Tucson’s Open Studio Tour (OST) has been in a state of confusion since the fall of 2015. It looks like the confusion will continue in the fall of 2018.
A brief recap: Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC) which is now the Arts Foundation of Tucson and Southern Arizona (AF) sponsored a Tucson city-wide one-weekend fall open studios tour for many years. TPAC lost funding and in the summer of 2015 announced that Open Studios was cancelled for the fall of 2015. In the summer of 2016 Arts Foundation (formerly TPAC) announced that grants would be given to artist-organized groups to support local city-sector tours for fall 2016. At the last minute, these grants were withdrawn and instead, SAACA (Southern Arizona Arts and Culture Alliance) received all the Arts Foundation money ($10,000). SAACA proceeded to set up a competing fall tour despite the fact that the artist-organized groups Heart of Tucson Art (HoT Art) and Art Trails were already running successful fall tours and had been doing so since the fall of 2015. There’s not enough space here to write about what a mess SAACA made of things. The disorganization got worse in the fall of 2017.
Keep this in Mind: Many Tucson artists have been in favor of city-sector tours on different weekends as opposed to one city-wide, one-weekend tour. The idea behind city-sector tours is that it enables art lovers to visit studios in smaller areas of the city and, consequently, to see more studios. The old city-wide one-weekend tour overwhelmed visitors with over 200 studios to visit. As a result, visitors tended to go where there were clusters of studios. This meant they usually went downtown. The result: artists in one small area of the city (downtown) benefited while artists in other parts of the city were overlooked despite having paid the same fees. City-sector tours would solve this imbalance.
When SAACA created its competing tour in the fall of 2016 and 2017, SAACA committed two major mistakes:
1) expanding the tour to all of southern Arizona. The fall SAACA tour now includes Bisbee, Amado, Benson, St. David and Tubac. Tucson no longer has a dedicated fall studio tour just for Tucson;
2) SAACA divided Tucson into two sectors, north and south, and lumped together in the south the areas with the most artists (downtown, midtown, and part of west Tucson) - not to mention Bisbee, Tubac, etc. This meant that visitors had the same problem as before – too many studios over too wide an area on one weekend.
Summer 2018: Arts Foundation put out a Request for Proposals to receive funding to organize the Fall 2018 OST. I know for a fact that artists involved with midtown’s Heart of Tucson Art (www.HeartofTucsonArt.org) applied. Later a notice came from Arts Foundation that another organization had been chosen, not HoT Art, but the winning organization was not named.
Meanwhile SAACA set dates and announced its fall OST. * (see link below) We are forced to conclude that Arts Foundation: a) is going to fund SAACA to run OST again, or b) SAACA is going to run its own OST with or without Arts Foundation financial support and, unfortunately, using the same dysfunctional model mentioned earlier. ** (see link below)
Art Foundation Survey: A few days ago, I received a survey from Arts Foundation about OST to fill out and send in via email. Survey results are only as accurate as the survey questions. Here’s my critique of the survey.
1. The first questions have to do with name, location, artistic medium, etc. Then we are asked which Tucson city ward or Pima County district we live in. Wards 1-5 are choices. NOT on the survey is Ward 6. Ward 6 includes a huge area of the city from Wilmot on the east to 6th Avenue on the west. Most of this area is covered by Heart of Tucson Art.
2. The survey wants to know how we receive payment for purchases. I figure that’s nobody’s business if I take cash or credit cards or send a Paypal invoice or whatever. How I handle my money is my business.
3. I found this question amusing. “Would you be willing to pay to participate in OST for a set of benefits?” The money options are: $10-50, $50-100, $100-250, $250-500. I’m wondering what a “set of benefits” means. My imagination runs wild. How can I decide how much I’ll pay if I don’t know what I’ll be getting in return? WHAT benefits?
4. Next we are asked which tours we participate in now and if we have comments.
I’ve participated in OST for at least 12 years. I have participated in Heart of Tucson Art’s FALL AND SPRING tours since the fall of 2015. I tried SAACA once, in the fall of 2016, but I quickly gave up on SAACA.
In fact, I’m boycotting SAACA and I recommend you do, too. I won’t participate in SAACA’s OST, its margarita championship, its food and wine festival, its tree lighting festival, its Phoenix chalk art festival, its cruise, blues, and barbeque festival, its jazz festival (that’s a hard one for me), or anything else SAACA does. I will boycott SAACA until SAACA stops undermining and destroying local artists’ groups that do a much better job of running OST than SAACA ever imagined.
Arts Foundations folks, please try to get it together! We need you.
