Scottsdale Artists' School Celebrates 35 Years of Community Art

Courtesy of Scottsdale Artists' School

When you think of art schools in Phoenix, you probably think of the Art Institute of Phoenix or Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. But years before these schools were established, the nonprofit Scottsdale Artists’ School opened its doors for the first time. With hopes of bringing fundamental art training to the Phoenix metro area, a group of artists and community members set out to form a new kind of art school — one where artists of all skill levels could come to perfect their craft or learn something new.

The school has always operated out of Scottsdale but has moved three times; it’s now in a city-owned Spanish Colonial Revival building that dates to the 1920s. And even though the Scottsdale Artists’ School doesn’t offer an accredited art program, it’s been offering hands-on art courses and workshops since 1983. In the beginning, those were mostly small workshops, lectures and demonstrations. Today, the curriculum has greatly expanded, and nearly 250 workshops are offered a year.

Courses include multi-day workshops taught by artists from around the country, shorter classes and workshops from local artists, and a youth art program offered year-round. There also are destination plein air workshops, where students travel to other states to paint still life landscapes with experienced instructors, along with courses and workshops on fine art fundamentals, drawing, oil and watercolor painting, sculpting and photography.

“Learning at Scottsdale Artists’ School is a wonderful, unique experience,” says Trudy Hays, the school’s executive director. “We’re gathering together a group of people who have a strong love, passion and interest in art, and it has really created an artist community.”

Hays says the organization tries to offer a wide range of opportunities and courses at varying price points and times, so they’re accessible to all. One popular option for those with a busy schedule is Open Studio, offered weekly on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. A model and equipment are provided, and anyone can bring their own supplies to paint, sculpt or draw for $10. In addition, the school offers need- and merit-based scholarships.

Aside from the assortment of courses offered, what’s truly set the school apart is the stature of its instructors. More than 500 artists have taught courses at the Scottsdale Artists’ School — from Jim Reynolds, Harley Brown, Richard Schmid and John Coleman, in the early days, to Milt Kobayashi, Gregg Kreutz, Daniel Keys and Rose Frantzen today. And students from Japan, England, Australia, Canada and even Kuwait have traveled to Scottsdale to learn at the school, Hays says.

The school aims to benefit the community by partnering with local organizations, including Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, Boys and Girls Clubs and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Another ongoing partnership is with ON Media Publications and Act One, an organization that helps provide access to the arts in Arizona. Every year, the school holds an annual online contest where, for a $15 entry fee, artists can submit an original work of art to be considered for the cover of a school publication. A portion of the entry fee supports Act One, and the winner of the contest receives exposure of their work to thousands of art lovers, as well as a $200 gift card to the Scottsdale Artists’ School. (This year’s contest is open until Friday, May 11.)

Although a lot has changed at the Scottsdale Artists’ School in its 35-year history, the organization continues its mission of enriching the arts community and developing artists. “We’ve had people who started their art journey at Scottsdale Artists’ School and are now professional artists and come back to teach a course.” Hays said. “It’s clear that we play a big part in people’s lives, whether they go on to become professional artists or they enjoy doing art as a hobby.”

To learn more about art classes, workshops and upcoming events offered at the Scottsdale Artists’ School, visit

— Emily Balli

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