DeGrazia’s Gallery in the Sun: An Artist’s Mecca in Tucson, Arizona
Upon my recent stay at Hacienda Del Sol in Tucson, Az, I was invited to go on a fascinating and off the beaten path tour of DeGrazia’s Gallery in the Sun with Southwest Odyssey Tours. This particular tour, led by Peter Hughes, was chocked full of interesting activities for adventure seekers and fun lovers of all ages. I was impressed by how prepared they were for our excursion, and how fully customized the trip was to our specific needs.
With Southwest Odyssey Tours, I was able to see petroglyphs for the first time, spot out epic places to hike, see more saguaro cacti than I ever imagined possible, and have a riveting conversation about the best things to do in Tucson.
But far and away, my favorite aspect of the tour was dropping by the artist’s mecca known as the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun. You would be doing yourself a huge favor by including this hidden gem of an attraction to your list of Tucson hotspots today!
This beloved 10 acre art gallery, tucked away in the National Historic District of the Santa Catalina Foothills, is the brainchild of controversial impressionist artist Ettore (aka Ted) DeGrazia. But why was DeGrazia so controversial?
I will be writing more about that later, but let’s just say he was a bit of a rebel and non-conformist in many ways. With each piece of art, I dove deeper into his psyche and became more intrigued about the man who didn’t just make art, but seemingly LIVED it to the fullest extent.
DeGrazia’s Gallery in the Sun: Behind the Landscape
From the moment you step foot into the gallery, it is obvious that DeGrazia designed the entire property himself. You suddenly become the subject of an artistic experience, as you see the full spectrum of his ingenuity. There are stunning mosaics and brilliant sculptures placed in a methodically designed landscape.
It was very clear he had a vision from this quote: “I wanted to build it so my paintings would feel good inside.” You be the judge. Do these paintings look like they feel good?
DeGrazia’s Gallery in the Sun: Behind the Art
Although DeGrazia’s main focus was oil paintings, he experimented with ALL forms of art, including watercolors, oils, ceramics, and sculptures. His early work focused on the dark and serious side of the Mexican Revolution, the poor peasants of Mexico, and the Indians of the southwest. It then evolved to visual narratives of the Southwest Native American culture. However, DeGrazia found most of his success painting angels and native children.
DeGrazia’s Gallery in the Sun: Behind the Man
I spoke earlier about DeGrazia’s reputation as a rebel and nonconformist, so here are more interesting facts about his eclectic personality. DeGrazia was passionate about music and even performed in a big band at night to pay his way through university. You can hear some of his music by walking through the gift shop.
Furthermore, although he made millions of dollars, he also lived frugally, and at times without electricity! This act, by far, was the most honorable in my opinion.
Also, on one very notorious occasion, DeGrazia engaged in a protest against the federal inheritance tax. He claimed the IRS would make him a millionaire on paper, but his heirs would have to pay taxes for which there is no money. He then rode into the Superstition Mountains and burned about 100 of his paintings, estimated at 1.5 million in value.
You could call him a mad man, but I’d just call it unconventional wisdom from the world’s most reproduced artist of all time.