The practicality behind Practical Art: Phoenix shop merges business and the arts

In 2008, a former attorney, Jane Reddin, opened a space in Phoenix that not only promotes local artists, but it also pulls in community members and allows them to indulge in their creative side. 

Reddin passed the store’s management to ASU and The State Press alumni Lisa Olsen, a family friend who took Reddin's passionate vision to a new level. She and her sister, Karen Olsen, along with the friendly staff continue to develop new, out of the box, concepts that juggle art exploration, community values, the local economy, networking and recreational activities all in one place. 

"There was a passion from Jane that was given to Lisa, and although the store isn't Jane's anymore, there is still a lot of her legacy," Lisa Olsen said. "Jane's positivity comes through even until today. I think that has helped us push through."

The store sells and displays a wide variety of crafts, from wooden utensils, recycled glass bottles, hand crafted jewelry, ceramic mugs and dishes, as well as unique home decorations. They are all representative of the one hundred and thirty artists the store features. This is an exponential step from the initial eight featured artists they started with.

Practical Art acts as a middle ground for smaller businesses or artists looking to showcase their product to a larger demographic. Lisa Olsen is excited about the growth Practical Art has experienced over the years.

"We have definitely grown over the years. We filled our three thousand square feet pretty well."

As of now, their best selling and frequently stocked items are Refreshed Glass by Ray DelMuro, Arizona mugs by a wide range of artists such as Jillian Schimmel and Arizona State Pendants by artists such as Michelle Spanyard. All of these items can be found at Practical Art, or on its website

"(DelMuro) works with large local restaurants and wine bars, and actually saves between ten to twenty thousand wine bottles each month from going into landfills," Lisa Olsen said. "He reheats the glass to make it dishwasher safe. It's good for the environment, and also a great drinking glass."

In addition to their products, Practical Art also has events showcasing art, artists and those looking to express their artistic side. They provide monthly Wall Shows, each with a different theme and a different artist. 

In September there will be an interactive show using Polaroid pictures. Anyone can put up their own Polaroid images alongside the featured pieces. In October, it will be a Dia de los Muertos themed show headed by artists Gennaro Garcia, Emily Costello, Joe Ray and Frankie Ibarra. 

Karen Olsen explained how the wall shows are meant to be experienced and how the artists use them.

"We try to let the artists do these shows their way — the art needs to speak for itself. Giving it that space and allowing it to just talk to a person, that's what Lisa strives to do." 

Every Saturday, Practical Art hosts Make and Take classes, which are taught by a featured artists. Anyone can sign up and learn the process of how their favorite artist creates their pieces, as well as making their own version of it. In September there will be jewelry making with Alex Ozers, wood burning with Alexandra Bowers, candle making with Standard Wax and pottery painting with Schimmel.

"I was around when it first opened," said Phoenix resident and Practical Art fan Terry Tang. "I heard the founder was a huge supporter of local business." 

Tang used to run a community potluck once every month, and Practical Art opened their doors to promote her venue. 

"It was probably one of the biggest potlucks we've ever had," Tang said. "They're always doing stuff like that; they're always trying to think outside of the box if they can. ... This is one place that has been gaining longevity, that's reassuring for Phoenix businesses."

Tang loves the uniqueness of crafts, and how it highlights local culture.

"You know you'll find something more unique because it was made in Arizona. The first thing I ever bought here was a cheese plate made of melted beer glass. It was a great gift." 

Practical Art continues to grow at a rapid rate, and is a great place to pick up a new hobby. Whether you're going into the arts or just want to try something new, Practical Art is a great weekend stop. 


Reach the reporter at mbkaufm1@asu.edu.

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