Practical Art’s Evolution & the Next Big Leap

In this post:   — NEW HOURS — NEW EVENTS — NEW LOGO — 

Where does the time go?

To really begin to study the way hours, days, and weeks– and even the breadth of our own histories– can crunch and condense, twist into minute granules of their former proportions,  you just have to venture into entrepreneurship.  I imagine parenthood is similar. Here, you have this tiny fledgling creation: you teach it, it teaches you more, and before you know it, it’s divorced and sleeping on the couch in your basement asking when you’re going to the grocery store next.

Truly, we only BLINKED and we went from carrying the handcrafted wares of eight artisans to the work of one hundred and eight creative Arizonans.


Because somehow, in that blink, five years happened. And it didn’t just happen to us, but it happened to our customers, our neighborhood, this glorious city, and the rest of the world.  I’m sure it happened differently for each of us, but through our little fisheye lens here at Camelback & Central, we saw Phoenix get its Metro Light Rail; we saw the incredible urban infill that happened shortly thereafter, including the Upward Projects touching down with the PostinoWindsorFederal restaurant trifecta just up the road; we’ve seen the mindset of the valley shift significantly towards supporting the local arts & services thanks to the efforts of organizations like Local First Arizona, Arizona Commission on the Arts, Contemporary Forum, and Artlink, and thanks to the efforts of individuals like the former and current mayors, the current curators and directors at Phoenix Art Museum, and each of you who are so very verbal about your mission to know where your foods and products are sourced and to know who the individuals are that make up this market community. The list of organizations and individuals goes on and on, and it’s the aggregate of all of these efforts that brings about the city we see here in 2013 versus the 2008 world we opened shop in.

In the microcosm of Practical Art, there’s been many changes in our own lives, most significantly, the loss of our friend and founder, Jane Reddin, in early 2011.

Team Practical Art August 2008

She’s sandwiched there between Lisa (left) & I (right).  Though her resistance to the leukemia lasted until that February, she’d been hospitalized since the middle of April 2010…nine months. Until the day we got the call, we always thought she was coming home. And that fella there on the left, Chris, who’d been with us for over two years while he was at ASU, left for his internship in late 2010.  Today, handling more artists, more events, and more facets to this wacky arts business than we ever have…. it’s still just Lisa and I.

photo by Sean Deckert for Java Magazine Dec 2012

We’ve been talking quite a bit about what’s been working and what hasn’t been or what never has. Of course we run all the reports, assess sales by hour, all the nitty gritty business stuff, and, there’s adjustments that can be made according to those stats. But we’ve also been talking about what’ll give this business longevity in regards to the wearied gals that run it….yeah, us: our health, our sanity, our interests, and our passions. Not only has the city and the business changed, grown, matured over the last 5 years…. but so have we.  Lisa got married, for cryin’ out loud! So it’s time we made some changes, big changes, that reflect who YOU are, Phoenix, who the ARTISTS are, and who WE are. We’ve decided it’s the year of Working Smarter Not Harder. The Year of Organization. The Year of Accepting Help.

The biggest change, and one of the things those pesky financial reports tell us, is that we need new hours. 11am-6pm during the week doesn’t give you folks who’re off at 5-or-so the chance to get over here and peruse around after work.  So, we’re now open until 7pm weekdays, Mon-Fri.  Those same reports tell us that there’s no need for me to hang around the shop after 5pm on Saturday or Sunday, unless we schedule an event. So, we now are open 11am-5pm on the weekends. Here’s what the schedule looks like:

Mon- Fri 11am-7pm
Sat & Sun 11am-5pm
+special events!

7pm on Fridays?!?  I know what you’re thinking. “What about pie social?! What about live music?! Egads, what’ll I do with my Friday night?!” Fear not, Phoenicians. That’s what the last line, “+special events” covers.  Let’s all get more bang for our time-buck by smooshing the first two Friday night events to one big hullabaloo on First Friday. That means we’ll be having the reception for our art exhibitions a little earlier in the month that artist is featured, and we’ll be livenin’ up the event with some local musicians.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” you say, “Pie. I need to know about the pie.”


