News came in late June that Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC) will no longer be organizing an Open Studios Tour for the fall of 2016.
I talked to Julie Lauterbach-Colby, TPAC Deputy Director, about this change which she described as a “strategic decision by the TPAC board.” She added that TPAC no longer has the administrative capacity to organize and manage a fall tour.
“We’ve moved into a different capacity,” said Lauterbach-Colby. “We will support the tours through marketing, public relations and mini grants to those who are organizing their own Open Studios Tours. We plan to facilitate our support through our bi-weekly email newsletter, social media, and new website which will be rolled out soon.” She added that TPAC has just hired a new Digital Media Marketing and Communications Manager, Linda Rico, to contribute to this effort.
“Open Studios Tours have really grown and really developed well under individual organizers who know the neighborhood and artists. We see our role as empowering the grass-roots process of community members who are organizing artists who want to participate in an open studio tour,” Lautebach-Colby added.
In the past, the TPAC fall tour has been city-wide, ran for two days on one weekend, and included more than 200 artists. In the summer of 2015, TPAC lost funding and decided to cancel the fall tour. Two grassroots groups popped up to fill the gap: Art Trails on the west side of Tucson, and Heart of Tucson Art in mid-town Tucson. Heart of Tucson Art went on to organize a spring 2016 tour as well. There are also studio tours organized by Oracle artists and Santa Cruz Valley artists.
Meanwhile a gift of money from Tucson businessmen Jim Click and Fletcher McCusker made it possible for TPAC to go ahead with the fall tour. That meant that fall of 2015 had three tours: Art Trails, Heart of Tucson Art, and TPAC, all on different weekends in October and November.
If you go back and read the Editor’s Page for August 22, 2015 (scroll down), you’ll see commentary about research I did on Open Studios in other cities. The huge city-wide tours no longer exist in cities as large as Tucson, and even in cities smaller than Tucson. A city-wide tour of more than 200 artists has been a problem for Tucson tour visitors for some time. There are simply too many studios to visit in one weekend or even two. In a city of nearly 1 million in the metro population, it’s a lot smarter to break tours up into different areas of the city and have the tours on different weekends. We need a "tour season" with smaller, more accessible tours. These smaller, city-sector tours become easier for visitors, they can see more studios, and drive a lot less. The smaller tours have been well-received by tour visitors for this reason. It's worked better for the artists, too, especially those not located in the cluster of artists downtown. Many artists around the city received far more visitors by participating in a city-sector tour than they ever did in the massive city-wide tour.
Check the Open Studios page of Sonoran Arts Network to keep up with who is organizing tours and when. If you hear of a new tour popping up, let us know and we’ll post it. We’ll have more later on this development.
C.J. Shane is the publisher and editor of Sonoran Arts Network. She is an artist and writer. Visit her website at www.cjshane.com to learn more about her.