After the Heard Museum show was over, we touched base on Monday with a few of our gallery owner friends in Scottsdale. As we visited and compared notes, we gained a general consensus that the Native American art market is having an uptick this spring, compared to recent years. We all agreed the trend was favorable, but it is too soon to tell whether this is a minor fluctuation or the start of a larger cycle of interest in Native American art. You know I hope more people will fall in love with the culture and art that is dear to my heart.
Old Town Scottsdale has a couple of streets where one can park and walk up and down from gallery to gallery, window shopping or going in and chatting. And when you are tired of walking, they have golf carts running up and down the road to carry weary visitors.
On Tuesday, we drove down to spend the day in Tubac, a small artist colony about 45 miles south of Tucson, and had some additional adventures.
The layout of Tubac is what one would expect of an artist colony – higgledy-piggledy small roads with small stores at fairly random intervals. Many of the stores in this sleepy village have been there for a long time, though the tenants change from time to time. There are possibly a thousand year-round residents of Tubac, with lots of snow-bird RV’s spending the winter and summer tourists coming in from Phoenix, Tucson, and Nogales to bring a vibrancy to the community. Even in the spring, we were surprised to see how many people were wandering about, going in and out of different stores, walking up the middle of the somewhat paved streets, and basically having a great time.
When you get to Tubac, either get one of the plentiful maps of the area or take a photo on your phone of the standing signage and maps. That will help you get around a bit, but candidly, it isn’t really possible to get lost in this tiny community, so we recommend that you just unleash your sense of adventure, find a good shady parking spot, make sure you have a bottle of water with you, and start exploring.
One of our favorite things to do in Tubac is drop in at Elvira’s restaurant. They have five different kinds of mole, and I love to sample the different flavors and learn more about each of them. And yes, they do have really tasty margaritas, and an upper-tier menu to go along with the beverages. One distinctive piece of décor is the hundreds of blown glass balls hanging from the ceiling. They reflect the track lighting to create a lovely glow around the rooms. And if you are in the mood for outdoor dining, they have a small patio with high top tables outside so you can see people wandering by in their search for more treasures.
We always enjoy stopping at Dream Catcher, where Cherokee artist Thomas Barbre holds court. His elegant work in gold and silver are breathtaking, and he always has time to show us his workshop area where he cuts and polishes his own stones. A number of years ago, I managed to acquire a pair of gorgeous Australian fire opal earrings set in gold from him, and they remain among my most beautiful pieces of jewelry. Where most of the stores in Tubac carry either crafts or imported items, Dream Catcher carries a lot of authentic Native American jewelry and other items, and is well worth stopping to investigate.
About three miles south of Tubac is the Tumacacori National Historic Park, and you can even drop in at St. Ann’s church on the east end of Tubac if you wish. If your schedule permits, both of them are worth a bit of your time.
On our way back from Tubac, after going through the US Border Patrol checkpoint, we stopped at Jim and Bobbi Jeen Olson’s Western Trading Post in Casa Grande. Casa Grande is in the middle of the very parched Sonoran desert, and we wonder how people can live in such conditions. But as we found out, the folks in Casa Grande are doing just fine.
It was our first time at the Olson’s store, and they graciously showed us around. In addition to a wide selection of vintage items in their store, they also host the Western Trading Post auction live and on the Internet from time to time. If you appreciate vintage jewelry, they have a tremendous amount from estates throughout the Southwest, and they are always willing to stop and chat with visitors. The Western Trading Post is a nice addition to your trip to the old Ancient Peoples ruins at the Casa Grande National Park.
We departed Casa Grande with some great memories, both of the warmth of the Olson’s as well as a better understanding of life in the Sonoran desert. We are looking forward to seeing them at the upcoming Brian Lebel Old West show in Santa Fe in June, where both the Western Trading Post and The Dancing Rabbit Gallery will have booths. If you are in the area, stop by and say hello!
Next up – our stay in Flagstaff to visit some artist friends as we wind our way home by one of the least direct routes. Sometimes, you get off the beaten path and run across lots of great serendipitous adventures.