Two Ahwatukee Foothills artists are taking advantage of a effort by Tempe mayor Hugh Hallman to expand on the city's art scene.

Pamela Coste and Jacque Keller met when they both began to showcase their work at Montage Art Studio, 740 S. Mill Avenue, which opened at the end of November. Keller has made a living at selling her artwork since 1983 but for Coste, it was her first time in a gallery.

"I had paintings just stacking up," she said. "I knew I wanted to give it a chance so when this place opened up, I applied immediately."

The location of Montage, which sits between the Mellow Mushroom and P.F. Chang's, was vacant for five years. Hallman wanted to turn such a lot into an art studio, and the landlords complied and will not be charging rent to the occupants. However, if a retailer comes along, they will have to vacate to a new location.

"We just have to pay to keep it open," artist John Gleason said. "And if another business does come along, we have had three others on Mill Avenue say we can move to theirs."

In the meantime, the local artists will continue to sell their works to an increasing amount of customers. For Coste, the icing on the cake for her first gallery showing was having the first piece sold.

"That was pretty amazing," she said. "It was just a painting that people could connect with."

Keller and Coste became friends quickly after they discovered they both shared Ahwatukee Foothills roots. Keller has lived here for 31 years and Coste for 11.

They both agree that the new studio has an air about it that is conducive to creativity. The studio has room for 18 artists to show their work and there are still spots available for a monthly payment of at most $275 per month.

"For a brand new gallery, we feel really excited about the foot traffic," Keller said. "There is a great group of artists here right now and we only expect to grow."

Montage had a grand opening on Dec. 15 that included a visit from Hallman.

To find out more or to apply for a spot in the gallery, visit www.millavenue.com/montage.

They are currently open every third Thursday of the month, Fridays and Saturdays, from 5 to 9 p.m., but they will be adding hours and days in the coming weeks, Gleason said.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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