The Sagrado Galleria: Much More Than An Art Space In South La Phoenikera
When Sam Gomez and Julia Duran would travel down Central Avenue to get ice cream at Oasis, their favorite antojito shop in South Phoenix, they saw both the opportunity and the need to build something in that community. As soon as the stars aligned and they met someone that could help realize their vision, that’s exactly what they did. The Sagrado Galleria opened on Central Avenue, just south of Southern in November 2016.
The Sagrado had been open before, on Grand Avenue; it was there from January, 2012 to the summer of 2013. In that short period of time, they built some important bridges attracting people from West Phoenix, South Phoenix and other parts of the city; people who wouldn’t generally visit Downtown La Phoenikera.
Both Sam and Julia are hardcore Phoenikerxs. Julia is a painter and hair artist. She grew up in South Phoenix, with a poetry-loving mom who was a seamstress and a dad that made belts out of horse hair. Sam grew up in the West Side and has been boosting La Phoenikera’s pride for years through his photography and apparel line, Phoenician Clothing.
When they decided to re-open The Sagrado in the South Side, their intention was to create a space where families from the area could see art, learn and most importantly, see themselves reflected in the artistic production. They wanted the gallery to empower La Raza and make them feel comfortable.
“Bringing the gallery over here brings the art back to the community where artists get their inspiration in the first place,” says Sam.
In the beginning, people would ask them “why do you want to have a gallery in South Phoenix, who is going to buy pieces over there?” But for them, it was about more than just economics. Having a gallery in SoPho was about engaging with people and inspiring them to think differently about themselves.
“As artists, of course we want collectors to see our work, we want to sell our art, but at the end of the day we want art to be seen by familias because they are the ones who really care,” says Sam.
For Julia, it’s about inspiring the youth especially, and providing a place where they can engage with their “nanas and tatas.” “We love coming in here and seeing babies and grandparents and parents with their kids and their teenagers,” she says.
Development For and By South Phoenix
A lot of us saw how things went down in Downtown La Phoenikera. For many years, artists and culture pushers worked hard AF to make Downtown a cool place to live and work. Now though, gentrification has caused those very same people to lose their city to outsiders, cookie cutter apartment buildings, and over-priced tacos.
In the South Side, commercial plazas with staples of consumerism have started to occupy the corners along Baseline Road, but that’s mostly east of Central Avenue. Life along Central remains hella Mexican, with mom and pop neverías, taquerías, birrierías and other “ías” that should remain untouched.
Sam and Julia are taking The Sagrado Galleria beyond a place to showcase art. They are making it a learning space where local businesses and artists can learn their role in preserving the cultural identity of their community. They want to do everything they can so that any development planned for the area reflects the people who live there.
One way to do that is through art. In their eyes, artists are the true developers because nobody else, regardless of how many condos they are able to build, can produce atmosphere. Only artists can create a sense of “cool,” safety and comfort in a community.
They want artists to know they can be part of city beautification projects, for example, and take advantage of those opportunities as professionals. “It’s very important that these jobs stay local, and a way that will happen is if artists are educated and empowered,” says Julia.
The Sagrado Galleria’s Latest Show
On Saturday, May 6, The Sagrado Galleria inaugurated its 7th show, Mujeres del Desierto. The one-of-a-kind exhibit celebrates the feminine spirit by featuring the work of 31 women from La Phoenikera, New Mexico and other states. According to Julia, this is a five-part experiential exhibit that involves art, art mentorship for youth, wellness, entrepreneurial spirit and city beautification.
Throughout May, the gallery will host a series of female-driven workshops. One of them is about womb wellness, which will include a showing of the film Catching Babies by Barni Axmed Qaasim, and a panel discussion with birth workers from La Phoenikera. Another is an art workshop for youth ages 12 to 18 hosted by Emily Costello, one of Mujeres del Desierto’s featured artists.
Every workshop and event throughout the month will have a pop-up of Azukar Coffee, a local shop that is scheduled to open in early June. Azukar is owned by Sandra Flores, who was born and raised in South La Phoenikera. To take everything full circle, a group of female artists will come together to paint a mural at Azukar Coffee.
Some Phoenikeros may remember that cruising down Central Avenue in the South Side was made illegal in the 90s. The way we see it, the availability of an art space like The Sagrado Galleria that brings people together along this corridor is in many ways a subversive act.
The Sagrado Galleria is located at 6437 S. Central Ave. in the South Side. You can check out upcoming events and visiting hours at TheSagrado.com.