12/30/15: DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, Tucson, AZ (part 2)

Part 1 of this post ended at the Mission of the Sun, the simple yet magnificent adobe chapel Ted DeGrazia hand-built with the help of Native American friends. Just beyond is the house where Ted, his wife Marion and their three children lived. Like the Mission in the Sun, it was built in 1952. It’s small and unassuming and blends in seamlessly with the tan-colored foothills of Tucson’s Santa Catalina Mountains. Even though the cactus, agaves and desert shrubs were planted, they look completely natural.


The home where Ted DeGrazia and his wife Marion lived


The barrel cactus (Ferocactus sp.) and horseshoe hanging complement the architecture perfectly


Shadow of a palo verde tree on the outside wall of the DeGrazia home


I don’t usually pay attention to curtains in a house, but these were fascinating


They look handwoven


Fireplace in the living room


Kitchen—no frills but homey

Next to the DeGrazia’s home is the Little Gallery, the space DeGrazia built in 1954 to display his work when no established gallery would carry it. Today the Little Gallery is open to lesser known artists who have difficulty finding a more conventional venue for their creations.

Just outside the Little Gallery is this ramada with a large mosaic…


…as well as a trio of saguaros underplanted with agaves and barrel cactus:


After poking my head into the Little Gallery but not lingering, I headed back to the main gallery: the Gallery in the Sun the entire DeGrazia compound is now synonymous with.

In the early 1960s DeGrazia’s fame (and bank account) began to grow and he was finally able to build the gallery he had been envisioning. “The gallery was designed by me,” he is quoted as saying. “I wanted to have the feeling of the Southwest. I wanted to build it so that my paintings would feel good inside.”


Walkway to the gallery entrance


Agave lophantha and Yucca elata

Completed in 1965, the Gallery in the Sun is a modest, low-slung adobe building surrounded by perfectly natural-looking desert plantings. The adobe bricks were all made on site.


Palo verde and Agave lophantha outside the entrance to the Gallery in the Sun


More Agave lophantha and golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)

I walked straight through the gift shop into the courtyard where I took the next set of photos.




The courtyard is stuffed to the gills with plants, pots, western Americana, and other odds and ends.


It’s cluttered and messy and yet completely charming.


It’s what my own courtyard might look like if I grew old in the desert and weren’t able to fuss over it any more.


No, it isn’t botanical-garden-worthy, but it kept my attention for a while.




Agave lophantha and a French horn—an eclectic combination seen in a planter bed in the courtyard

Once back inside the gallery, I was surprised by how much larger the structure is than it looks from the outside. The courtyard is surrounded by rooms on three sides, and a wall on the fourth.

The gallery houses a gift shop (the first thing you see as you enter) as well 13 rooms displaying works from the massive permanent collection. It’s said to include 15,000 DeGrazia originals from a variety of genres—not just paintings and sculptures but also ceramics and even jewelry.


The interior of the Gallery in the Sun is stunning. I didn’t take nearly enough photos of all the architectural details.


But I did photograph some of DeGrazia’s works that I liked far better than the Native American children he is so known for.


Ted DeGrazia, Trumpet Player. Oil on canvas. Bullfight Collection – 1966

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Ted DeGrazia, Self Portrait in Pink. Oil on canvas. Retrospective Collection – 1980.


The floor is made of cement and cross-sections of cholla skeletons. I wish I had paid more attention to it during my visit.

After my visit, I found this 1996 Tucson Citizen article by John Jennings about the Gallery in the Sun. It describes so many interesting details I want to see for myself the next time I’m in Tucson:

Embedded in the floor of a walkway near the gallery’s main lobby is a small piece of turquoise surrounded by a thin gold rim. Difficult to see, even when you know where to look, it is the top of a ring De Grazia put there when he was pouring the floor, which consists of cholla cross-sections and cement. The small ring was given to De Grazia by a little girl who loved him and his work, and who was dying. He wanted it be a permanent part of the building he was creating.

There’s even a color named after Ted DeGrazia that involves prickly pear cactus (opuntias):

Female cochineal beetles, whose cocoons are attached to prickly pear cactus, produce a purple color when ground up, Reyes [the gallery’s resident director in 1996] noted.

“De Grazia thinned it down to make a vibrant pink, which now is called `De Grazia Pink’.”

The 10-acre site at 6300 N Swan Road was declared a historic district in 2006. The Gallery in the Sun is open from 10am to 4pm daily. Admission is free.



  1. I spotted those curtains in the photo of the Palo Verde shadow and spent too long staring, trying to figure out what I was looking at. Thankfully all was revealed! Looks like a fun place to explore.

    1. A great place indeed. After seeing the magnicent Agave americana they have there, I was almost ready to fall in love with it. Almost :-).

  2. What a great gallery. It does look like one of those places you'd always be discovering new things on every visit, inside and out!

    1. I agree! I'm so glad there are places like that in the world to explore.

  3. You've done a great job at sharing the man's ability to appreciate the world around him and incorporate it into his daily life.

    1. Thank you, Kris. DeGrazia's life and art was informed and inspired by the desert around him. I can relate to that.

  4. Your tour is a nice antidote to a cold, wet morning! Thanks for sharing with us.

  5. Lots of great ideas there -- I need to visit the desert sometime I think. Especially love the entrance to the gallery, with its oddly-shaped doorway. Love the interior doorways too.

    1. The doorway was so interesting, but the doors themselves were surprisingly hard to open since you had to pull quite a bit of weigh both outwards and *upwards*.

      Yes, you need to visit the desert. I think you would be extremely inspired.

  6. A beautiful home and gallery. I like the window treatments and especially the hanging art piece with horse shoes. The adobe color complements the green of the agaves wonderfully.

    1. All the design elements were so simple and natural, yet (at least to me) achingly beautiful.


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