“Rogoway Gallery,” by Kathleen Vandervoet
An art gallery with a Steinway baby grand on display? Yes, the piano is a piece of art, among many other exquisite items. The Rogoway and Turquoise Tortoise Gallery on Calle Baca is the only gallery in Tubac to display a piano.
Can visitors play it? Co-owner Jacqueline Zeitler said that’s encouraged as long as someone “knows how.” In fact, other shoppers are usually delighted when someone sits down to interpret one or several musical pieces.
“The most unlikely person will sit down, and it’s just magic. It’s beautiful. An the customers love it. They don’t forget,” she said.
Deborah Barrios and Zeitler became the owners on April 1, 2009, of the long-established Rogoway and Turquoise Tortoise Gallery on Calle Baca in Tubac. Previous owners were Esther and Larry Fitzpatrick.
The gallery features vibrantly colored paintings, sculpture, fountains, gourd art, pottery and art glass. Jewelry is prominently displayed in glass cabinets and many necklaces, bracelets and earrings are enhanced by turquoise, which isn’t surprising given the name of the shop. Much of the jewelry is certified Native American.
The display scheme the pair uses is to group together work by an individual artist, which helps the viewer appreciate and understand the work more easily. Barrios said they also do so as a way to respect the artists. “Every artist is given a place of honor. They’re not crowded in and mixed together. I think that’s the respect each artist deserves,” Barrios said.
Shoppers like the spacious feel. “I think the thing they notice most is that it’s large and that it’s open and bright. We could put more walls in here and display more art, but then it gets claustrophobic,” she said. The space, the strong sunlight, and the white walls crate the atmosphere of a museum so visitors can calmly enjoy each item.
There are about 15 larger-than-life-size sculptures, some of animals, while others are of glass and one evokes an ocotillo plant. A stunning sculptural piece of an American Indian woman is in the brick-paved patio next to the gallery. “She’s probably one of the most photographed things in all of Tubac. Every time people walk by there, they take a picture of her. Looking down the courtyard, she’s quite well framed. It’s beautiful,” Barrios said.
The artists in the main gallery are from across the country whild a cozy section at the back of the store features work by 12 Tubac and other local artists who call themselves “Copper State Artists.”
Before they assumed ownership, both had worked in Tubac galleries, Barrios for seven years and Zeitler for four years. Barrios said they were working at the same Tubac gallery and had talked about going into business together. One day, “Esther called me and asked if I’d be interested. It was a real simple phone call,”
Zeitler brings strong retail experience; she owned women’s boutiques in Brookfield and Mequon, Wisconsin. “They were primarily one-of-a-kind artist done things. We had people who did weaving and had knitting.”
Barrios has a finance background and she also stretches unpainted canvas for artists. “I got to know a lot of the artists in town doing that. They all know to call me and they order odd sizes and odd shapes.” She worked from Tucson as a national sales representative for pianos for 20 years before she came to the Tubac area.
That explains how the gallery came to feature the stunning piano. The baby grand “sets us apart from other galleries,” Barrios said. The 1938 Steinway S “is a one-of-a-kind pieced of art.” It was rebuilt in Europe and during the rebuilding, a burled walnut inlay was added.
Barrios said for the most part, the artwork on display is the same as before she and Zeitler took over, “and we’ve added a few as well, to give it our own flair.”
How do they choose new artists to represent? Frequently, artists will come in and ask if their work can be displayed. The immediate response is to have them submit images by email, Barrios said.
Strict guidelines don’t come into play. Rather, it’s the immediate response generated by the artwork. “You don’t know ‘til you see it,” Barrios said. “The world is filled with fabulous artwork. It’s not that we’re here to judge whether it’s good or bad art, but we determine what suits us, and what fits in the flow of the gallery.
“We want to add new artists and keep it fresh and exciting. It’s a constant balance.”
The pair is enthusiastic about their new situation. “We love the village of Tubac,” Barrios said, “and we love our position in the village.”
“We want to uphold a certain image and quality. That’s our main goal,” Zeitler said.
Rogoway Turquoise Tortoise Gallery
Located at 5 Calle Baca, Tubac
Open seven days a week, year ‘round.
The phone number is (520) 398-2041