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Growing an art business: The legacy that is Scottsdale's Celebration of Fine Art – Your Valley




March 4, 2020
4:11 pm

By Breanne Krager

Growing and sustaining a 30-year-old business is not an undertaking for the faint of heart.

And when you take into account that this business has cultivated a loyal following that spans multiple generations spread across several continents, you have to wonder — what’s the secret?

For Susan Morrow Potje, the co-owner (along with her husband Jake) and show director of the Celebration of Fine Art — a 10-week-long juried, invitational art show located in north Scottsdale that gathers 100 artists from throughout the country — it’s a matter of remaining tenaciously optimistic and steadfastly committed to creating a culture of connectivity.

This has been imperative to the show’s success over the past three decades and how it has forever changed the way artists and art lovers connect.

“When the concept for Celebration of Fine Art was introduced in the early ‘90s, it was considered avant garde,” said Mrs. Potje. “A lot of people didn’t think it would work, but we knew if we created a positive, inviting atmosphere that was centered on building connections, it would take root. All these years later, that magical culture is still very much alive.”

About the show

In 1990, Tom and Ann Morrow, Mrs. Potje’s father and stepmother, put out a call to artists to gauge their interest in participating in a new kind of art show in Scottsdale.

It would be equal parts working art studio and show, spread over the course of eight weeks. Artists could simultaneously create their work while connecting directly with art lovers in a purposefully informal, yet professional, atmosphere.

To their delight, hundreds of artists responded — wanting to be a part of this new endeavor. The Morrows set up a jurying event to select the final 100 who would appear in the debut show and with support of city officials and the community, opened the doors to the now iconic “big white tents” in 1991. The inaugural year was met with rave reviews and throngs of visitors captivated by the new approach to showing art.

Today, the tradition, passion and dedication surrounding the show is carried on by Mrs. and Mr. Potje, who took the helm in 2004 with a focus on upholding the Celebration of Fine Art’s culture and elevating the experience it provides year after year— goals that don’t come without their fair share of challenges.

Navigating the obstacles

As any business owner can attest, there is no shortage of obstacles that can cloud your vision and cause you to veer off course. For Mrs. Potje, learning early on to expect the unexpected has been crucial to her ability to adapt and grow as a leader, which has ultimately helped Celebration of Fine Art remain relevant in a growing competitive landscape.

Early on in her career as the show’s director, Mrs. Potje was tasked with handling the logistics that came with moving the show’s location for the third time (in total, the show has relocated four times). This move was particularly challenging as it was Mrs. Potje’s first time going through the multi-layered permitting process as well as managing the costs associated with securing the infrastructure required for the permits.

Staying true to her belief that having a positive attitude and taking positive action is the only way to solve problems, she pushed on. By tenaciously navigating the multiple logistical challenges associated with the project — all while continuing to build strong community relations — the show opened on time in that location and remained there for 11 years.

Since then, Mrs. Potje has relocated the show once more to its current location at Hayden Road and the Loop 101, and she says it won’t be the last time.

“With each move, we know it takes an ample investment of time and money –– that won’t ever change,” said Mrs. Potje. “What has changed is my preparedness, which has opened me up to thinking of the things we can do differently to enhance the experience we provide year after year and ways we can contribute to our surrounding community.”

Community and economic impact

As Arizona’s longest-running art show, an average of 50,000 people attend the Celebration of Fine Art annually over the last three decades, which has contributed a significant boost to Scottsdale’s economy.

Mrs. Potje wanted to find out just what kind of impact the show had on the surrounding community, so she surveyed more than 800 visitors and found they spent, on average, $14.5 million shopping and more than $14.4 million dining out in Scottsdale.

Visitors stayed an average of 16 days and spent more than $8.5 million on entertainment within the area. And these visitors didn’t limit their visit to the Celebration, though that was one reason for their trip.

They also took advantage of other local-area events like Barrett-Jackson auto auction, the Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show, and Russo and Steele.

Additionally, the show has contributed significant sales tax revenues to both the City of Scottsdale and state of Arizona. Celebration of Fine Art’s headquarters and storage facilities are located in the Scottsdale Airpark and the business employs five year-round staff and up to 30 team members during the show season.

“From the beginning, the Celebration of Fine Art has always made a point to curate top-performing artists in each genre, and in doing so, we’ve been able to continue attracting coveted visitors to the area,” said Mrs. Potje.

“Just as the show’s goal is to connect artists and art lovers, this spirit of camaraderie extends far beyond our tents. We do our best to work with as many Scottsdale businesses as possible to fulfill and supply not only our business needs, allowing us to create a sense of connection that keeps people coming back. We couldn’t be more proud of the relationships we’ve helped foster over the decades.”

