Peoria artist Joye Melby

Peoria artist Joye Melby paints in her studio. Melby is one of 139 artists participating in the Hidden in the Hills Artist Studio Tour this weekend in the Northeast Valley.

Joye Melby grew up in a rural North Dakota town with little exposure to art. She loved to draw, but paper was sparse, so she would draw on receipts and cardboard until she could get some typing paper. 

Today, Melby is a professional artist and educator who spent more than 25 years teaching art to high school students. A Peoria resident and abstract painter, Melby is participating in Arizona’s largest and longest-running artist studio tour, Hidden in the Hills, Friday, Nov. 20, to Sunday, Nov. 22, and Friday, Nov. 27, to Sunday, Nov.  29. 

Coordinated by the nonprofit Sonoran Arts League, this year’s free, self-guided tour features 139 artists at 35 socially distanced, private studios throughout Cave Creek, Carefree and North Scottsdale.

While this year’s 24th annual studio tour may seem a bit different, with masks and sanitizer, guests will still enjoy the unique experience of meeting diverse artists  and learning the inspiration behind each artist’s work.


A lifelong artistic journey

Melby credits her parents for encouraging her to pursue a career in art.

“My mother encouraged me to explore my creativity and arranged for me to take correspondence classes,” she recalled. “I also received a grant to Girl Scout art camp in South Dakota one summer. My father was a blacksmith, and while money was always tight, my parents were committed to providing me with a college education. I’m still amazed at what they did for me.”

Melby earned a bachelor’s degree in art education from the University of North Dakota and a master’s degree in art education from Western Washington University. Her master’s thesis art show featured oil paintings based on her love of family history and understanding one’s development through that history.

While her early work was in fabric design—creating batiks that were featured in galleries from Oregon to Washington—she became an award-winning educator whose students won numerous prestigious awards in regional and national shows. Since moving to Arizona with her husband in 2015, she has been teaching art classes to adults in her community.

She has experimented with many mediums, but she always ends up back at her palette with oil and brushes, eager to investigate new ideas. Her work is influenced by her favorite oil painters: Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Alice Neel. 

“Art making is risky business, exciting, challenging and provocative,” she said.

She has a natural love of the lush, earthy tones observed in the agrarian community where she grew up. 

“The subtle tones of crops and the colors of oxidizing metals stay fresh in my art memory and easily find their way into my work.”


Finding beauty

where least expected

Her recent paintings were inspired by an act of aggression against plants that were growing through a wooden fence.  

“Once cut, the images that remained were an exciting array of visual pleasure, textures and shapes to entertain the eye,” she said. “My new ‘Sedona Spirits’ series are a testament to the beauty found where least expected. I continue to look to nature and humanity for inspiration as I explore the pleasure of working with both oils and acrylic.”

This is Melby’s first year participating in Hidden in the Hills. She is a guest at Sylvia Fugmann Brongo’s Studio No. 28 in Cave Creek. Her diverse work, including abstract and realistic paintings, can be seen at

Other Peoria artists participating in the tour include wood sculptor Matt Werner, also a guest artist at Fugmann Brongo’s studio, and gourd artist Darlene Saucedo, a guest artist at Leea Arnold’s Studio No. 22 in Cave Creek.

For details or to download a map, visit