You can’t take it with you, sure. But feel free to re-create it wherever you end up. That’s the lesson from Anthony and Lindsay Cresta, a married couple that last month opened Windup Gallery in downtown Mesa — Main Street’s funkiest, coolest art gallery since, well, ever.
You can’t take it with you, sure.
But feel free to re-create it wherever you end up.
That’s the lesson from Anthony and Lindsay Cresta, a married couple that last month opened Windup Gallery in downtown Mesa — Main Street’s funkiest, coolest art gallery since, well, ever.
In a neighborhood known for its oversize public sculptures, antique shops and modest, conservative art galleries, Windup’s style stands dramatically apart: Call it underground art, urban contemporary art or — as the genre’s practitioners prefer, ironically, “lowbrow” art — it’s a multimedia, multicultural mélange of hip-hop, hot rods, graffiti, video games, punk rock, skateboards, comic books, digital graphic design and tattoos.
“It’s the stuff no commercial gallery would touch,” Anthony says.
Which means: It’s not your mother’s Thomas Kinkade calendar. And although Windup’s wild wares might stick out like a sore, strange thumb on Main Street, the Crestas say they wouldn’t have it any other way.
The gallery, they say, is a tribute to the vibrant arts scene they left behind last year in New York.
Boy meets girl meets art
The Crestas’ story, Lindsay says, is the typical city-boy-meets-suburban-girl romance. Only a bit more modern.
The couple met online and lived for a decade in New York: He, born and raised in the city, was in advertising for the New York Times; she, a Mesa girl with deep family roots here, was going to school before taking a job with a woodworking company.
But that was before the birth of their first child, Kyle, in 2006, found them answering the call of maternal-side family — and the lure of affordable housing — by moving to the East Valley.
“I needed my mom,” Lindsay, 30, laughs.
But the couple couldn’t shake its love of big-city culture, like the Sunday morning routine: walking Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, checking out the sidewalk artists. Anthony, 31, himself an artist and graphic designer, had turned Lindsay on to his love of lowbrow art — and the couple, which married in February 2005, had amassed a collection of the work from favorite East Coast artists.
“At first, I was like, 'Anthony, this is weird,’ ” Lindsay recalls reacting to the art. “But then I fell in love with it.”
With downturns in the newspaper industry, last year Anthony took a buyout offer from the Times and spent a few months doing photography for the Mets before Lindsay “re-convinced” him of their agreement to move to the East Valley to raise their son. The family moved here 10 months ago, settling in Queen Creek to be near much of her family.
The Crestas weren’t here long, though, before pangs of nostalgia birthed a new idea of opening their own gallery to showcase the work they loved.
Trips to galleries in New York and Los Angeles connected them with influential artists such as billboard pirate and painter Ron English, rock band stage designer turned pop artist Dennis Larkins and Joe Vaux, a Los Angeles painter who works on the animated TV show “Family Guy.” None of them had heard of a lowbrow scene in the Valley — but they all agreed to offer works for the inaugural exhibit.
“For them to just say yeah,” Anthony says, “let all the other artists fall in line.”
But the Crestas also needed a gallery space. They were quickly priced out of Scottsdale and Tempe. Downtown Phoenix would certainly be conducive to their wild style, but Lindsay — who manages Windup’s accounting — couldn’t fathom feeling safe closing the gallery at night.
And then they saw the downtown Mesa Arts Center, another strange standout in the staid neighborhood of Lindsay’s youth.
“We saw that arts center and thought; This might be the next place to be,” she says.
A vacant storefront west of the center, next to S’Bistro, seemed like a perfect fit — after a few structural adjustments were made to allow for a small bar and DJ booth. Windup’s first show, “The Rising,” opened in May, featuring more than 65 artists, including some from Arizona.
The show has been a success, the Crestas say, even if the biggest publicity came through an ad in the art magazine Juxtapoz and the gallery’s MySpace page.
You might not discern success by the walk-in traffic on Main Street. It’s virtually nonexistent. Spend a few minutes watching passers-by, and a funny thing is made apparent: On a sidewalk otherwise proffering sandwiches, antique tchotchkes, jewelry and used books, a funky modern art gallery creates its own kind of blind spot. People don’t even seem to look.
But that’s understandable.
“The thing with galleries like this one,” Anthony says, “is that we’re destination galleries. We’re not looking for walk-in traffic. If we get it, that’s great.”
Lindsay adds: “I don’t think we’d get walk-in traffic anywhere in Phoenix.”
If walk-in traffic happens, it’ll more likely be to the gallery’s back room, which the couple is dubbing Windup Back Alley and turning into a shop to sell prints, T-shirts and collectible vinyl toys. Those not acclimated to the urban contemporary art scene would be surprised how large the market is for those limited-edition toys: Names like Dunny and Munny and Uglydool need not register on your radar, but they’re huge among a certain audience.
The Crestas figure their retail offerings will open customers up to considering larger works in the gallery, like gateway art. Their hope, mostly, is to turn a young Valley audience into potential collectors.
Mike Goodwin, preparator for Mesa Contemporary Arts at the Mesa Arts Center, says he could imagine some overlap between what Windup is doing and what MCA’s gallery spaces — ever edging toward more contemporary, cooler exhibits — are planning. Mostly, though, he sees Windup’s exhibits dovetailing with what’s going on at downtown Phoenix’s contemporary spaces like Perihelion Arts and his own Pravis Gallery.
“It really is a different body of work that isn’t represented all that much here,” Goodwin says.
“It’s a little rough-going, because there’s not an established community that comes out to see that type of work. But we are finding that there are people who want to follow it.”
Meanwhile, Lindsay says, the gallery has been welcomed by fellow downtown merchants and city officials.
“A lot of people are excited to have something downtown that’ll bring in a younger crowd,” she says. “I guess they see it as a sign of things to come.”
Up next for Windup: an exhibit of Arizona artists, “Homegrown,” opening June 30 and running through July 21.
What: The Rising, exhibit of urban contemporary art, through June 16
Where: Windup Gallery, 126 W. Main St., Mesa
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays, second Fridays 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., or by appointment
Information: (480) 610-0003 or windupgallery.com