a disheveled neighborhood populated with vintage mechanic garages and run-down vacant sheds, The Paper Heart Gallery anchors the pulse of the Grand Avenue art scene. Located on a strip known as “New Grand Landing,” The Paper Heart stands tall as a flurry new neighboring venues open. Although these new venues might be considered competition by some, The Paper Heart has welcomed them—and heralded the coming of an art-district revival.
The walls of The Paper Heart have hosted the works of well over 400 valley artisans; the stage has elevated more than one-thousand musicians and the bar has served many satisfied patrons. It’s a wildly popular hangout showered with multiple awards from the New Times Best of Phoenix. What’s the attraction? Artist/owner Scott Sanders has master planned a social gathering space combining the ambiance of a high-energy night club with the high-brow sophistication of an international art gallery. During First Fridays, it’s a party! Other times it can transform like a chameleon into a dance studio, a spoken word coffee shop or a theater for independent film festivals.
During the humble beginnings of The Paper Heart, Sanders wielded a hammer in the construction industry by day and played the part of struggling artist by night. Although he had several paintings on display at the Mystery Gallery, he found it very difficult to solicit recognition from the rest of the art world.
At first his brainchild was merely a web site during the first year of existence. Sanders set up web cams in his garage that chronicled his colorful creations online at thepaperheart.com. The web site was a success, so in 2001 Sanders rolled the dice and opened the “brick and mortar” version of the gallery near 5th Avenue and Van Buren. His goal for the leased space was to display and, more importantly, sell his own artwork. Sanders was not selfish, however; he was sympathetic to others who were in the same shoes he once filled. Sharing his wall space was mutually beneficial for him and the artists. “And besides, I wasn’t able to produce new artwork fast enough to keep up with the artwork that I was selling,” says Sanders.
In 2003, Sanders relocated to 750 N.W. Grand. In the heyday of Grand Avenue, this building and parking lot was the home of Midway Chevrolet. With a substantial investment of time, effort and money, Sanders used his construction knowledge to restore this 9,800-square-foot facility, turning into the largest arts venue on Grand Landing. For live music and staged performances, the main room incorporates a vaulted ceiling with clerestory windows, state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems and a fully stocked and often crowded bar. Sanders is quick to clarify though, “This is first and foremost an art gallery with a bar, not a bar with some artwork.”
Two and three-dimensional artwork adorns several walls throughout the main room and foyer. The gallery area yields a more intimate setting with warm incandescent task lights highlighting each artistic creation. The artwork rotates monthly and the exhibitions are much too diverse to pinpoint a specific style or genre The Paper Heart represents. Any artist seeking exposure is encouraged to email samples to Sanders for consideration. He alone determines which works are displayed at The Paper Heart. The Paper Heart regulars are true art lovers and tend to appreciate a wide range of styles. Each month, art exhibitions are spotlighted on First Friday with an additional artist’s reception on Third Friday. The live entertainment is also a cornucopia of variety from night to night. Spoken word, poetry, live rock bands, comedians (Third Saturdays), belly dancers and a new independent film night (First Wednesdays) are just a sample of what can be found. Guests can sample deli sandwiches at the snack bar and wash it down with the extensive list of imported beers, malt beverages, Liberty Creek wines and sodas.
Recently Sanders found it difficult to create new artwork due to the responsibility associated with managing the arts venue. In fact, the initial goal of displaying his own artwork has taken a back seat and he rarely hangs his own pieces. “What I’ve been able to accomplish,” he notes, “has helped the community by creating a buzz, and that has been my gratification.” Optimistically, he continues, “I’ll find time eventually.” The Paper Heart has become his proverbial painted masterpiece. Sanders has selflessly morphed this blank canvas into an evolving artist showcase.
This article can also be found
on-line at http://www.contact-mag.com/gallery.htm
The Paper Heart official website is http://www.thepaperheart.com