Sounds of Cultura (SOC): Francesca’s Art Gallery

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Francesca’s Art Gallery is a new gallery in Phoenix that will feature local artists from throughout Arizona. Mario E. Diaz, President of Mario E. Diaz & Associates, talks about the gallery he recently opened.

JOSE CARDENAS: In Sounds of Cultura SOC, there is a new gallery in Phoenix looking to feature artists in Arizona. Joining me to talk about this is Mario E. Diaz, owner of Francesca's Gallery. Mario, welcome to "Horizonte." You're not a stranger to this set but usually, when you're here you're talking about politics and other things related to your consulting business. What got you into the art world?

MARIO E. DIAZ: From the art of politics to the art of real art. You know, it's been a passion. I started collecting art almost for a year and long story short, my friend owns a piece of property and I talked to my family and my daughter whom I named this gallery after, my 8-year-old daughter Francesca, and we wanted to share culture up in that part of the central Phoenix area. You know, if a city is going to develop completely, we have to have culture. I want to do my part for this gallery.

JOSE CARDENAS: We've got some pictures of some of the pieces you have and it's just a sampling but you've got some beautiful pieces and some interesting artists that are involved there. The first one is a piece that we have up here. Tell us about that one.

MARIO E. DIAZ: Well, this is a piece of work entitled -- [ Speaking Spanish ] And this is by Nelson Garcia, this is a saying, a Cuban saying, basically when you don't know something you say this saying and so he wanted to dedicate this piece of art to the contributions she's made on behalf of the Cuban people.

JOSE CARDENAS: And we're talking about a fairly famous actress.

MARIO E. DIAZ: Very predominant. Very famous and the artist himself came to Arizona in 1999 and was a dish washer for several years and unbeknownst to many, he was very popular and famous painter in Cuba. He was discovered through an exhibit at Arizona State University and now, he's the resident painter at the curelands resort.

JOSE CARDENAS: And there's another connection there to the gallery directly. He used to work there.

MARIO E. DIAZ: So when Nelson came to Arizona, looking for employment, he went to the now-gallery, which was a work center, to fill out an application. When he came to visit the gallery to begin the gallery for his work, he almost was in tears because memories came back to him.

JOSE CARDENAS: Tell us a little bit more about him and his prominence in Cuba before he came to the United States.

MARIO E. DIAZ: Well, he was an ambassador for Cuba and he would travel all around the world to present art to different governments and I don't know really what happened but he needed to leave. So he left, went to Miami for a few days and came to Arizona and he has become one of the most prominent artists in our state. But known outside of Arizona, not known here, this is what we're trying to do at Francesca gallery is to promote local artists.

JOSE CARDENAS: And he literally went from washing dishes to now being their chief artist?

MARIO E. DIAZ: Credit to the corporation that they discovered him and now, he's their resident artist and he's doing quite well for the hotel and for himself.

JOSE CARDENAS: That's more pictures we're going to put on the screen and talk about some other beautiful pieces. And this one is kind of an illustration of the breadth of the kinds of art that you're displaying there.

MARIO E. DIAZ: Yeah, and displaying and selling. You know, the art gallery is a business, and it's a business because artists aren't the most adept at the business side of the ledger and so I'm trying to help them promote their goods and this is a hand-painted wine and champagne glasses that Nelson does and the hotel sells these glasses but we're selling them at the gallery also, and it's incredible, incredible detail that he has.

JSOE CARDENAS: You know, before we go too much further we should say where the gallery is.

MARIO E. DIAZ: The gallery is at 4745 north central avenue, right next to Brophy and Xavier and the catholic church. Centrally located and open to everyone.

JOSE CARDENAS: What are the hours?

MARIO E. DIAZ: Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 to 5:00.

JOSE CARDENAS: So we've got two more pieces we want to show our audience here. Beautiful pieces. This is another one from Nelson Garcia Miranda.

MARIO E. DIAZ: This is one of the largest pieces, a 90 by 60 in dimension, juahitos, farmers in the eastern side of Cuba and what Nelson was doing if you look closely you'll see which eye on the left side and that's the center of the painting and you'll see figures of women, it was Nelson's idea to paint and capture the feeling of when he was out on the fields and so it's a big piece. And very interesting piece.