I was recently forwarded a PDF sent out by a retail company, Avila Retail, in Phoenix. The PDF is an invitation to Arizona artists to sign up for an appointment and meet with the retailer's representative in Phoenix. The idea here is that artists can show their work and, maybe, their work will be accepted into one of the retail stores in the Phoenix area.
Here is my response to the retailer. I'll let you know if one of them will agree to come to Tucson.
My name is C.J. Shane and I'm an artist (cjshane.com) and editor/publisher of an online arts journal in southern Arizona, Sonoran Arts Network (sonoranartsnetwork.net)
This email to you is in response to your email and pdf regarding your invitation to attend a vendor day in Phoenix which was kindly forwarded to me.
I'd like to recommend that an Avila Retail representative travel to Tucson and meet with Tucson artists. It would be easy to put out the word here, find a venue to hold a meeting and invite artists.
Tucson metro area is over 1 million, and we have an especially large population of very excellent artists and fine arts craftspeople here. If you require individual artists to go to Phoenix, you are immediately limiting the number of artists who can be considered - that, despite the fact that you claim to be "Local First Arizona," not Local First Phoenix.
Second, requiring multiple individual artists to drive two hours (in July!!) means way more CO2 dumped into the Arizona atmosphere, not to mention the safety hazard of having all those extra cars and people on the highway. Doesn't it make more sense to you to send one person here to Tucson rather than require dozens of us to go to you?
I'll be happy to promote your event in Sonoran Arts Network if you hold it in Tucson. By the way, Tucson is now the only U.S. city designated by UNESCO as a world gastronomy center. What that means for your representative is that s/he can get a really great lunch here.
Looking forward to hearing good news from you,
Sonoran Arts Network began publishing in May 2013. That means that May 2018 marked the fifth full year of publication.
When I began publishing Sonoran Arts Network, it was my intention to provide a community service. The idea was to get the word out about art exhibits and books and about artists and writers that normally are ignored by the local media. The Arizona Daily Star almost never writes about visual arts, and it stopped publishing book reviews by local authors some time ago. The Tucson Weekly does write about local artists and art exhibits (thank you Margaret Regan!!!) but the emphasis is almost always on downtown Tucson. The rest of us are mostly overlooked. The two monthlies, Zocalo and Desert Leaf, provide some coverage but Zocalo also emphasizes downtown and The Desert Leaf is for Foothills residents. All these publications have extensive advertising to stay afloat.
I want to express my gratitude to those of you who have donated and supported this publication financially and in other ways, too. Thank you! However during the past five years, I have been unable to acquire sufficient funding through grants or donations to pay for the expenses associated with publishing Sonoran Arts Network. Advertising has not been an option either for several reasons.
The bottom line here is that people are accustomed now to getting a lot of free news on the internet. That includes most of the readers Sonoran Arts Network. But free news isn't really free.
In the future, Sonoran Arts Network will come to you at a more moderate pace. That means you’ll get an email newsletter less often and there will be fewer interviews and reviews to read. Also I will be deleting the Calls page soon. Take a look at it now to get links to three sources of Calls to Artists that you can rely on to find places to show your artwork.
Meanwhile, I invite you to subscribe to my personal email newsletter which covers three topics: art (mine but not just mine); books and film (not just my books), and the natural world – trees, bees and bugs, the monsoon, the desert, all that makes life worth living. Subscribe here: cjshane news
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.
News came in late April of the death of Xóchitl Cristina Gil-Higuchi, a native of our Sonoran bioregion, and a bright light in the art world. Xóchi participated in numerous art exhibits in the U.S. and Mexico, won several awards, and was included in the 2003 Bilingual Press book Chicana/o Contemporary Art Anthology.
Xóchi was born in Nogales, Sonora, and grew up in southern Arizona. She earned her BFA from the University of Arizona, and during her time in Tucson, she was active in the local arts scene. She was founding member of Raices Taller Gallery and Workshop. It was during her art studies that she met the love of her life, Japanese art student Shinsuke Higuchi. Xóchi and Shinsuke married, and after graduation, moved to New York City to seek their fortunes as artists. Xóchi worked for the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives, an educational non-profit dedicated to promoting social activism and the defense of human rights, and she continued to work as an artist.
I did not know Xóchi well at all. I met her only once at a gallery-workshop in south Tucson. She directed me to the gallery exhibit of prints, and then went back to work teaching printmaking to an elementary school student. Later, we connected on social media where I remember her complaining about how cold her New York City art studio was in the winter.
Our most intense interaction came on January 8, 2011. Xóchi and I were on social media at the same time, and we had exchanged greetings. Then news of the shootings started to come through. She was getting only the initial report of a shooting so she asked me for more news. I had the radio on and was able to give her minute-by-minute updates.
