By Molly Cerreta Smith

At this time last year, the first Everything Beautiful Artwalk was held as way to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Cast Salon and Spa, located at 5355 E. High Street in North Phoenix. But it was also the beginning of a movement to formulate a strong and supportive arts community in the area… which is a beautiful thing.

Friends Jamie Almarez, owner of Cast Salon which offers an extensive array of full hair services as well as lash extensions, facials, dermaplane, facial peels, micro-needling, brow tinting and waxing and much more, and Linda Del Toro have long been passionate about the arts and supporting local artists. The initial Everything Beautiful Artwalk was the culmination of that through the vision of celebrating the salon. However, the show was such a success that the friends decided to keep it going — for both the artists and the community.

Barbi Niblick — a local abstract artist working in acrylics and oils whose work has recently been accepted into On the Edge Gallery in the Scottsdale Arts District in Old Town — began painting seven years ago as a method of self-exploration using YouTube as her guide. “When I needed something more tangible, I engaged in the study of art with a local artist and sculptor who was instrumental in helping me take my work to a whole new level,” she explains.
Niblick has been with the Everything Beautiful Artwalk since the first show last November. “I started with Everything Beautiful as an artist displaying my work, and this season I have offered to assist in the recruiting of artists and marketing on social media for the event. I’m very excited to be part of such an important initiative,” Niblick says. “I’m passionate about helping to boost fellow artists and see them succeed, and I believe strongly in the mission to bring the arts and community together in North Phoenix.”

As the concept for the Everything Beautiful Artwalk was starting to develop, Almarez and Del Toro hosted additional shows in February, April and May of this year, and each quickly grew to include more artists, more space and more entertainment. The November 2018 show had just a few artists set up on the sidewalk — and the most recent show this past October included 16 artists. The event now takes over an entire side street that is closed off to cars, so that people can peruse the event and then easily access High Street for shopping, dining, entertainment and more.

Niblick admits that the shows are “a lot of work,” especially considering each undertaking is in addition to each of the women’s full-time jobs. However, it’s truly a labor of love and a concerted effort to help the art community grow in this pocket of the valley. “Each show is born out of Jamie and Linda’s dream to connect local artists with the local community,” Niblick says. “It’s about creating an inviting environment where people want to come and hang out.”

Aside from the fact that Cast Salon, the impetus for the first show, is located at High Street, the area remains the perfect location for the Artwalk. The vibrant shopping and dining district located conveniently at the intersection of Loop 101 and the SR51 features a wide array of restaurants, services, entertainment and more. “High Street is like a mini-city right in the middle of the desert. It’s urban, modern and hip with so much nightlife and so many dining establishments,” she says. “It’s lit up as if there’s a party there every night — so it’s a great setting for people to come and enjoy a night out, which they had come to High Street to experience anyway! It’s a great place to have the Artwalk.”

Every show going forward takes place along 54th Street, a small auxiliary road, which is where High Street Gallery is, and still allows people convenient access to Main Street so they can funnel in and out. This location draws people into the gallery and along 54th Street where artists are set up and there is live music playing throughout the event. Each show also features highlighted artists, who Niblick explains showcase not the type of art one would expect to see — or they may be yet-to-be-discovered talents.

Artist Joe Holdren has been the director and curator of Ice House Gallery, and now also helps run the newly opened High Street Gallery. Holdren is being highlighted during the next show, which takes place on Saturday, November 9 from 6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. as well as a few following shows. Holdren is a large scale painter with a large collector base. The Alabama-born artist moved to the valley six years ago to obtain his MFA from ASU and currently has his works on display at the FOUND:RE Phoenix Hotel full time.

Editorial photographer Heath Grout, who has lived in Arizona since 1983 and graduated from Chaparral High School before following his artistic dreams to the Big Apple, returns to the valley as the highlighted artist for the Artwalk’s December show on Saturday the 14th. Grout will be showcasing photographs, mixed media art and even custom designed apparel by his company, Agency Nomadic, which he runs with business partner Max P. Goodwin, creative director and designer of the company.

During both the November and December shows, the Mark Zubia Band will entertain crowds. Zubia is featured in the Arizona Music and Entertainment Hall of Fame for his work with the Pistoleros, Doug Hopkins (of the Gin Blossoms), and more.

In addition to the highlighted artists, there are artistic vendors of all mediums showcasing their works and wares during the Everything Beautiful Artwalk including jewelers, sculptures, painters and more. “Pretty much every medium is represented,” adds Niblick.

Beyond art and live music performances, High Street itself offers an endless variety of food and entertainment for those looking for a complete night out experience to enjoy. With restaurants like Modern Margarita, High & Rye, La Bocca Wine Bar, Ocean Prime, Mellow Mushroom and more, and entertainment such as Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy, Pinspiration (where budding artist wanna-be’s may find crafty inspiration!) and Torch Cigar Bar, time spent strolling along High Street before or after the Artwalk makes for a complete date night or family night on the town! “Food, entertainment and more are just steps outside where the artists are,” she adds.

The November and December shows will also serve as great shopping opportunities for those who are looking for holiday gifts for the art lovers on their lists. As people come to shop and interact with the artists and vendors, Niblick hopes that relationships will begin to form with local residents and the artists.

As the year comes to a close, Niblick reveals that they have big plans for the event in the coming year and are so excited about what the future has to hold. After the November and December shows, they will take a break in January, and then roll into new events for 2020.

Reflecting on how much has happened since the Artwalk’s not-so-distant beginnings, Niblick says, “We have grown so much in just one year. When we started, we were just a few artists on the sidewalk. Now we have enough artists to close down part of a street and we draw in so many people.” She notes that they want not only visitors and neighborhood residents to feel welcome, but also the artists. “We encourage artists of all levels to be a part of our show,” she says,. “We want to introduce our community to our local artists and to help people understand that they don’t need to go to LA or New York to find amazing art —it’s right here in our own backyard.”

“Arizona in general has amazing art in nearly every community. Phoenix has such a strong art community as does Old Town Scottsdale’s Arts District,” she continues. “It’s just this little pocket here that is missing that dedicated artists’ community. With the Everything Beautiful Artwalk, we hope to serve as the bridge that connects people to the area’s art — and the people who create it.” The quick growth the event has experienced in such a short time appears as evidence that residents are responding well to having this niche filled.

Niblick says that the local artists community is welcome to reach out directly with interest in being part of the show or simply with questions about it. People can check out the website at www.everythingbeautifulartwalk.org, and updates are often posted on their social media outlets including Facebook (www.facebook.com/everythingbeautifulartwalk/) and Instagram (www.instagram.com/everythingbeautifulartwalk/).

In addition, attendees are welcome to reach out directly by emailing questions to [email protected] The company is currently seeking artists for the coming shows for the remainder of the year and invite artists of all types and skill levels to register! From experienced artists to those that have never shown their work before in a public setting, now is the time to be part of something beautiful!