Scottsdale, which prides itself on its gaggle of galleries and cache of cultural pursuits, found itself Tuesday strangely lagging behind Pittsburgh, Albuquerque, N.M., and Las Vegas as an art haven.
Readers of AmericanStyle magazine, which touts itself as “the national arts lifestyle magazine for enthusiasts, collectors and travelers,” voted on the top 25 U.S. art destinations in three city size categories. New York was an unsurprising No. 1 for large art-focused cities, followed by Chicago and San Francisco. Phoenix earned enough votes to come in eighth place.
In the small-city category, none of the local experts were surprised that Santa Fe, N.M. earned the top spot. Sedona came in second, and Key West, Fla. was third. An odd choice at 19th place among small cities was Tubac, just edging out popular Pennsylvania art colony New Hope/Lahaska.
But in the mid-sized category — cities with populations of 100,000 to 500,000 — AmericanStyle readers named Scottsdale as the fourth best art destination. Pittsburgh, more famous for its steel mills than its sculptures, was No. 1 with the art-loving tourists, and even crass gambling mecca Las Vegas was a more popular destination than Scottsdale.
Local art and tourism experts were astounded by the snub.
“That just does not make sense to me,” said Randy Jones, co-owner of the Duley-Jones Gallery and a Scottsdale art dealer for a quarter century. “I’ve been to every art district in the United States, and Scottsdale should be No. 1.
“I’ve never even heard about the arts in Pittsburgh,“ Jones added. “And I don’t want to upset people in Albuquerque, but I don’t see that.”
Vicki Boyce, owner of Victoria Boyce Galleries, was equally stunned.
“Las Vegas has a burgeoning art market, but it’s hard to swallow that they have pulled ahead of us,” Boyce said. “And I can’t imagine who would go out of their way to go to Albuquerque for art.”
Both gallery owners are familiar with AmericanStyle magazine. Boyce said the magazine, and likely its subscribers, lean towards collecting fine crafts, art forms that use different materials than canvas or clay.
Boyce said that’s not a category to be confused with home crafts, such as scrapbooking, but rather it includes the art of fine American craftsmen who work in glass or other mediums. She said the craft emphasis could sway the votes towards Pittsburgh.
In fact, AmericanStyle spokesman Daniel Waldman said the yearlong, citywide “Pittsburgh Celebrates Glass!” as well as the city’s large cache of museums, including the Carnegie Museum of Art and the Andy Warhol Museum, were often cited by readers as they cast their votes.
Third-place Las Vegas also is noted for glass master Dale Chihuly’s works.
“Without leaving the strip, visitors can see everything from a Chihuly in the lobby of the Bellagio to the Guggenheim-Hermitage Museum at the Venetian,” AmericanStyle writes in its description of sin city’s cultural attributes.
From a Seattle resident who voted for Vegas: “Vegas has come a long way from tacky to interesting art.”
Waldman said readers voted for a destination on its offerings of art to look at and art to buy. Scottsdale’s lack of many museums may have relegated it to its fourth place status.
And there is no question, it’s partly a popularity contest, Waldman said. But that thought could chill Scottsdale tourism leaders’ spines even more.
Pittsburgh and its steel mills more popular than Scottsdale and its posh resorts?
One hopeful reader comment was, “Scottsdale has Western chic.”
Comments from voters who picked Scottsdale mostly focused on the galleries rather than public or museum art, Waldman said.
But Rachel Sacco, president of the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Scottsdale shouldn’t take a backseat to any other city of its size when it comes to art offerings.
“We don’t have a lot of museums, but we have a lot of culture, and maybe we need to do a more aggressive job of positioning ourselves,” she said. “We need to move up in those rankings.”
Sacco said she’s already set her staff in motion to reach out to AmericanStyle editors, and find a way to get readers to take more notice of Scottsdale next year.
Waldman said the magazine has about 60,000 regular subscribers and sells lots of newsstand copies. The top art destinations are included in the June issue, which is now at newsstands. They are also on view on the magazine’s web site, www.AmericanStyle.com.
Almost forgotten in the scuffle over Scottsdale’s standing, Tucson landed a spot on the mid-sized cities for the first time this year, in ninth place.