e were very sorry to hear this past week that artists in the 7th Avenue Arts District Studios, 549 N. 7th Avenue, have received eviction notices and will have to vacate soon. Sixteen people using the facilities are being forced out. Some of the artists have been in the 7th Avenue studio space since it opened 17 years ago.
The primary reason given by Richard Studwell, one of the property owners where the Studios are located, is the extension of Barraza-Aviation Parkway. The parkway will make it possible motorists to drive through to I10. Currently motorists are routed via Congress St. through downtown Tucson to I10. Moving the parkway farther north of downtown means fewer traffic lights and a faster drive, resulting in a quicker trip to I10. The parkway extension is part of the Downtown Links road project.
This eviction from an affordable studio space for several artists may indicate the beginning of what so many artists have long feared – that downtown Tucson will become unaffordable as a place to live and work for most artists, musicians, writers, and other creatives. According to the Arizona Daily Star, “Artists creating in the downtown area have long been concerned that development and the roadway will rob them of affordable spaces in which to create their art.”
This emptying out of downtown urban centers in favor of more affluent clients is happening all over the U.S. How many cities have you heard about that had a funky and fun urban center that gave way to gentrification, Star Bucks, and high tech firms, leaving the artists to scatter to the wind?
For example, San Francisco is becoming increasingly bereft of artists these days. According to the arts new website Hyperallergic, “In September (2015), the arts commission released the results of its first “artist eviction survey.” Of nearly 600 local artists, 70% had been or were being displaced from their studio space, their home, or both.”
Is it very reassuring that both the Steinfeld Warehouse and Citizens Warehouse are “saved?” (meaning they will still be standing and available to artists for studio space.) Take a closer look at this map of the parkway extension. Traffic will increase dramatically around both Steinfeld and Citizens. In particular, look at Citizens. Artists with studios in that building will definitely have to look both ways before they walk out of their building, else they will be run over by traffic on what appears to be at least a four-lane roadway. No doubt the noise level will increase along with more toxic emissions from cars. Dunbar Spring neighborhood is also affected.
The essential problem here in Tucson is that we are too dependent on cars for transportation, and decisions are being made constantly that kowtow to the car culture. We don’t have a light rail, and the trolley car system is very limited in geographic territory and seems mainly about moving people between the University of Arizona and downtown with little relevance to the rest of us.
As much as we may sympathize with the artists of the 7th Avenue Arts District Studios for losing studio space downtown, it does appear that Tucson and most American cities have been working under a very bad model of urban development in the U.S. since the 1960s. The idea that “downtown” is The PLACE to go and to live, where all the action is, could very well be an outdated model that has given way to the more modern neighborhood model in Europe and Australia.
In upcoming editions of Sonoran Arts Network, we’ll take a look at the neighborhood model, how it compares to the downtown model, and why it is better for people, including artists, if not so great for cars.
Thanks to from Jerry Peek at TucsonArt.info for alerting Sonoran Arts Network to the Studio closing.
For more information:
7th Avenue Arts District Studios eviction: http://tucson.com/entertainment/arts-and-theatre/eviction-notice-goes-out-to-downtown-artists/article_b1cc56c6-4222-5388-b37e-32a5b14f841c.html
Downtown Links: http://downtownlinks.info/
San Francisco artists. http://hyperallergic.com/240704/san-francisco-is-losing-its-artists/ and San Francisco Artist Eviction Survey http://ww2.kqed.org/arts/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2015/09/Individual-Artists-Space-Need-Analysis_FINAL.pdf
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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.