On February 7, Adrienne Halpert will host her annual Valentine’s Day Love-A-Thon at Global Arts Gallery. Visitors and locals will wander in, sample the tasty dishes laid out for the occasion, and enjoy some wine or horchata. First-time visitors will find themselves gazing at the wealth of beautiful displays that surround them. Some will drift outside, where comfortable chairs have been placed, to enjoy conversation in the afternoon sun. Others will reserve their turn for a reading with Tucson psychic, Vee Phillips. The mood will be relaxed. And the message is love.
Although the event is held around Valentine’s Day, Adrienne says that it is not so much about cupids and valentines but rather about the power of spiritual love. She also sees it as a way to thank the community and patrons that have supported her for so many years. This year marks Adrienne’s 20th year of operation at 315 McKeown Avenue, and her sustained success can be credited to her keen eye for unique decorative and wearable art and crafts and her ability to create a setting that is both relaxing and beguiling.
It’s not unusual to hear “I LOVE this store!” from a customer as people stand looking around them. The displays of clothing and jewelry, handwoven rugs, and brightly colored craft items greet the eye like a richly woven tapestry. There is mellow music playing softly—perhaps some blues standard from the 1940s—and the staff is welcoming and helpful without being intrusive.
Adrienne Halpert, a native of New York, came to Patagonia in 1994, after nearly 20 years of living and working in Tucson. A true entrepreneur, she describes herself as a “grassroots art activist” whose greatest strength is her ability to be “challenged by rather than fearful of the pursuit of things I know nothing about.” During her years in Tucson she made and sold jewelry, operated a vintage clothing store, managed the Hotel Congress, and served as an arts administrator for many institutions and events.
In Patagonia, Adrienne became part of a group of small businesses that set up shop in the large building where Global Arts is now located. Called the Horse of a Different Color, its shops included Ann Caston’s bookstore; an ice cream and coffee shop—the forerunner of today’s Gathering Grounds– and Adrienne, who set up her jeweler’s bench with a plan to make her living as a jewelry artist. But shortly thereafter, she heard through a friend about a businessman who was closing shop and was selling his entire inventory of Indonesian imports. She traveled to California, bought up his wares, and stuffed her car with everything she could find room for. Adrienne brought her new treasures back to Patagonia—and thus began Global Arts.
Adrienne’s love of treasure hunting is matched by her love of travel, and in the years since, she has brought back treasures from all over the globe. However, she now builds her inventory by working directly with a wide variety of Fair Trade importers, which allows her to ethically sustain the global artisans while having access to a wide mix of merchandise. This leaves her free to immerse herself in the pleasures of traveling to parts unknown, where she continues to enjoy learning about other cultures and their art and traditions.
Adrienne says that she likes to think of herself as a “conduit” or intermediary—hunting out uniquely interesting items and making them accessible to a wider audience. She also enjoys the sense that she is contributing to the greater sustainabililty of other cultures by buying the work of their artisans, thus supporting their community and thereby strengthening their local economy.
A member of the board of the Patagonia Area Business Association, Adrienne has served several times as its president. When it comes to our own local economy, this astute businesswoman sees a trend she hopes will continue—in which business owners are realizing the advantage of pooling their efforts and working together to attract a greater number of visitors. She believes our greatest business asset is the beauty of this area—clean air and water, diverse ecology, and scenic views—and that our businesses need to work together to protect and promote that beauty.
When I asked her what she thought made Global Arts such an appealing place, Adrienne spoke of the sense of love that she feels has been imparted within its walls over the years. Perhaps she’s right. See for yourself by visiting Global Arts for the Love-A-Thon on February 7.