Shade Projects curator organizes new shows, shares love of art with community

Royse was instrumental in growing Shade Projects’ presence on First Friday. With her help, these galleries have become an important part of the art landscape downtown. (Courtesy of Christopher OShana)

For October’s First Friday, the sole curator of Shade Projects has been hard at work, organizing two separate exhibitions for the Shade and Bokeh galleries at MonOrchid.

Nicole Royse has been working with local Phoenix artists to put together new exhibitions for the two galleries. October’s First Friday will serve as the opening reception for the Shade Gallery’s Cact-Us: A Show About Growing Together. Created by downtown Phoenix artist Jesse Perry, this exhibition showcases the humor and beauty of living in Phoenix. Royse will host the reception on Friday night, inviting community members to take a look at art that reflects their environment and home.

Royse is also celebrating the opening reception of another exhibition Friday in the neighboring Bokeh Gallery, housed in the same building. Phoenix Artist J.W. Fike will have his solo exhibition, titled “Photographic Survey of the Wild Edible Botanicals of Arizona,” which showcases striking images of local plants.

Royse’s hard work and dedication to Shade Projects has led to the continued success of the exhibitions. The California native has been in her current role for four years.

Shade Projects is a nonprofit company, started by MonOrchid Owner Wayne Rainey, that educates the public about the contemporary culture, art and society and encourages evolution in art. There are two main galleries that Royse is responsible for — the Shade Gallery and Bokeh Gallery.

Royse was instrumental in growing Shade Projects’ presence on First Friday. With her help, these galleries have become an important part of the art landscape downtown.

Royse uses her artistic background in her role as curator. She earned a degree in art history from Arizona State University and has showcased her unique acrylic canvas paintings in nearly 60 exhibitions over the span of six years, throughout California and Arizona. Having previously worked in real estate and property tax for eight years, Royse decided to become involved with the Shade Projects because of her love for art and her passion to support other artists.

“I also wanted to take a break from my own art career,” Royse said.

As the sole curator, Royse is responsible for choosing the art pieces, hanging the arts for exhibitions and creating a buzz by sharing exhibition flyers on social media for the Shade Gallery. She writes press releases and articles about the work of artists for local publications such as the Arizona Foothills, North Valley Magazine, and her own website,

Royse has been married for 14 years and has three children, all born in Phoenix.

“Phoenix was the place to be to connect to the scene here,” she said. “I love art, and the artists here are so great.”

Her family is very active in supporting her curating career.

“My husband and three children are regulars at the MonOrchid,” Royse said. “They love accompanying me when I go to other galleries and museums.”

Royse said she looks forward to doing a museum show in the future, and hopes to continue working tirelessly to connect the Phoenix community through art by creating exhibitions that entertain people and encourage socialization.

She said she faces some challenges in her work, particularly that there is minimal funding for projects and a lack of volunteers to help with setting up and taking down exhibitions. Preparing for exhibitions and the business of First Fridays can be a difficult task for any artist, especially for Royse, who is responsible for doing all the work herself.

Christopher OShana, an artist at MonOrchid, usually helps Royse set up exhibition gallery shows by hanging art works and making sure there is good lighting. Having worked with her for more than two years, OShana says Royse is very hardworking.

“The amount of work she puts into the gallery is simply incredible,” OShana said.

Cydney Guess, executive assistant to the MonOrchid building, has been working with Royse since February. She said Royse is extremely proactive and efficient in ensuring that people who are interested in arts related events like First Fridays always have new experiences.

“Nicole works tirelessly for the art community,” Guess said.

Corrections: October 14, 2016

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Royse is responsible for three galleries. The third gallery mentioned, the satellite Shade West Gallery at the Renaissance Hotel downtown is no longer in use due to construction.

An earlier version of this story also stated Royse started the Shade Projects. It has been updated to show Wayne Rainey as the founder, with Royse as the curator and facilitator.

An earlier version of this story stated Royse worked in real estate and property tax for five years. It has been updated to reflect the actual length of time she worked in these fields.

An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Royse’s children were born in California. They were born in Phoenix.

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