asdfPhotos Metropolitan Tucson CVB

 

By Josephine Matyas

 

Think about the beauty encircling Tucson – the tranquil desert, the majestic forests of Saguaro cacti, the dramatic mountain ranges – and it makes sense that this would be a place of arts and culture. Mix in a fascinating tri-cultural heritage, blending flavours of Native American, Hispanic and the Old West and the result is a fascinating menu of cultural heritage outings and one-of-a-kind arts experiences. Explore Tucson’s artsy side? You bet.

 

Visual Arts & Crafts

Perhaps it’s the light. Or the stark desert beauty. Or the blending of colourful Native American, Spanish and Mexican histories. There’s an artistic harmony and synergy in Tucson that’s fostered a thriving creative scene. Here are some spots to look.

• Located in the Tucson foothills, the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun showcases the works of acclaimed, late Arizona artist Ted DeGrazia. Now a National Historic District, the adobe-style buildings display permanent collections and rotating exhibits of DeGrazia originals, including oil paintings, watercolours, ceramics and sculptures.

• Encompassing an entire block in El Presidio, the city’s most historic district, the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block is home to original and travelling exhibitions focusing on art of Latin America, art of the American West, modern and contemporary art and Asian art. The museum also offers tours, art talks, education programs and studio classes.

• Take a seat in the hotshop and marvel as the glassblowers at Philabaum Studio & Gallery heat, spin and blow liquid glass into works of art. And at the Sonoran Glass School, visitors can step into a class or sign up for a full course in creating glass art.

• The Center for Creative Photography on the campus of the University of Arizona is a collective reservoir of more than 90,000 fine art photographs by 2,000 of America’s pre-eminent photographers (including Ansel Adams).

• Tucson’s El Presidio Arts District is home to the shops and galleries of Old Town Artisans, displaying the work of regional artists and craftsmen.

• The world’s ethnic and folk costumes are on display at The Castañeda Museum of Ethnic Costume. The extensive collection spans almost 3,000 textiles and related objects, including costumes, ethnic dolls and masks.

 

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Performing Arts

Surrounded by nature, but bustling with the energy of a sophisticated city, Tucson satisfies even the most discerning culture vulture.

• Arizona Friends of Chamber Music hosts some of the world’s finest chamber musicians through a concert series and annual festival.

• Tucson’s stages come alive with professional theatre productions by the Arizona Theatre Company, the musicals of Broadway in Tucson and musical comedy at The Gaslight Theatre.

• The historic Fox Tucson Theatre (originally a vaudeville and movie theatre) has undergone an extensive restoration and now hosts world-class acts like country music singer Clint Black and American jazz great Chick Corea.

• The Tucson Jazz Society keeps the all-American musical art form alive and well with concerts and an extensive website listing of all things jazz.

• Each year, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra offers a line-up of more than 70 orchestra and 260 chamber ensemble performances.

• Big name musical headliners take to the stage at the Desert Diamond Casino.

• Centennial Hall at the University of Arizona brings theatre, dance, classical, jazz and world music to appreciative Tucson audiences.

• The annual Tucson Mariachi Conference brings the world’s best mariachi musicians under one roof with budding students who come from around the world to learn this lively music and dance form. The conference culminates in a Tucson tradition – the Fiesta de Garibaldi, an all-day party of mariachi music and dance.

 

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Native American Craftwork

Tucson is one of the oldest continuously inhabited areas in North America, creating a burgeoning Native American arts community, rich with the history and traditions of these ancient cultures. The work of the Tohono O’odham, Navajo, Hopi and Zuni is on display at traditional craft markets and in the tony shops that specialize in quality, authentic Native American arts and crafts. Look for hand-woven basketry, tapestry, beadwork, fine silverwork, katsina dolls and pottery.

• Tucson shops like Bahti Indian Arts (founder Tom Bahti wrote “the book” on American Indian art), Gallery West, Grey Dog Trading Company, Mark Sublette Medicine Man Gallery and Morning Star Traders specialize in fine Native American art and craftwork.

• Some galleries and shops specialize: Try Steve Getzwiller Nizhoni Ranch Gallery for Navajo rugs, blankets and weavings; Mac’s Indian Jewelry for work produced by local artists. A silversmith is frequently working on site.

 

Festivals

• In February, the city opens its doors to the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show, an annual event known as “the world’s largest treasure hunt.” It’s a chance for the public to mingle with hundreds of mineral, gemstone, jewelry and fossil dealers and browse the museum collections on display.

• The annual American Indian Exposition is a marketplace of jewelry, basketry, pottery, textiles and craftwork, held in conjunction with the Tucson Gem Show.

• The Southwest Indian Art Fair (held on the grounds of Arizona State University) is one of southern Arizona’s premier Indian art shows and markets. Shoppers and collectors have the opportunity to buy handmade arts directly from 200 of the region’s finest Native American artists.

• Mark the second weekend in March for the Wa:k Powwow, a cultural festival taking place at the large open plaza at Mission San Xavier Del Bac. The square is filled with dancers in traditional costumes and headdresses plus craft booths where shoppers can buy the famous baskets woven by the Tohono O’odham people.

 

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Lace up your walking shoes

• Go behind the scenes for a curator-led tour at the Arizona State Museum, the region’s largest anthropology museum celebrating the cultures of the Southwest.

• No visit to Tucson is complete without a visit to the area’s landmark Mission San Xavier Del Bac (“White Dove of the Desert”), a 300-year-old church that is the oldest intact European structure in Arizona and the finest example of mission architecture in the country. Docent-led tours explain the history, architecture, and culture of the mission, a National Historic Landmark.

 

Practical tips

Tucson is served from Canada year-round with flights to the Tucson International Airport. Air Canada offers connecting service from major Canadian cities. WestJet offers service through a code share agreement with American Airlines. From U.S. airports, non-stop and one-stop connecting flights are available from American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Delta, United Airlines and US Airways.

 

For more information visit www.visitTucson.org or call 800-638-8350.

 

• Tucson got the nod as one of the country’s Top 25 Arts Destinations (American Style Magazine).

• The Wall Street Journal called Tucson “a mini mecca for the arts.”

• Tucson is proud of its ballet company, symphony orchestra, opera and professional theatre – a breadth of the arts that’s a rare feat for a city its size.

• Tucson is home to the Southwest’s oldest symphony orchestra.

• The area basks in an average 350 days of sunshine a year. Could there be better weather for leisurely visits to galleries, museums and festivals?

• Tucson’s nickname is “the Old Pueblo” – a nod to the original adobe-walled fortress built by the Spanish conquistadors.

 

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