When Judi Combs’ father passed away, she began spending more time with her mother. Her mother would attend art classes that she would drive her to, and she became very interested and began creating art of her own. A friend of hers encouraged her to begin selling her work. Prior to that, she had not done art to make a living or sold any of her pieces. She was a stay-at-home mother and her husband was “the bread-winner.” Ms. Combs somewhat fell into a business through the encouragement of her friends. Fudgico Marchant was her late friend, who originally encouraged her to begin selling her art and eventually became the spark that caused her to begin her business. She feels that art is very therapeutic for her, and it became her way to escape. The overwhelming success of the first festival of her company, Thunderbird Artists, led to additional festivals in Carefree, Sedona, Tucson and Scottsdale, Arizona, Lake Tahoe and Denver. For nearly 40 years, Thunderbird Artists has produced over 300 fine art events, attracting millions of patrons who share in their love and appreciation for fine art.
Ms. Combs is the founder and chief executive officer of the American Healing Arts Foundation in Arizona since 1981, as well as the CEO and a partner of the Arizona Fine Art Expo in Scottsdale, an event that combines the aspects of a juried fine art festival, the elements of a gallery and the inner-workings of an artist’s studio, since 2005. Since 2009, the American Healing Arts Foundation has provided free art classes for U.S. veterans, intended to reunite veterans with their peers, away from hospitals and the battlefield, in a peaceful and creative environment. Ms. Combs attributes her success to being surrounded by so much love. Her family is constantly around to support her events, and their support is a major part of what keeps her motivated and focused. Her business philosophy is “We don’t want to make money off of the artist; we rather make money with the artist.” Artists are normally used and abused for their money by art show promoters, so instead she considers herself a producer of art shows, as opposed to a promoter solely driven by financial gain.
Outside of her primary trade, Ms. Combs participated in the Carefree Art Show, as mentioned in “The Best Laid Plans” by American writer and producer, Sidney Sheldon. She also maintains activity with the International Cancer Advocacy Network, which focuses on personalized medicine cancer case navigation programs, health information technology issues, legislative initiatives and research projects. In light of her many accomplishments, Ms. Combs is the recipient of over 50 awards and accolades throughout her career.
Looking toward the future, Ms. Combs plans to continue the massive amount of work she is currently involved with. She has been called an outstanding businesswoman and consummate professional, whose operations were always well-run, organized and upbeat, which also says a lot about her as a person.