Valley Spotlight: Susan Morrow Potje

Co-owner & Show Director, Celebration of Fine Art | Interviewed by Jessica Dunham

Where to go, what to do, who to see? Our readers want to hear from locals whose lives—and livelihoods—are integral to the diverse fabric that makes up Greater Phoenix. Chefs, shop owners, musicians, artists, athletes. These are the people who call Phoenix home and who help make the city a more interesting place.

For Susan Morrow Potje, art appreciation goes beyond admiring a painting on a wall. The co-owner and show director of Scottsdale’s Celebration of Fine Art believes art should be experiential. “Celebration of Fine Art began in 1991 with the idea of bringing art lovers and artists together,” she explains. “Patrons watch the artists at work and become part of the creative process.”

Potje’s father, Tom Morrow, founded the 30-year-strong art show. Now Potje, along with her husband, Jake, owns and operates the event, juggling a variety of roles: artist curator, long-term planner, customer relations, sales, and marketing. No small feat when you consider that Celebration of Fine Art—widely considered to be the premier art show of the year in Greater Phoenix—fills more than 40,000 square feet of exhibit space, features 100 artists, and runs for 10 weeks each winter.

For this year’s event, Potje offers suggestions for artists to watch: “There are so many who are top in their genres, but I like to look out for the younger artists blazing the trail for the future of art. I’ll be watching Hannah Friel, a resin artist, and glass artist Caleb Siegler.”

When she’s not heading up the juried art show, Potje likes to soak up all that Greater Phoenix has to offer, from shopping for local goods to enjoying the desert beauty. Here, Potje shares her favorite Phoenix area must-sees and must-dos.

Q & A

Q What are three words to describe the city’s arts scene?
A Diverse, vibrant, and strong.

Q What local art museum did you last visit?
A Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.

Q What art gallery should every visitor to metro Phoenix see?
A For Western art, Legacy Gallery. For contemporary art, Altamira Fine Art. For a good mix of art, The Signature Gallery. All are in Scottsdale.

Q What was the last piece of art you bought?
A Crow Warrior, a bronze sculpture by J. Todd Paxton, and Homage to the Queen, a scratchboard painting by Cathy Sheeter.

Q What is your favorite local street art?
A I like Lauren Lee’s work—you can see her murals all throughout the Phoenix metro area. And Timothy Chapman has a great mural at Central and Camelback in Phoenix.

Q What designers, makers, and artists do you admire?
A There are so many! The Valley is an incubator of talent. For interior design, I admire Anita Lang. Joe and Mari Axton-Giddings are husband-and-wife artists who make all of the mixed media they use in their art, from ceramics to metalwork. Sheri and Ralph Meldrum work in copper. For outdoor art, there’s Carlos Page. Glass artists are Troy Moody, Seth Fairweather, and Caleb Siegler, who all teach at Mesa Arts Center.

Q What are your favorite locally owned shops?
A Bischoff’s Shades of the West in Old Town Scottsdale and Bunky Boutique in Downtown Phoenix and at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. I like to get to the airport early if I’m flying out of Terminal 4 to see what’s in stock.

Q Where do you go to get a cup of coffee?
A Renegade Coffee in Scottsdale.

Q What is your favorite restaurant for a quintessential Arizona meal?
A I love Grassroots Kitchen & Tap for fresh food and great service, and Blanco Tacos and Tequila for Southwest flavors.

Q What is metro Phoenix’s best-kept secret?
A All of the wonderful multiuse paths throughout the city. We have dedicated space for bikers, walkers, runners, and even horseback riders to share.

Q What should every visitor do before leaving?
A The Desert Botanical Garden is a must-see! Also, the Heard Museum.

Q Who has the best local Facebook feed?
A Experience Scottsdale. I always get lots of ideas from their posts for things to do and places to go.

Q Who has the best local Instagram feed?
A The Phoenix Instagramers Community: @igersphx.

For more information on Celebration of Fine Art, Scottsdale, visit celebrateart.com