A painting of large, yellow sunflowers adorns a gallery wall — living among other paintings, and sculptures, universally depicting happy scenes and bright colors.
The owner of the Mesa gallery says a trend toward upbeat, decorative art may be a product of the recent economic recession, along with different generational tastes.
That’s why owner Ron Floyd says his space, SunDust Gallery, changed its parameters recently for accepting new art and artists to display and sell their work through the gallery this year.
Floyd said he decided to showcase modern, decorative art that moved from depicting landscapes and traditional nature scenes to brighter, happier art. Floyd is an artist and a retired art professor who continues to teach privately at art galleries.
“People are looking for uplifting art,” he said. “I have to change my art to what we used to consider sofa art.”
The Google generation, as Floyd calls 25- to 45-year-olds, have the money and they prefer to buy less expensive art that they can use for a couple of years before redecorating again.
Another factor for the changing demographic is the economy, Floyd added.
“When things are good, everything sells,” he said. “When things are bad, art is part of the discretionary income.”
SunDust is trying to strike a balance between showing art that artists think is good and art that appeals to a broader audience. Floyd has noticed a difference since he made the change at the beginning of 2013. More people are buying art, spending more time in the gallery and coming deeper into the space, he said.
The gallery has a lower basement where customers can find discounted art. Floyd said this part of the gallery is also popular with customers.
However, SunDust’s changes haven’t been a hit among all artists, he added.
“Some of the artists don’t like it,” Floyd said. “They think you’re selling out. They feel like the quality of the work should speak for itself.”
SunDust has a one-year contract with all of its artists and takes three to five pieces from an artist at a time. The gallery works with about 100 local artists at a time, taking their art and rotating it on the walls.
Peggy D’Errico’s art is carried by SunDust and she works for the gallery as a studio manager. She is a self-taught artist and specializes in Batik painting, which uses oils and enamels.
She said the change toward decorative art is challenging but helpful.
“It’s enhancing my own art,” she added. “We can never stop learning. We work to take our own styles and tweak them.”
But some artists don’t want to tweak their art, D’Errico said.
“I don’t think enough artists are understanding the changes with the economy,” she said. “I’d rather conform a little bit and see my stuff on people’s walls.”
SunDust is one of the galleries in the Valley that survived the recession and continues to do well. Many galleries went out of business and left behind empty spaces.
Dewey Schade owns several properties along Sixth Avenue and the Marshal Way area in Scottsdale. He has been a landlord for more than 30 years and currently has six open spaces in two separate buildings.
“Art is still a discretionary purchase,” Schade said. “The first thing (people) are probably going to give up is art. You see that impacting people’s decisions to open art galleries.”
But he said he gets calls every day from people who want to look at the open spots, and some inquire about opening an art gallery. But potential tenants are cautious because the economy hasn’t fully recovered, he said.
“I try to do my due diligence with the prospective tenant no matter what they want to do,” he added. “I want to lease to people who have experience with the business they want to get in to.”
SunDust Gallery, however, has been able to ride out the recession and evolve with changing tastes and an emerging generation of art buyers. Floyd has learned a lot throughout his years in art, and especially after he opened the gallery.
“Where I was headed first was the quality of art,” he said. “I was taught that art is an expression and as a gallery I should represent this art.”
But Floyd said he understands that it is a business, too, and offering what the customers want has helped him keep his gallery open.