Satara owner Jon Graham, left, displays pieces of art in his Peoria restaurant that Sun City resident Parker Smith has collected throughout years of traveling.

Nick Cote/Today staff

It all began by chance, a casual conversation over a glass of wine and a bit of food.

About a month ago, Parker Smith sat down at the bar at Satara, a Thai restaurant and boutique wine bar in Peoria’s entertainment district. Smith, who lives in Sun City, struck up a conversation with the restaurant’s owner, Jon Graham.

“We started talking about art and I told him about my collection,” Smith said. “So he tells me, we have to go see this.”

And see it they did. After viewing the art and discussing it further, Graham and Smith struck upon an idea.

Now just a few weeks later, several pieces of Smith’s collection adorn the walls of Satara’s dining rooms.

Those already familiar with Satara should not be surprised; Graham said he and his wife, Sarusha, opened Satara nearly four years ago with the goal of being more than just a restaurant.

“We had the idea to do something like Wolfgang Puck,” he said. “Where you have a restaurant that also serves as a gallery, with new artwork rotating in every few months.”

Graham said he has been hoping to bring in art from other collections for some time.

“Most of the art we’ve had so far has been from my collection,” Graham said. “We’ve talked with local museums about displaying some of their pieces here and we’d also like to give some exposure to local artists.”

For the first exhibit, Smith and Graham chose a collection of Smith’s from his time in Indonesia in the early 1990s.

Smith was in Indonesia as part of an economic development effort wherein he helped bring Japanese business to the country. Smith said he became interested in Indonesian art after receiving a painting as a gift from President Suharto for those efforts.

“It’s the primary center for art in that part of the world,” he said. “Everyone, from age 3 or 4, is encouraged to create with painting, with sculpture, with crafts of some sort.”

In all, Smith said his art collection numbers somewhere between 600 and 700 pieces and they come from all over the world. Some he keeps in his home, while the rest are stored in a climate-controlled warehouse. That number could be much greater, but Smith said he likes to collect by certain rules.

“I told myself I would never own a piece of art if I did not meet the artist,” he said. “Every piece I own, I met the person who created it. I think that makes my collection pretty unique.”

Smith also said his collection is comprised entirely of original work.

“I don’t believe in prints,” he said. “Prints are just paper.”

Smith and Graham plan to rotate exhibits every couple of months. The Indonesian art will likely be followed by some European pieces, Smith said, and those by a collection of American works. The plan is to hold a “dinner and discussion” for each new exhibit, a night where Smith and the patrons can share some wine and their thoughts on the art itself.

As for why he was so eager to display his collection at Satara, Smith said he wanted to share.

“We need a little more culture out here in the West Valley,” he said. “I’m so happy to see my collection on display, because the stuff is just sitting there in my warehouse. It’s a waste.”

Graham said he is confident the new exhibits will be a hit.

“There are some really fantastic pieces in here and I expect the pieces to come will be the same, if not better.”

Satara is at 8350 W. Paradise Lane. For information, visit or call 623-979-9696.

Jeff Dempsey may be reached at 623-876-2531 or

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