Well, we’re merging Pie Social with doing some Social Good starting in 2013!  We’ll be taking one night a month to feature a 501-C3 that we believe in and asking Vonceil’s Pies to bake on their behalf!  A $5 donation to the charity gets you a slice of your choice, and a $10 donation or a $25 store purchase gets you as many in-house tastings as you would like!  And on those nights, 10% of all sales will be donated to the featured charity. “A Share of the Pie: January Charity Night!” will be on Fourth Friday this month, the 25th, from 7pm-9pm, directly after regular store hours. This month our donation will be made to Local First Arizona.

Part of the reasoning behind easing up on being here most Friday nights is that we (as a business and as individuals) have begun to feel a little disconnected from the rest of the arts community. Two gals working 60 hours a week, and every, single Friday night for an event…? No wonder no one saw us out n’ about, uh? And it was a shame because we happen to love our community. So!  We’re scheduling Third Friday Field Trips to show you why you should love it too (and so we can get some fresh air)!  Heck yes, a BRAND NEW EVENT! We’ll be encouraging you all to meet at Practical Art from 6pm-7pm for a “gettin’ a good start” happy hour, and then asking you to join us as we bike/rail/carpool outta here at 7 o’ clock for an arts adventure at some of our favorite local culture hotspots. January’s Third Friday Field Trip checks out Modified Arts.

All of our other great events will stay where they be: Tipsy Tuesdays, Uptown P.E.N. (Poetry Event Night), Tsundoku Anonymous Book Club, Socrates Cafe Philosophical Discussion Group…am I forgetting any? Anyway, to keep abreast of the new events and old favorites, tune into our website, our Facebook page, our Twitter, or sign-up for our monthly newsletter for regular postings and updates.  That way, you can catch the one-off events as well, such as artisan demonstrations and hands-on workshops.

And with all these new internal, structural changes, we felt it was only appropriate to get a bit of a visual makeover…. so check out our new logo!


What rad t-shirts this’ll make, uh? UH? Can’t wait for ’em to come in. You guys’ll be the second to know (after my Mom of course). After being open nearly 5 years and STILL getting the whole, “What IS Practical Art anyway?” questions, we figured we needed something visual that says it a little better than just the name, and a visual that emphasizes the key aspects of what we’re about: ART, LOCAL, & HANDMADE. Bam! Get it, got it, good. We hope to take this great pumpkin orange (Lisa’s favorite color) and jazz up the shop with it a bit. Maybe make the front of the store a little more poppy, a little bit more noticeable to that crazy Central Ave traffic that zooms past all day long.  <Approval from Landlord pending.>  This theme of visual pop & clarity will be slowly infiltrating all of our communications platforms– so don’t be surprised to find yourself saying, “Wow, their website has really changed… and it looks fantastic!” At least, that’s what we hope you’ll find yourself saying.

And truly, truly, truly…. we hope to continue to stay receptive to your feedback. We learn as we go and tweak a lot along the way, and, well, this may be our biggest evolution yet, and we hope you love it.  As for The Year of Accepting Help, mentioned earlier, you’ll probably see a larger variety of faces around the shop, or get the sense of other presences behind-the-scenes.  Brad Towsley, graphic designer at The James Agency and Lisa’s husband, is taking the lead on our graphic output. Hannah, is our new intern. She’ll mostly be helping us formulate a multi-level internship program, something we’ve always wanted to do. And you’ll continue to see others of the Olson crew who’ve been so amazingly supportive and helpful since we began– Karen Olson (Lisa’s sis) and Kevin & Linda Olson (the parents).

I have a nagging feeling there’ll be a few other things to ‘unveil’ over the next couple of months…. but wow, aren’t you exhausted from this read already? So, as always, stay tuned and we cannot thank you enough for the verbal nature of your support. Every time you tell a friend about us, share a link, give someone our postcard…. repost our blog <wink!>…. you are doing a thousand times more than a traditional advertising dollar ever could. And it’s an action that adheres to what I always say, “support what you want to see in the world.”


6 thoughts on “Practical Art’s Evolution & the Next Big Leap”

  1. “The year of working smarter, not harder,” I love it! You ladies are just as important as your business in the community. I’m glad you are making time to nurture yourselves. Happy New Year!

  2. As one of the original eight artists, I am so proud to be part of Practical Art! It is a wonderful legacy Jane left, and you two have built it into more than I could have imagined! Thanks for all you do, for your support as I have slacked off production during my doctoral program, and mostly, for your exceptional shared vision and support of local arts and artists! YOU rock!

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