Obsidian Gallery is now open in Historic Depot

October 6, 2011

By Teya Vitu

 You can check out Downtown’s newest art gallery at 2nd Saturdays on Oct. 8.

Obsidian Gallery opened Oct. 1 in the Historic Depot, 400 N. Toole Ave., after owner Monica Prillaman moved the contemporary craft and fine arts gallery from St. Philip’s Plaza.

“I love everything about Downtown,” Prillaman said. “There’s people all over the place, all the time.”

The depot architecture itself, with its half-moon windows, is as much a part of the gallery as the art and interior improvements Prillaman added to the 2,200-squar-foot space. Obsidian had been at St. Philip’s Plaza for all its 25 years and for the four years Prillaman has owned the gallery.

But, for the first time, Prillaman could set up a gallery precisely as she wanted.

“We were able to put the track lighting where we wanted. We did the improvements ourselves,” Prillaman said. “This allowed us to design the space to the maximum benefit for us.”

Even before moving Downtown, Prillaman joined the Central Tucson Gallery Association. Unlike the typical mall or strip mall with non-competition covenants, Downtown gallery owners warmly welcomed Obsidian.

“We got a very nice reception from all the galleries,” Prillaman said.

Obsidian Gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, but Prillaman is a quick study in realizing you have to take advantage of events just outside your door even if they fall outside the set hours.

Prillaman plans to have Obsidian open for Meet Me at Maynards and 2nd Saturdays.

“My feeling is we need to be flexible,” said Prillaman, who was one of the few St. Philip’s merchants to open for the farmers market on Sunday.

Monica and her son, James, the gallery’s curator and himself an artist, have added fine art to a gallery that focused entirely on contemporary crafts before Monica bought the gallery.

“The gallery has turned over its collector base,” Monica said. “We’re seeking younger collectors. We’re really going after the late 30s or even younger.”

“People in the 20s and 30s just don’t come to St. Philip’s. They just don’t,” continued James. “I continually hear about young people going to art openings. They just happen to be Downtown.”

Obsidian’s re-opening exhibition features ceramic sculptures by sculptors from around the country, nearly all of them new to Obsidian. They include Wesley Anderegg, Merry Arttoones, Jill Marleah Bell, Heidi Preuss Grew, Marina Kuchinski and Max Lehman.

The Prillaman mother-and-son team added fine art, specifically paintings, to what had been just a contemporary craft gallery before their arrival. They continue with crafts, such as hand-made jewelry from silver and gold; fibers made into silk scarves or wall treatments; art made of glass, metal and clay, and ceramic scultuptures

“We show art from all those mediums,” Monica Prillaman said. “That’s what sets us apart from a lot of art galleries.”

Prillaman scouted throughout Downtown for a space.

“We needed a more finished space,” she said. “The Depot is a more finished space. Exposed brick walls is not Obsidian’s look.”

Obsidian will be in the one-story portion, to the left of the Depot’s main structure. Prillaman is looking forward to settling in Downtown.

“I think the location is fabulous,” she said. “We’re near lots of great restaurants, two steps from Maynards, near The Hub. It’s down the street from other galleries. We also have street recognition. My son has been trying to get me to move Downtown for two years.”