“Multiple people down. Several dead. Appears to be a lone shooter. The police have him now. ”
Xóchi responded, “They are reporting that Gabby Giffords is dead.”
“No. She’s in an ambulance right this minute and on her way to UMC. Reports are that she’s responsive.” We were just two Tucsonans sharing a moment in the life of our home.
One source I found said that Xóchi was diagnosed with breast cancer less than a year ago. The cancer spread to her spine and brain, and was considered inoperable. She passed away in late April. She was 42 years old. A memorial service was held for her in Tucson on May 28.
So now when I think of Xóchi, I imagine her flying on the wings of a butterfly above the sky islands and on to the multiverse beyond. There she will find her art studio fully stocked with all the paint and paintbrushes, canvas and papers that she could ever want - a studio not too cold in the winter and not too hot in the summer. Just right.
Que te vaya con Dios, Xóchi.
Human behaviors such as poaching, animal habitat destruction and the our unmitigated excesses that have led to climate change are killing off the world’s animal species. In fact, the earth is currently undergoing a mass extinction on the level of the last mass extinction on earth which occurred some 65 million years ago. At that time, an asteroid crashed into the earth off the coast of Yucatan and wiped out the dinosaurs and many other species, too. Fast forward to the present mass extinction. This time we’re doing it to ourselves. In the past 50 years, 67% of wildlife species have become extinct. (Source: the British publication The Independent).
One commentator for The Guardian, also a British newspaper, wrote a very unsettling article recently titled, “Imagine a World Without Animals.” It turns out that we need animals, and we humans are experiencing the negative consequences of their disappearance. We need those bees and birds to pollinate our food plants, just for one human need. Plus there’s no way a robot is going to ever take the place of this sweet little dog sitting politely in front of me, sending me a nonverbal message with her eyes, “It’s time for a walk now.”
What does all this have to with art? Animals, wildlife especially, have long been a source of inspiration for artists. Sonoran Arts Network has interviewed many artists in the past four years who are involved in documenting the natural world and interpreting its meaning for us. In some cases the documentation is one of great beauty. In other cases, the art addresses the problem of destruction. I am especially grateful to artists like Rick Wheeler interviewed this month in Sonoran Arts Network, for his work of documenting, portraying, and drawing attention to our wildlife. Let’s hope that the creatures he portrays will manage to survive the storm that has already begun.
If all the misguided actions of the narcissistic, racist and sexist, pathological liar now squatting in the Oval Office were colors, then we’d be drowning in an ugly, pulsating mass of colors so intense that we would be struck blind. His latest outrageous misstep can be found in his proposed federal budget.
What should we be most concerned about when we see the list of cuts? Because I have a sincere hope that the human species will not become extinct in the next 100 years, I’d say my first concern is the 31% cut in the Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is now run by a greedy lackey for the fossil fuel industry who seems have the scientific knowledge of a toad. Nah, I take that back. Most toads fit into their ecosystems with more awareness and respect than does Scott Pruitt. Or maybe we should be concerned about the cuts that eliminate 62 federal agencies, among them support for literacy programs, home weatherization for the poor, Wheels on Meals for the elderly, support for national heritage and wildlife areas, legal aid programs, employment programs, occupational safely programs, arts and culture programs (National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Institute of Museum and Library Services), and Big Bird.
That last one, Big Bird, represents the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). After my concern for human assaults on our environment, I guess I’d have to say that I have a deep and abiding respect and concern for the work of CPB which includes PBS (Public Broadcast System), NPR (National Public Radio) and Sesame Street. I watch The News Hour on the PBS every day, and I listen to National Public Radio daily, too. Both news outlets report facts, not fake news. If you want to hear fake news, listen to Trump or his lackey Sean Spicer. NPR and PBS News Hour have balanced reports that give both sides of the issue under discussion. This kind of balanced, factual reporting is an absolute fundamental foundation of a democracy. In order to be good citizens and make good decisions, we must get our news from unbiased, professional and ethical news sources. As the Washington Post mast says, “Democracy dies in darkness.”
CPB also means Big Bird and his friends – Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Oscar the Grouch, Cookie Monster, and the newest friend, autistic Julia – won’t be there for another generation of kids. Also what about those wonderful British shows we’ve see on Sunday evenings for years, among them Prime Suspect, Dr. Who, Sherlock, Downton Abbey, Planet Earth, Poldark, Foyle’s War….and so many more, will we have to move to London to see them now? And then there’s jazz in the evenings on KUAZ, and the BBC in the middle of the night informing us of what’s going on from Beijing to Buenos Aires….will those broadcasts disappear, too? And David Yetman’s The Desert Speaks? and Arizona Illustrated?