The Celebration of Fine Art is open every day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through March 29. During this time, guests can catch artist demonstrations of their process, attend an Art Discovery Series, which is held each Friday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., walk the outdoor sculpture garden, which features nearly 100 pieces of life-sized and monumental sculpture, and enjoy lunch or wine in the cafe.

In the outdoor sculpture garden guests can also see woodturning, welding, kiln firings, and bronze pouring demonstrations weekly.

The show is located on Hayden Road just south of the Loop 101 at exit 35 and is open to guests of all ages. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and military, and children under 12 are admitted for free. Tickets are all-event passes, good for the entire 10-week show during which attendees will have the opportunity to see art transform and meet the artists.

For more information about the Celebration of Fine Art, visit

Editor’s Note: Breanne Krager is a public relations professional. 

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Apply by June 6 to be part of the Dumoine River Art for Wilderness retreat – The Kingston Whig-Standard



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The Ottawa Valley Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS-OV) is excited to invite artists from across the region to apply for the organization’s annual artists residency program. Dumoine River Art for Wilderness (DRAW) brings together artists of varied backgrounds, media and forms of expression to create art inspired by the untamed beauty of west Quebec’s Dumoine River watershed and to help raise awareness of the need to safeguard natural areas like the Dumoine River for current and future generations.

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Now in its sixth year, the 2022 retreat is scheduled for the week of July 26 to August 2 and will take place along the shores of the Dumoine River north of the town of Rapides-des-Joachims (Swisha) in Quebec. Fully immersed in nature and free of the distractions of day-to-day life, artists have unparalleled access to countless points of inspiration, from wetlands to mature forest, powerful waterfalls and rapids to tranquil stretches of river and shoreline from which to create art — all within easy walking distance from our group campsite. There is no internet, cell service or electricity at our campsite — participants are truly in the wilderness.

In exchange for this one of a kind opportunity, CPAWS-OV asks that each participating artist donate at least one finished or otherwise ready to display piece of art to the organization for fundraising purposes to help support the organization’s ongoing work to protect the Dumoine and its sister rivers, the Noire and the Coulonge and contribute toward the costs of food and other camp expenses if they are able to.

Following the retreat, the combined artwork will be displayed at a local gallery where it will be available for sale. The work from the 2021 retreat is currently in display at Valley Artisans Co-op Gallery in Deep River until June 12.

Apply by June 6 for this unique opportunity.

To learn more or to apply, visit the website or contact them at

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Baffled by all the immersive art exhibits happening across Canada? Here's a guide for you –



Immersive Frida Kahlo will appear in several North American cities this year, and it’s currently on view in Toronto. This is a photo from its San Francisco iteration. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

With luck, most pandemic pivots will be left on the scrap heap of history, junked like so many snot-stained KN95s. Zoom theatre? Drive-in comedy shows? May we never hear those phrases again. But there’s one craze that’s persisted, even as restrictions have eased, and that’s immersive multimedia productions devoted to Vincent van Gogh.

In the spring of 2021, three separate van Gogh spectacles were operating in this country, and one year and a full round of vaccinations later, the trend is still going strong. Five van Gogh productions are now running in Canada, and before 2022 is over, they’ll have reached at least 10 cities from coast to coast.

Presented by different corporate entities, each van Gogh exhibit is subtly different, but despite variations in form and ticket price, they all make the same general promise to visitors: explore van Gogh’s life and art by gawking at giant projections of his all-time greatest hits. Sometimes there’s the option of taking drop-in yoga class, sometimes not. But spectacle and light edu-tainment are all but guaranteed.

Earlier this month, two separate shows were expected to premiere in Halifax. Prospective ticket buyers couldn’t tell one from the other, and in response to audience confusion, the organizers of one production (Van Gogh 360º) announced they’d be “joining forces” with their competition. Now, just one van Gogh exhibit will be appearing in the city (Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience), and it’ll honour any tickets that were purchased for the other.

But the public appetite for immersive entertainment hasn’t been limited to sunflowers and starry nights. There are now 360-degree light shows dedicated to Pablo Picasso (one closed in Vancouver this January), Claude Monet, Frida Kahlo. You’d think the injection of fresh subject matter would open up the market a bit, and yet every tribute exhibition seems to beget a whole new army of imitators. Multiple Monets! Kahlo clones! 

So to spare you some frustration, here’s a guide to some of the immersive productions on deck for this year, plus info on where to find them.

Van Gogh a go go!

