We love to seek out historic homes and unusual galleries. DeGrazia Gallery is the combination of both, by an artist who worked in so many mediums, we suspect he was the type of student who entered art school and said “Sorry, I just can’t choose one art form to major in. I’m going to learn them all.”
So much more than a gallery, artist Ted DeGrazia created this large adobe structure (pictured above) of many meandering, large and intimate rooms to house his artwork because he “wanted it to have the feeling of the southwest. I wanted to build it so that my paintings would feel good inside.” The 10 acre grounds located in the saguaro cactus-covered foothills of Tucson are also home to his chapel and adobe house. Here are 5 reasons we fell in love with this remarkable look into how an artist interpreted the southwest to create something unforgettably one-of-a-kind.
1.) THE GALLERY BUILDING, ENTRY AND WALLS …
Ettore ‘Ted’ DeGrazia was a world-renowned artist whose work was inspired by the people, culture, and natural materials of the Sonoran Desert. Today his gallery houses thousands of original artworks, all displayed and protected by the large adobe structure that is an artwork unto itself. The walls are thick and insulated, with cholla cactus inlaid floors. The entryway is designed like a mine shaft in honor of his father and several family members who worked as miners. Directly across is a wall of adobe and straw that symbolizes the gold they were digging for. DeGrazia’s personal touch is found everywhere.
2.) THE CERAMIC SAGUARO CACTUS BOWLS …
DeGrazia worked in many mediums: painting, sculpture, architecture, jewelry design, music composition, to name a only few. This is why walking the galleries is such an adventure. You have no idea what to expect around each turn. We were drawn to his Ceramic Saguaro Bowls made from molds he created from the tops of saguaro cactus that are native to the desert region of Southern Arizona.
3.) THE PAINTINGS
He was an artist with a vision and the motivation to move to Tucson with fifteen dollars in his pocket, enroll at The University of Arizona and support himself by playing the trumpet at night, along with landscaping work at the university. He went on to study in Mexico with master artists Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco. A trip to Tahiti to study the works of Paul Gauguin was also a major inspiration for his painting technique. His most famous painting is ‘Los Ninos.’ In 1957, Unicef chose the piece for their holiday card, and his fame flourished. The gallery rooms are filled with depictions of native children, the people of the Southwest, and rituals. All in his unmistakable impressionist style. He was quoted as saying, “It’s not how much paint from the tube I put on the canvas, or even how much I leave out. I work for the feeling of a piece.”
4.) THE CHAPEL
A short walk from the main gallery is the little Mission In The Sun that he built with help from friends in 1952. This is the first building that was constructed on the 10 acre property, entirely designed by DeGrazia in dedication to Padre Eusebio Kino and Our Lady of Guadalupe. Inside are primitive pews, an alter painting of Our Lady Of Guadalupe, and the walls are covered with his hand-painted frescos. The ceiling is open-air, as DeGrazia described, “open to the sky, as it should be. You can’t close up God in a stuffy room!”
5.) THE DEGRAZIA ADOBE HOUSE
Next to the chapel is the original home of DeGrazia and his wife, Marion who was also a talented artist. Her sculptures and paintings are exhibited in the main Gallery In The Sun. Marion’s management of their home, the artworks, studio and overseeing the business as DeGrazia worked and traveled are a primary reason for his success. A modest adobe with 2 or 3 bedrooms, their house is completely open to visitors, including the living room (pictured), dining room and kitchen … all rather worn from years of adobe withstanding the elements. Be sure to step out to the back sitting area with beautiful views, and look for their homemade bar-b-que grill.
This is a place that offers the gift of experiencing an artist’s connection to the earth and his surroundings.
Also be sure to visit his and Marion’s grave sights next to the chapel.
We suggest planning for at least 2 hours to tour and linger.
Amy & Mr.D