Scottsdale Arts is ramping up its local live music offerings as Gerd Wuestemann settles into his second year as CEO. The musician and arts administrator joined Scottsdale Arts in May 2018 after working more than a decade in New Orleans, a city where music is the very heart of cultural life.
He has big plans for Scottsdale Arts, which operates several arts venues and programs on the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall, home to one of Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE sculptures. They include Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, which houses both a traditional theater and smaller black box performance space, and Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art.
Although he’s a relative newcomer on the local arts scene, Wuestemann says he’s done his homework.
“As I got to know and learn more about the organization, I discovered that in the ‘60s and ‘70s this was a place people looked for cutting-edge work,” he says.
He’s working to make something similar happen now. “We want to build a thriving homegrown scene that can grow into a national scene,” he says.
2nd Hand Sam and His Country Gentleman are part of the Live & Local series.
The new Live & Local series, which features local bands in diverse genres performing inside the museum’s black box theater space called Stage 2, is part of his plan. The series already has featured Scottsdale Latin band Jalisco. Next up are Sugar Thieves, then 2nd Hand Sam and His Country Gentleman.
He’s also planning to pair local bands with touring ones, so local musicians get more chances to perform as opening acts for big-name musicians. Decades ago, Wuestemann performed with a New Wave band in Europe, opening for acts that included Swedish pop-rockers ABBA.
“We want to help our local outstanding musicians to grow,” he says.
It’s not just music that’s getting the local love.
Recently, the contemporary dance company [nueBOX] performed on Stage 2, and Julia Chacon is doing several Flamenco Intimo performances there, as well. The future lineup also includes local theater legend Rusty Ferracane.
Now that more creatives are using Stage 2, Wuestemann is eager to make improvements. “It hasn’t been updated since the ‘70s,” he says. “It’s a nice enough theater for now, but we’d like to transform it into a multiuse space.”
It’s one of several projects Scottsdale Arts hopes to fund through a bond initiative that’s on the November ballot. If that happens, the space could get improvements that make it more suitable for a wider range of art forms, including local film.
Expect to see plenty of local bands during Canal Convergence, a 10-day event with a water and light theme that will include a diverse lineup of international to local creatives working in visual and performance arts. The free event kicks off at the Scottsdale Waterfront near Old Town on Friday, November 8. “We’re bringing in more than 30 local bands, so it will be a huge showcase of local music,” Wuestemann says.
Gerd Wuestemann with Janel Garza’s mural for Scottsdale Arts.
There’s still one place you won’t find much music. That’s Guestemann’s office, where he doesn’t have even a single guitar. It’s an odd choice for a man who loves to play drums when he gets home after work and has an impressive collection of instruments that includes several classical guitars, a Fender Stratocaster, keyboards, a ukulele, a fiddle, and more.
At this point, he’s focused on boosting the music offerings on the rest of the Scottsdale Arts campus. “We’re making a bit of a philosophical shift as one of the area’s big arts nonprofits,” he says. “We believe that we should help build local infrastructure, and help local artists with their career paths.”
It’s a decision rooted in his own life experiences, which included earning a music degree from the University of Arizona. “My work reflects my diverse tastes in music, which will help us build a new generation of audiences.”
Lynn Trimble is an award-winning freelance writer and photographer specializing in arts and culture, including visual and performing arts