Van Gogh 360º

The Halifax iteration of Van Gogh 360º may have been called off, but this immersive production is still scheduled to open in other Canadian cities this summer: Niagara Falls, Ont. (July 20); Ottawa (July 21) and Charlottetown (Aug. 5)

Presented by Festival House Inc. (the same Ottawa-based events company that works on the city’s RBC Bluesfest), the show advertises a familiar mix of music and panoramic projections (which are beamed onto screens). Admission prices vary, but adult tickets (for peak times and dates) start at $41

Immersive Van Gogh

Inside the Chicago edition of Immersive Van Gogh. (Michael Brosilow/Immersive Van Gogh)

Brought to you by Toronto’s Lighthouse Immersive, this production has weathered more than a few pandemic shutdowns since launching inside the old Toronto Star printing press in June of 2020. At the time, the show was a drive-through experience, but in these almost-normal days, visitors can explore the exhibit on foot — all 4,000 square feet of it. 

Adult tickets range from $39.99-$99.99, and the show itself boasts a connection to the Atelier des Lumières in Paris, the attraction that arguably brought lightshow mania to the masses; its former artist-in-residence, Massimiliano Siccardi, created Immersive van Gogh — an enterprise that’s since expanded far beyond its roots in Toronto, establishing outposts in 19 American cities.

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience

Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience is now playing the Halifax Exhibition Centre. (Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience)

Created by Montreal’s Mathieu St-Arnaud (Normal Studio), this show’s another global export. As of writing, tickets are available in more than 20 cities, from São Paulo to Albuquerque, and while it’s currently playing the Halifax Exhibition Centre, three more Canadian stops are expected in the coming months. 

It opens in Winnipeg July 14, and pre-sales are happening in Victoria and Surrey, B.C. (dates TBA). Featuring animated projections designed to blanket whatever cavernous local venue it occupies, this one’s set to music too. (Sample the soundtrack here.) Adult tickets to the Halifax show start at $35.99.

Imagine Van Gogh: The Immersive Exhibition

People look over the Imagine Van Gogh Immersive Exhibition in Edmonton, on Friday, July 9, 2021. (Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

The brainchild of Annabelle Mauger and Julien Baron of the Cathédrale d’Images (a multimedia theatre in France), this show was first presented back in 2017. Since then, Imagine Van Gogh: The Immersive Exhibition has reached a few Canadian cities, including Vancouver (where it was appearing this time last year). 

Come Oct. 22, the spectacle hits the Kellogg Factory in London, Ont., where it’ll stay through Jan. 8. The soundtrack to this one is classical fare, though not necessarily in step with the Top 40 hits of van Gogh’s time. Included in the cost of entry ($39 and up) is access to a “pedagogical room,” where visitors can read up on the artist before blitzing their senses in the lightshow portion.

Van Gogh – Distortion 

Van Gogh – Distortion can be found at OASIS Immersion in Montreal. (OASIS Immersion)

Like Beyond Van Gogh, this Montreal production has ties to the city’s Normal Studio. Launched at OASIS Immersion last month (a downtown venue exclusively dedicated to multimedia exhibits), some of the animated projections (which are based on a couple hundred van Gogh originals) respond to visitors’ movements, and if that isn’t futuristic enough for you, the show takes the viewer beyond van Gogh’s world. 

There’s a section where they drop you in contemporary sounds and visuals inspired by his oeuvre — and another that imagines what van Gogh would dream up if he were alive today. Adult tickets cost $28, and that’ll get you access to all of the venue’s offerings.

Copy Kahlos!

Frida Kahlo: The Life of an Icon

Arsenal Contemporary in Montreal will present Frida Kahlo: The Life of an Icon June 10-24. (Frida Kahlo: The Life of an Icon)

Elsewhere in Montreal, you can step into the world of another artist … who’s arguably more famous than van Gogh. Frida Kahlo: The Life of an Icon opens June 10 at Arsenal Contemporary. Billed as an “immersive biography” rather than an art show, this travelling production is appearing in multiple cities, though Montreal is its only Canadian stop (so far). 

Co-created by the Frida Kahlo Corporation, this one describes itself as the “official” 360 Frida-thing on the market (a tricky label to slap on the show considering the history of who manages the artist’s legacy). Featuring a mix of immersive projections, VR and IRL installations, standard tickets start at $34.99.

Immersive Frida Kahlo 

Guests view Immersive Frida Kahlo during a media preview at SVN West on on March 11, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Over in Toronto there’s Immersive Frida Kahlo, a show from the same team behind Immersive Van Gogh. Like the production in Montreal, visitors will be drawn into Kahlo’s life story, here told through a blend of archival imagery and artwork. The artist’s niece and grand-niece (Mara Romero Kahlo and Mara De Anda) were at Lighthouse Artspace Toronto for the show’s local premiere in late March. 

