photo by Angelina Aragon

Artist of the Month: Lisa Olson

Written by Isabella Castillo Category: Arts Issue: November 2017
Group Free

The thread running through Lisa Olson’s artistic life is her love for Arizona, the place where she grew up. In her Phoenix boutique Practical Art, Olson solely stocks art and merchandise made here by local artists and artisans, and her own portfolio as a photographer brims with images of the state’s natural wonders and historic buildings.

“I’m just really into Arizona in general,” Olson says, holding out her dreamy images of the Westward Ho and Arizona mountainscapes. “I love these iconic little spots. Lately I’ve gotten into my own world and just photographing [my surroundings].”

Olson found her love for photography in college, and later went on to be a photojournalist for the East Valley Tribune. Recently, she’s been experimenting with photo-transferring. She transfers prints onto small rectangles of wood to create wooden postcards. For her next project, she’ll mount photos inside window frames she’s collected from historical Phoenix houses.

Olson inherited Practical Art from her mentor Jane Reddin, who died in 2011. For the past six years, she’s devoted herself to keeping the shop running, expanding its offerings and hosting artist-led workshops. “I have big plans for Practical Art to grow beyond the store we have currently,” she says. “I think art builds community and makes the place around you better.”

After putting her own photography on hold to run the shop, Olson is happy to be back in the creative swing of things. “I just never found anything else that I enjoyed as much or felt that I was as good at,” she says. “I think it’s just a wonderful way to experience the world.”

Find Olson’s work at Practical Art (, at the art show Chaos Theory at Legend City Studios and at