JOSE CARDENAS: It's gorgeous. And we've got a closeup there. Finally, we've got one piece by a very prominent artist who we've had as a guest on this show many, many times, well known. More for his masks but this sculpture by Zarco Guerrero is gorgeous.

MARIO E. DIAZ: Yeah, the art gallery is just fortunate to have two of the most prominent Latino artists in our state and this piece is called meditation by Zarco Guerrero. It's one of his few bronze works. It received an award in 2010 at the Litchfield Indian market best of show and very proud to have this piece there.

JOSE CARDENAS: Now, you've got -- we just had a sampling of some of the beautiful pieces that are in the gallery. Tell us about what else people would see if they were to go.

MARIO E. DIAZ: So we have earrings by Carmen Guerrero, very custom made earrings. We have affordable pieces of work from Nelson Garcia Miranda and pieces that quite frankly are museum-type. From Zarco, we have a variety of masks. I think sometimes masks get underappreciated but the art of masks is very difficult and Zarco, as you know, studied in Japan and in Mexico and so we have a variety of these masks to show and, you know, we want to make sure that young people are also getting an idea of what the world of art is about. So we're trying to partner up with local schools to have students come in to listen to the artists and this gallery is not just about making money for the artists or for us. It's about giving back to the community.

JOSE CARDENAS: And you gave one example of how you're doing that with the schools. What other things are you doing to reach out, to make this known? And what kind of reception? Literally, are you getting?

MARIO E. DIAZ: I'm new to this business, to the art world but I'm finding one, there's just a wealth of talent out there that is looking for a venue to showcase their work. Two, there are people interested in art. But I think there's a certain stigma about entering an art gallery that it's too expensive or I'm going to be embarrassed if I ask a question. And so what we're trying to do is reach out to nonprofit organizations, to community associations, to host receptions, we're not charging. We want people to come because it becomes traffic to the area but also educates people and so it's a win-win situation for everyone. So we're working very diligently. I spend all my Mondays at the art gallery dedicated to reaching out to folks because, you know, someone said why are you opening up an art gallery? It's not going to make it.

It's not going to make it, unless we try so I'm trying.

JOSE CARDENAS: And why is it important? We do have art galleries. Mostly in Scottsdale, and then we do have what seems to be a fairly vibrant society a little farther south, an art scene that is growing. Why is this important?

MARIO E. DIAZ: It's important because the city of Phoenix is the sixth largest city in the country and if we're going to mature, continue to mature as a city, we have to have strong cultural aspect. So there's never enough art galleries, museum, and so if we can contribute a little piece to our society, to our community, that's what's important to me.

JOSE CARDENAS: You seemed to touch on this a little bit, suggested that maybe the Latino community here is not used to going to galleries, maybe a little hesitant to do that. How are you reaching out?

MARIO E. DIAZ: I've been on Spanish language radio shows to invite the community. We're trying to reach out to different churches where there's predominantly Latinos that attend to have an understanding that we should be proud of the artists that we have in our state but if artists are to be known, folks need to come to the gallery and visualize and dream and think about what the art represents.

JOSE CARDENAS: And what will they see in the upcoming months? I assume at some point you'll be featuring other artists and exhibitions?

MARIO E. DIAZ: I have a vision for what I would like. I would like to have particularly more female artists. Right now, our first two exhibits have been Zarco and Nelson. And so one of the months I would like to have all-female artists. Another month is a dedication to Congressman Ed Pastor. He collected a variety of pieces of work of art.

JOSE CARDENAS: You're going to have something from him there?

MARIO E. DIAZ: I would love to.

JOSE CARDENAS: And you're going to be a guest on our show for political stuff.

MARIO E. DIAZ: Absolutely.

JOSE CARDENAS: We'll have you back to talk about that and your gallery. Best of luck.

JOSE CARDENAS: And that's our show for tonight. From all of us here at "Horizonte" and Eight, thank you for watching. I'm Jose Cardenas. Have a good evening.

Funding for "Horizonte" is made possible by contributions by the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station.

Mario E. Diaz:President of Mario E. Diaz & Associates

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