A shrine to creative endeavor.

Ever feel like you’ve lost your edge, have a creativity block or just don’t have the passion for what you love to do? A trip to DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun is pure inspiration as you experience the wide range of media and creative expression found there. His passion for his art knew no bounds as he created every detail in a simple yet profound way.


Here is a little information about the gallery from their web page I think you will enjoy:

What started as a small construction project in the early 1950s developed into a 10-acre National Historic District designed and built by acclaimed Arizona artist Ted DeGrazia.

When the town of Tucson grew near to his first studio on Campbell Avenue and Prince Road, DeGrazia and his wife Marion, a sculptor from New York, bought the isolated foothills property in the early 1950s to escape the encroachment.

Following a regional tradition of building a chapel or shrine in thanks for the land, DeGrazia’s goal was an adobe mission built from the ground up at the foot of the Santa Catalina Mountains.

The artist made design sketches then gathered a crew of friends who made traditional adobe bricks with soil mixed with the water DeGrazia hauled up in his Model A. The bricks were baked onsite by the Arizona sun.

With its rock floors, interior murals and open-air roof, the Mission in the Sun was built in honor of Padre Kino and dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, whose image DeGrazia painted onto the adobe altar.

Near the mission is the original home DeGrazia built on the property and the first small gallery where he displayed his art. As his fame and finances grew, DeGrazia designed a larger gallery on the property where he could exhibit his steady stream of new originals. He again assembled a crew to make the adobe bricks and help with construction.

“DeGrazia had a vision,” recalled Marion. “He knew exactly what he was doing. When it was ready, we opened the door and the people kept flooding in.” The iron door, a replica of the Territorial Yuma prison gate, opened to the public in 1965, and the tradition continues as visitors from around the world flock to this legendary landmark of art and architecture that’s now surrounded by a booming metropolis.

There are six permanent collections of paintings that trace historical events and native cultures of the Southwest. Rotating exhibitions display some of the 15,000 DeGrazia originals housed at the gallery, including oils, watercolors, sketches, serigraphs, lithographs, sculptures, ceramics and jewelry. A consignment room displays DeGrazia originals available for purchase, while the gift shop offers a wide selection of reproductions.


So who was this DeGrazia guy anyway? Here is a short biography to help you get to know this artist:

The son of Italian immigrants, Ettore DeGrazia was born June 14, 1909, in the Morenci mining camp of Territorial Arizona. His early childhood experiences in the ethnically diverse community evolved into a lifelong appreciation of native cultures in the Sonoran Desert and a passion to create art depicting their lives and lore.

After the Phelps Dodge mine closed in 1920, DeGrazia was introduced to his parent’s hometown when they moved their seven children to the Calabria region of Italy. The family returned to Morenci when the mine reopened five years later. Enrolling again in the first grade to relearn English, DeGrazia–nicknamed Ted by a schoolteacher–graduated from Morenci High School when he was 23 years old. By then he was an accomplished trumpeter who performed with family and friends.

After working briefly in the mine, DeGrazia hitched a ride to Tucson with his trumpet and $15 in his pocket. He enrolled at the University of Arizona in 1933, where he supported himself planting trees on campus by day and leading a big band at night. During one performance he met Alexandra, the daughter of Fox Theater owner Nicholas Diamos. They wed in 1936 and moved to Bisbee so DeGrazia could manage the Lyric Theater there, also owned by the Diamos family. The couple had three children during this time but divorced in 1946.

 DeGrazia continued creating his early paintings in Bisbee and by 1941, Raymond Carlson, editor of Arizona Highways, started publishing features about the artist. Then on a rare vacation to Mexico City in 1942, DeGrazia and his wife left an evening ballet performance and headed to the Palacio Municipal where muralist Diego Rivera was working. This chance encounter led to an internship with Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco, plus a solo exhibition of DeGrazia’s paintings at the prestigious Palacio de Bellas Artes.

After returning to Tucson, DeGrazia found that no gallery was interested in exhibiting his artwork, so he bought an acre of land with $25 down at Prince Road and Campbell Avenue to build his first adobe studio in 1944, and also received a BA in Education from the UA. The following year he received a BFA, plus a Master of Arts titled “Art and Its Relation to Music in Music Education”.

New York sculptor Marion Sheret met the artist when visiting his Campbell Avenue studio. As she recalled, his first words to her were “Where have you been?” They married in the jungles of Mexico in 1947 and bought the 10-acre foothills site in the early 1950s to build what became DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun.

DeGrazia’s paintings, ceramics and other artwork steadily attracted media attention including the NBC newsreel “Watch the World” and a profile in the 1953 National Geographic article “From Tucson to Tombstone.” His fame flourished when UNICEF chose his 1957 oil painting “Los Ninos” for a 1960 holiday card that sold millions worldwide.

To protest inheritance taxes on works of art, DeGrazia hauled about 100 of his paintings on horseback into the Superstition Mountains near Phoenix and set them ablaze in 1976. This collection was worth about $250,000 at the time. The infamous event was reported in such publications as The Wall Street Journal and People magazine, becoming part of DeGrazia’s legend before his death in 1982. By this time, the artist had established the DeGrazia Foundation to ensure the permanent preservation of his art and architecture for future generations.

DeGrazia's Studio

So let’s take a look around. I know you are dying to see the gallery but there is much more to this 10 acre site to see. All the structures and the landscape have been simply and carefully crafted to further enhance the display of his many forms of art.

Here is the mission in the sun. This unique chapel has an open roof to let light into the nave. Bright murals line the walls and add to the warm and simplicity of this structure.

Entrance to the Mission


Let the sunshine in!

The Island house was designed for visiting artist to stay in while working at this site. The adjoining, small gallery, is used by the resident artist to display his work. To this day, artists continue to be invited to work in the guest gallery.

The Island House


Current resident artist

The small gallery

Small colored glass windows

Inside the small gallery

Aren't these windows cool?

The outdoor gardens display a distinctive collection of sculpture, landscape architecture and mosaics. There are rough trellis structures for each of the local Native American tribes.


Here are a few shots of  a small garden located in back of the gallery:


The gallery is an art form of its own. The rooms create the right mood for the various periods and interest of his prolific paintings. All carefully crafted by DeGrazia, it is as much a part of the art, as the painting and other art work it houses. Here are a few shots from inside of the gallery.


Well? What do you think? Isn’t that a wonderful statement of one man’s vision and passion? If you are ever in Tucson, it is  well worth your time to visit. Oh yes, the admission cost? It’s free!  Donations are appreciated.

Outdoor Mosaic

I hope you enjoyed this visit to the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun as much as I did. See what creative passion you can find in your world and boldly celebrate it with the enthusiasm and wild abandon Ted had.


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