They’re fans of this one, but they’ve given their thumbs up to other Frida-centric extravaganzas too — productions that have yet to reach Canada, including Frida: La Experiencia Immersiva, a light show that appeared in Mexico City last summer. Tickets start at $29.99, and just like Immersive Van Gogh, there’s the option to join a Frida-themed barre flow or yoga class. 

Or if you’d prefer to bathe in more art nouveau environs, Lighthouse Artspace Toronto is also presenting Immersive Klimt: Revolution, a tribute to the Austrian painter (starting at $39). There are, of course, some Klimt clones already out there, but Gustav Klimt: Gold in Motion and Klimt: The Immersive Experience have yet to reach these borders. 

Multiple Monets!

Immersive Monet and the Impressionists?

Viewing Monet’s Water Lilies at Musée de l’Orangerie feels a whole lot like the grand-pappy of “immersive entertainment,” so a multimedia extravaganza just feels like a gimme. According to the website of Toronto‘s Show One Productions, an Immersive Monet and the Impressionists production is in the works for sometime this summer (details TBA).

Beyond Monet

Beyond Monet is coming soon to Calgary and Ottawa. (Beyond Monet)

Beyond Monet is brought to you by the same creative team as Beyond Van Gogh, and since closing a run in Toronto this year, it’s set to appear in two more Canadian cities (Calgary and Ottawa). Further information on those particular tour dates has yet to be revealed, but whenever (and wherever) Beyond Monet lands, the show is designed to envelop a 50,000 square foot exhibition space. 

Imagine Monet: The Immersive Exhibition

A view from Imagine Monet: The Immersive Exhibition. (Imagine Monet: The Immersive Exhibition)

One more company with a stake in Big Van Gogh is also bringing a Monet exhibit to Canada. Their dates, however, are already on the books.The show opens in Edmonton (June 8), Quebec City (June 10) and Ottawa (June 16).

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'Historical moment': Digital art auction for Ukrainian medical aid set to launch in London, Ont. – London | – Global News



A London, Ont., resident from Ukraine is helping to support the individuals fighting in his home country with an upcoming charitable event.

Dmitry Tarabanov is working in collaboration with Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation to organize Avatars for Ukraine, a charity auction featuring digital art pieces known as non-fungible tokens (NFT) — a form of crypto technology that can neither be replaced nor interchanged because every digital “footprint” is monitored.

All proceeds from the auction will go towards medical aid for Ukrainian soldiers.

“We have injured defenders of Ukraine who have been protecting it for three months,” said Tarabanov. “There are thousands of injured people, and we would like to start helping them as soon as possible.”

Mykhailo Fedorov, vice-prime minister of Ukraine as the minister of digital transformation, shared the news of the upcoming event on his social media platforms.

“Ukraine’s top video game developers together with digital artists created a charity NFT collection Avatars for Ukraine,” he said.

A total of 70 artists are participating in the auction on May 19, following the theme of reflecting the war and “the incarnations of the spirit of Ukraine in its fight for existence,” according to the Avatars for Ukraine website.

“It’s the face of my nation at war,” said Tarabanov. “At its core, each piece of artwork makes up an important part of the spirit, soul, wisdom, love and freedom of Ukraine.”

Tarabanov said an ample collection of Ukraine’s artworks is focused on previous wartimes, including the Soviet era and the Second World War. He stressed the importance of separating the upcoming auction’s digital artwork from anything seen in the past.

“The times are changing and that includes the way art is produced,” he said. “It’s a historical moment, just like the comic industry releasing special issues of Superman during war times in the ’40s. I think the current war is the first time in history when video games are actually playing the part in helping people who are affected by the war in Ukraine.”

This non-fungible token (NFT) of a child being rescued from the rubble is one of many pieces of artwork bring auctioned off at the Avatars for Ukraine charity fundraiser.

Avatars for Ukraine

He added that the auction’s name, Avatars, comes from Sanskrit — an ancient Indo-European language of India — and means incarnation or embodiment.

“It represents universal justice that is not based on human law, but based on one of a higher concept,” he said. “So, the idea is those images are just the avatars for Ukraine, as a nation and as a people.”

First coming to Canada around seven years ago, Tarabanov is originally from a town near Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine.

In wanting to not only help those fighting against the Russian invasion, but also to help keep family members in good spirits as they flee the active war zone, Tarabanov hopes this upcoming auction can provide some relief for all.

“From medical aid, treatment and prosthetics, our hope is to have this help everyone return to a once-normal life.”

Available globally, the auction goes live on Thursday, May 19.

More information can be found on the Avatars for Ukraine website.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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