Judging from the response I received about my earlier post on SAACA's fall studio tour, I think some of you have reading comprehension problems. So I’m going to try again to explain my position on studio tours.
1. I’ve been publishing Sonoran Arts Network for 4 ½ years. During that time, I’ve interviewed dozens of artists, and reviewed dozens of exhibits, both in and out of Tucson. I have proven beyond the shadow of a doubt that I support the artists of southern Arizona. I said I was going to boycott the SAACA studio tours. I did not say I was boycotting artists or artists’ studios.
2. About SAACA. Briefly, Kate Marquez, the executive director of SAACA (Southern Arizona Arts and Culture Alliance), went against her word. She clearly stated at the August 2016 meeting with artists at JCC that she would NOT compete with existing artist tour groups. She claimed that she would instead support them. She also claimed that she would not “take over” the studio tour. In fact, Marquez did take over the tour, does compete with existing tour groups, and has provided no support at all for those groups. For the fall of 2017 she has created two studio tours that encompass much of southern Arizona all the way to the border with Mexico. Even worse, her Tour #2 lumps together the greatest number of artists and forces downtown artists and midtown artists to compete for visitors. What she has done is not acceptable.
3. Artists in southern Arizona and in Tucson, in particular, must cooperate and support each other. We live in a city that is the fifth poorest in the country. I repeat. We must cooperate and support each other. Competition is deadly. Art Trails and Heart of Tucson Art are examples of good cooperation. Each group is independently run, but the two groups cooperate on paying for ads and on group art exhibits.
4. The long-standing problem of both TPAC’s fall tour and Dirk Arnold’s spring tour is that both were city-wide, one-weekend tours, typically with 200+ artists. That meant that visitors tended to go to clusters of artists where they could see the greatest number of artists in a short period of time. This means that some artists (i.e. downtown artists) received the full benefits of what was meant to be a tour for all of us. Those of us away from downtown received far fewer visitors despite the fact that we paid the same registration fees.
To put this another way, the artists’ clusters (downtown) were in a privileged position for years. There was an inbuilt bias in the tour structure that favored these downtown artists. Downtown artists have been the 1% when it comes to Open Studio Tours. When independent artists’ groups like Art Trails and Heart of Tucson Art created their own city-sector and multi-weekend tours, their visitation increased dramatically. One HoTArt artists found that the number of visitors to his studio quadrupled. This is what we want: multi-weekend city-sector tours.
5. Downtown Tucson Artists: I know that what I am about to say does not apply to all the artists who have studios downtown. But I’ve heard from enough of the “downtown artists” to have concluded that a significant number of them have an arrogant and entitled attitude that undermines cooperation among all the artists. Here are a few things that “downtown artists” have told me.
In August 2016 when Debi Chess Mabie belatedly announced cancellation of the fall tour, she was swamped with emails demanding tour reinstatement. I believe she thought that she was getting emails from all over the city. But why would Art Trails or Heart of Tucson Art artists email her? We wouldn’t and didn’t because we had our own tours. I think it’s safe to surmise that Ms. Mabie received emails primarily from downtown artists who expected their tour services to be continued. She complied and turned over $10,000 to Kate Marquez to reinstate the fall tour.
A handful of us in HoTArt volunteered to help Downtown and Foothill artists to create their own tours on separate weekends (multi-weekend city-sector). We were turned down both by Kate Marquez and David Aguirre.
Spring came and “downtown artists discovered that no one had organized a spring tour for them. Several of them attempted to sign up for HoTArt’s spring tour. They felt entitled despite the fact that the boundaries were clearly marked. But they signed up anyway which forced HoTArt to pay refund fees to PayPal. Some sent emails arguing that they were entitled to be in the HoTArt tour.
Again we volunteered to help by meeting with “downtown artists” and help them organize their own tour. Not a single artist responded. At the last minute a handful of downtown artists organized a small tour but, incomprehensibly, scheduled it for the same weekend as Heart of Tucson Art’s tour in midtown.
6. DIY. DIY and cooperate, not compete. DIY.
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.