Wednesday, March 16, 2016


By Deanna

Does the above look familiar?  It's entitled "Los Ninos" by the artist "Ted" DeGrazia.  This design was chosen to be the very first Christmas card published for UNICEF in 1960.  Now I will admit that it was vaguely familiar to me, but could I tell you it's artist...NO.  I had absolutely no idea.

On my recent trip to Arizona Terri, Barbara and I visited the DeGrazia's Gallery In the Sun in Tucson, AZ.  And not only being with 2 great friends for the day we also had a private, insightful tour led by a young lady that works for the gallery that Terri met through Instagram.  She had mentioned to Terri that if she ever wanted a tour she would be happy to escort us, and that she did. WOW, the knowledge she had about this man and his works was absolutely incredible. I just wish I had recorded every detail she told us, because, ya know, memory issues. Terri assured me she was having the same issues so between the 2 of us, not much soaked in.

When you first enter the property this awaits.....

Let me tell you a little about this man everyone refers to as "Ted".  Ettore (Ted) DeGrazia was born in territorial (before it became a state) Arizona at a mining camp, the son of Italian immigrants in 1909. His early childhood experiences living in the mining community evovled into a lifelong appreciation of native cultures in the Sonoran Desert and a passion to create art depicting their lives and lore. 

When the mine closed Ted at age 11, along with his parents and 6 other brothers and sisters returned home to Italy in 1920. They returned to Arizona 5 years later when the mines re-opened. Ted began 1st grade again to learn English for a 2nd time and finally graduated from high  school at the age of 23. He entered the University of Arizona 10 years later after supporting himself playing in a band as an accomplished musician. He worked his way through school planting trees for the college during the day and playing in his big band at night. Ted graduated from college with a BA in Education, and then continued his education with a BFA and then a Masters of Arts entitled "Art and Its Relationship to Music in Art Education."  He met and married his first wife in 1936 but divorced in 1946 after the birth of his 3 children. A year later he married Marion Sheret who remained his wife until his death in 1982 at the age of 73. 

A trip to Mexico and a meeting with the famous painter Diego Rivera, led to an internship with Rivera.  Returning to the US he still yearned for recognition and finally achieved that when his Los Ninos painting (see above) was selected for UNICEF. 

In the late 40's, DeGrazia began to feel cramped by the growth of Tucson.  It was then that he bought the 10 acres that is now "The Gallery in the Sun".

He hand built his home where he and his wife lived for many years. When Ted and his wife moved into his hand-made home they had no electricity, no running water, no inside toilet, but they stayed and he flourished as an artist.

He built a chapel.... Everywhere you look there are trinkets and cards, flowers and momentos.  Some must be removed on a continual basis due to room space, but we were guaranteed that they keep all that is placed in the chapel.

Then we entered the gallery...what a grand collection of art by an extremely talented man.

The room straight ahead with the cross is a small room with pieces of art each depicting the 14 Stations of the Cross. 

His workroom...

And a portrait that is very near the entrance.  His years in the sun are reflected in the furrows in his face. 

Ted died in 1982 at the age of 73 of cancer.  He is buried on his property.

This beautiful land and gallery stand in testament to "Ted".  If you are ever in the Tucson, AZ area I encourage you to visit the Gallery of the Sun with Ted's many works, his home and his final resting place.


Irina Kolosovskaya said...

Such an interesting story about Ettore (Ted) DeGrazia, such wonderful images.. Thank you for sharing, Deanna!

AFishGirl said...

I would so love to see this place, Deanna. Thank you for taking me there in this post. I am a big fan of Diego Rivera. An artist in Saint John, where I grew up, studied with him. Fred Ross was his name. Such a gracious, quiet man. He allowed me to use his work, "Girl With Shell," on the cover of my short story collection. Someday I'll go and see this place you have written so eloquently about. Some day. Thank you for the trip this morning.

terriporter said...

You captured the beauty of this place so well, Deanna! It is truly an Arizona treasure and one that I had not seen before and really enjoyed seeing for the first time with you and Barbara. Shannon was an excellent guide and even Barbara, who had been here many times, said she learned a lot during the tour. Love the close up of the mosaic which really shows its intricate beauty. Being from Arizona, I was fully aware of who DeGrazia was but I thoroughly enjoyed finding out more about him and seeing this place. So happy we were able to share it!

kelly said...

Deanna this a beautiful series of photos...I can only imagine how special it was to be there. What a beautiful testament to a great artist!

Carol said...

I really enjoyed this tour with you. Interesting subject - I had never heard of him, and fun to think I have been in Tucson recently! I especially love the cross hanging from the tree. What a treat this was today!

Dotti said...

I read this beautiful post and looked at these stunning photos on my iPad this morning while I was on the treadmill and then forgot to come back over on my computer to comment! This looks like such an interesting and inspiring place, I'd love to visit, too. Thanks for sharing, Deanna!

Cathy H. said...

Wonderful post about such a great artist. Wonderful too, that you had a knowledgeable tour guide and toured with two good friends! Special Day!

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