She’s an artist, he’s an art lover. She likes contemporary, he likes traditional. She is Bonner, he is David. These two business partners have combined their skills, their tastes and their names to create the thriving Bonner David Galleries on Main Street in Scottsdale.
Christi Bonner Manuelito and Clark David Olson met working at another gallery in Old Town Scottsdale. “We had such a good time working together,” said Olson. “We thought, ‘Why don’t we venture out and do this on our own?'” They opened their space almost six years ago.
For their gallery moniker, they tried various combinations of their names and their two middle names sounded right. Bonner precedes David because “the artist’s name is [always] first,” Olson explained. “You can’t have the one without the other.”
Olson’s history as a collector and Manuelito’s experience as an artist forge a compatible business partnership. Their contrasting taste in art has become the trademark of their gallery. “When me first met, I was totally a contemporary art person, while he was more into traditional art,” said Manuelito.
“My collection was 95% traditional,” said Olson. “Mine was 95% contemporary,” added Manuelito.
“As we both researched each other’s love, we both learned more about each other’s loves for different types of art,” continued Manuelito.
Olson’s home collection includes a few of Manuelito’s works. She gave him the first one, a portrait of his once ailing cat. It helped him begin to appreciate contemporary art in a different way. He has purchased a couple of her works since then and predicts there will be more at his house.
At Bonner David, Manuelito and Olson combine the very traditional and abstract. “We believe we can blend the two of those in a collection,â€ says Manuelito. Olson adds, â€œWe have a wonderful concept, mixing contemporary and traditional, and people are responding to it.â€
A common thread among the contemporary and traditional artists represented at Bonner David is they must agree not to show anywhere else in the state of Arizona. “We don’t want to saturate the market,” explained Olson.
Artists whose work you can find in the gallery include Glenna Goodacre, known for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial sculpture on The Mall in Washington D.C., and Eve Plumb, immortalized as middle sister Jan on The Brady Bunch. Recent shows have featured Dyana Hesson, MacKenzie Thorpe and Gail Morris. The works of colorist Henry Stinson will be featured May 15th through May 31st.
“It’s brilliant how he mixes and uses the colors on his palette,” said Manuelito. “That’s where the painter in him comes out, when it goes from the palette to the canvas. His work is contemporary because of how he paints, but it’s also traditional because of his drawing in the painting. And his quirky sense of humor is fun in his work.”
Bonner David client Gayle Weiss says a favorite in her collection is a Stinson titled The Harlequin. “My husband chose to hang it over the sink in our guest bathroom. This whimsical face is where you would normally see a mirror. It never fails to elicit a smile.”
Weiss and her husband moved to Old Town Scottsdale less than two years ago. “We left a traditional home and it was my husband’s wish to decorate our new urban lifestyle in a contemporary manner,” said Weiss. “[Manuelito and Olson were] so welcoming and helpful. We appreciate the way they delighted in their gallery and literally made us feel like family. We learned so much from them in the process.”
“We love to educate and help people start collecting art,” Manuelito responds. The gallery’s slogan reflects the atmosphere Manuelito and Olson maintain at the galleries: It’s a whole family of fine art. “We like to treat our artists and clients like family,â” said Olson.
Children are a welcome part of Bonner David’s community. A table with markers and molding materials in the gallery invites children to come in and create. “Don’t think you’re not supposed to take your children to an art gallery,” said Manuelito. “There are things that, yes, you don’t touch, but we encourage them to touch sculpture. We welcome the entire family.”
Though Manuelito’s interest in working with children is largely motivated by her role as a mother, she and Olson acknowledge the business angle. “We love to encourage love of fine art because children are our future collectors. It’s a cycle. We have to encourage the young artists, as well as the young art lovers.”