By Barbara Russek

I love beauty. Any venue that adds something beautiful to our topsy turvy world, especially in an ambiance that promotes a feeling of tranquility, has my vote.

The long-established but newly named Foothills Art Galleries, 6420 N. Campbell Ave., just north of Skyline Dr., is one of those rare places.
With one turn off the beaten path, the art afficianado finds a welcome refuge from the cacophony of traffic, squealing brakes and horns honking to a secluded courtyard housing four art galleries—it’s an oasis that reminds me of the architect’s ability to create something functional and at the same time aesthetically pleasing. It was the perfect spot to relax during all the recent holiday excitement.

This delightful complex intrigued me from the first time I saw it.The hush of a quiet courtyard is enhanced by stately trees that share space with sculptures and a variety of desert plants, with a view of the Catalinas in the distance. In the center of it all is a gurgling fountain that splashes into a self-sustaining goldfish pond.

Chris Sanders, co-owner of the well known Sanders Galleries, explained, “We never feed the fish.They munch on reeds and other plant life and produce even more fish. Their little ecosystem is amazing.”
The foursome of American themed art galleries, with an emphasis on western, rings the courtyard. Kitty-corner to the above mentioned Sanders Galleries is the other long established gallery, Settlers West, owned by Stuart Johnson.

Sanders, son of gallery founder Jim Sanders, and Johnson were happy to give me some background on this Tucson treasure.

The elder Sanders and Johnson actually go back 45 years to when each owned an art gallery in mid-town Tucson. At that time, Campbell and Skyline were pretty much, as Sanders put it, “in the middle of nowhere.”
But the two had a vision of a different kind of art complex. Johnson stated,” We wanted to welcome people to a place of relaxation as well as art. Here it would be all right to tarry, ask questions and just maybe fall in love with a piece of art.”

Both gallery owners loved the Santa Fe style, as I do, which was achieved by architect Peter Zorillo.The complex opened in the early 1980s.

Chris Sanders joined his father in 1998. I wondered if the younger Sanders always had an interest in art. The answer was an enthusiastic yes! “Even as a child I was into art,” he reminisced. “I hung the posters in my room as if they were in a museum even in grade school.” Jim Sanders still confers with his son frequently on art matters and does quite a bit of behind- the- scenes work.

The two galleries have similar types of art, yet with distinct differences. Settlers West specializes in fine western art, wildlife and American landscape paintings as well as western and wildlife bronzes. At Sanders Galleries the focus is on American art, both impressionism and realism.
Both gallery owners invite artists to submit their work for possible consignment. Sanders also travels to art markets in search of the next great Georgia O’Keefe or Frederic Remington.

Since both feel that the more galleries in one area the better, Sanders and Johnson are quite pleased that two smaller spaces within the complex are now occupied. FoR Fine Art, owned by two couples, opened this past October 1. “We offer a contemporary twist on western art, including jewelry and designer accessories,”co-owner TulaThompson told me,“ created by artists from all over the West.” I was especially drawn to a turquoise heart pendant in a filagree sterling silver setting, that gives it an antique look.
Dara Davis recently moved Sunset Interiors & Design Studio from Dove Mountain back to its original digs across the street in Plaza Colonial, 2870 E. Skyline Dr. Their motto is “Furniture and design with the West in mind.” A small satellite of Sunset Interiors & Design Studio rounds out the Foothills Art Galleries complex.
The Galleries have recently partnered with several other arts-related businesses in Plaza Colonial to create Foothills Art District. These include Jane Hamilton Fine Art, Wilde Meyer Gallery and two primary locations of Sunset Interiors & Design Studio. The design studio houses samples of fabric, furniture and flooring; the retail space features one-of-a-kind collectibles.

As our conversation wrapped up, I asked Chris Sanders if gallery owners had any future plans. He summed it up: “To Keep making this a place for generations to come and enjoy fine art.”

Barbara Russek, a local freelance writer, welcomes comments at

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