Get the picture? Things are pretty bleak and will get worse if anything even vaguely like this budget passes. And what do we get in return? Oh yeah. We get a wall that costs up to $31 billion, bringing with it the pretense that our “national security” is enhanced.
By the way, the title “And Then They Came for Big Bird” is from an article in the Daily Beast (cited below). But it refers also to this quotation from an earlier time when another fascist was in power. Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a Protestant pastor who opposed Adolf Hitler and spent seven years in a Nazi concentration camp. He wrote these words.
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
It’s time for us all to get involved and speak out. I’ve already contacted Senator McCain’s, Senator Flake’s, and Congresswoman McSally’s offices several times. Maybe if you can, too, if we all call and remind them that they work for us, and yes, we do want clean air and water, and yes, we do want Big Bird and his pals to stay on the air, and yes, we do want art and poetry and libraries, then maybe they will listen. If not, elections are on the horizon.
And then they came for Big Bird
Trump wants to cut the NEA and NEH. This is the worst-case scenario for arts groups
The 62 agencies and programs Trump wants to eliminate
Since I became involved in the arts community in Tucson several years ago, I have been asked repeatedly to donate art to various charitable organizations. All the projects requesting donations have been worthy. What was not so great was how incredibly demanding were some of the people asking for art. Several have been downright rude, as if they were entitled to a freebie from me and other artists. Worse, when I suggested an auction in which the artist gets a base price and anything over that price go to the charity, the person asking for the art became rather offended. The underlying idea seemed to be that we artists are so affluent that we can easily afford give away our work. To not do so was viewed as offensive to those persons demanding a donation.
I repeatedly suggested changes in the structure of the auction that would give the artist at least something. When this was met with rejection, I just began saying NO! I don’t give away my work for free. I could hear huffing and puffing on the other end of the line. And why should they go along with me? There are enough artists giving away art that the charity can do without me. To those of you artists who are affluent enough to just give away your work for nothing, your generosity tells me that you never have to worry about making sure the electricity bill gets paid at the end of the month. That’s not the case for every artist in Tucson. Some of us simply cannot afford to pay for paint, canvases, or other supplies, studio space, etc., and then give away our creations for absolutely nothing. Artists work, and we deserve to get paid for our work.
Along comes Pima Paws for Life. I’m a fan of critters with paws anyway so I am favorably inclined toward this rescue group. Some of my best friends ever have been dogs – the elegant whippets IxChel and Juno, and Yuma the oh-so-smart and oh-so-fast border collie/greyhound mix rescued in a state of semi-starvation from a Lutheran church parking lot in Yuma, Arizona. Yuma was brought to Tucson by another rescue group, Southern Arizona Greyhound Rescue, and then he came to live with me and be my companion. There’s Sunday the sweet, playful rescue pit bull adopted on a Sunday from the Southern Arizona Humane Society. And let’s not forget that irascible, short-tempered, dominating, yet totally lovable Siamese cat Crue that shared his life with us for years.
What won me over to Pima Paws for Life’s Whiskers and Wags Silent Art Auction is that finally we see a charitable organization showing some respect to the artists when requesting donations. In this upcoming art auction event, the artist has the option of giving work for free OR the option of getting a 25% return on the final sale price of the artist’s work.
I’m won over. I’ll donate three pieces in a range of prices (low, mid and higher priced), and I’ll take my 25% of the final sale price if the work sells. I believe that I’ll be helping the doggies and kitties, and yet I’ll still be able to pay the electric bill. Pima Paws for Life has shown respect to artists, and I will respond in the same way.
Find out more about Pima Paws for Life and the Whiskers and Wags Silent Art Auction here: http://www.pimapawsforlife.org/home.html
The deadline for submissions is March 5.
I asked readers who visited the Fall Open Studios Tours to write and tell me how the tour went for them, and if they had suggestions. I also asked the same of artists who participated in the weekend tours. Heart of Tucson Art and Art Trails did their own surveys and reported results to me as well. I did not receive any feedback from SAACA’s weekend #3 and #4 tours, nor from David Aguirre’s downtown events.
There were not that many responses, but a fairly clear picture emerged.
1. There was a very strong positive response to dividing Tucson into city sectors and having tours in each sector over four weekends. This is in contrast to the old model of one weekend for a city-wide tour. In fact the positive response rate for multiple weekends in city sectors was roughly 95% in favor of continuing the multi-weekend, city sector tour. Both tour visitors and artists agreed on this point.
One respondent wrote: “I like the four sectors. The driving doesn’t feel overwhelming. And it’s possible to spend time at each studio.”
Another said, “My two friends and I love the 4 weekends. We live in the far northeast. We could see only 5-6 studios before. We’re doing all four weekends.”
2. Regarding how people heard about the tour, the responses were varied with no one media venue dominating. This means people heard about the tour from friends, from social media, individual artists’ email news, from ads in Zocalo and the Arizona Daily Star, street signs and banners, and from the three websites. Probably the Star ad was mentioned slightly more often, but did not dominate. There was no mention of tv, radio or other advertising venues.
Note here that SAACA sent out a post-tour survey form to participating artists. One of the questions was on “Marketing” and had a list of advertising or announcement venues, presumably used by SAACA, from which to choose. Unfortunately, SAACA did not include either Art Trails or Heart of Tucson Art in this list as potential sources of information about the tours . Consequently SAACA’s results are skewed. Only asking about SAACA gives only SAACA results. In reality, many visitors came as a result of marketing by Heart of Tucson Art and Art Trails. Surveys, like lab experiments, have to be set up right and must ask the right questions, or else you get false and misleading results. Also SAACA has not reported the results of this survey. Tucson Pima Arts Council (now Arts Foundation of Tucson and Southern Arizona) used to do the same thing after studio tours. TPAC sent out surveys and never report the results to artists (as if we had no interest in what works and what doesn’t to get people to our studio tours). I asked TPAC about this once and was told that the staff would report results to artists. The report never came.
3. Art Trails artists reported more visitors this fall, but fewer sales. Heart of Tucson Art artists reported about the same number of visitors. Sales levels were about the same or less than the spring 2016 Heart of Tucson Art tour.
4. Several tour visitors complained about the map produced by SAACA and Zocalo for the tour. One person pointed out that the map had no tour dates or times. One participating artist reported: “I did hear more than once that the advertising maps & lists of artists were difficult to follow. They wanted descriptions of media with artists’ names and #’s, and artists listed in alphabetical order.”
Also the SAACA map (11” x 17”) was detached from the HeartofTucsonArt/Art Trails ad which was on 8.5”x11” paper and that showed the names and works of the artists. Preferable was the Heart of Tucson Art map produced for the spring 2016 tour. It was on only one page (8.5”x11”) with photos on one side, and the map and artist directory on the other side. It was easier to use.
Finally, one message I received from two tour visitors was heartening:
“Thanks to the multi-weekend/regional Open Studio we were able to visit more artists that interested us. As a result, we purchased 2 pieces from different artists and have identified others we will be watching. We're able, through the website, to study the artists' works beforehand and target the studios that are most in line with our tastes. We hope this concept was successful for all, artists and organizers. As art lovers, it definitely was successful for us.”
Beginning on January 1, 2017, Sonoran Arts Network (SAN) will undergo a major change. I will be posting articles, interviews, reviews, etc. only when I have time and when the spirit moves me. Why? Sonoran Arts Network has become, in the words of ecologists, “unsustainable.”
When I founded and began publishing SAN in May, 2013, my intention was:
a) to shine light on artists and writers in southern Arizona. My view was and still is that the local media give short-shrift both to visual artists and writers. This assertion is easy to support. I wanted to give visual artists, in particular, a chance to talk about their art, and I wanted to provide frequent reviews of the many excellent art exhibits we have in our area.
b) to cultivate a sense of community among artists in our bioregion. My hope was that individuals would come forward and help the SAN effort by writing for SAN, by contributing financial and promotional support, and in the case of areas outside of Tucson, to act as correspondents and share with us news about artists and art events in their area - Bisbee, Ajo, Benson, Santa Cruz Valley (Green Valley to Nogales), etc. The response to this community-building has been less than I hoped for or anticipated.
This past year has been very challenging for me. I don’t have the financial resources to keep these “community” projects going, especially when there is apparently no community to support them.
It’s not just Sonoran Arts Network. Over a year ago, I founded and worked steadily with other artists this past year on a local, grassroots DIY artist’s group called Heart of Tucson Art only to see it and another artists’ group, Art Trails, abandoned by arts administrators at TPAC/Arts Foundation of Tucson and Southern Arizona. Then these two artists’ groups were looted and fatally undermined by empire-building arts administrators at Southern Arizona Arts and Culture Alliance (SAACA). Thanks to these two arts organizations, Heart of Tucson Art’s days are limited - as are other local, grassroots artists’ groups.
I have lived well below the poverty line since my job in publishing got outsourced to New Delhi, India, and my retirement account was decimated by Wall Street coke addicts. Since I’m not affluent and I don’t have a patron (i.e. husband), all this work and time spent on Sonoran Arts Network has come at great cost, especially financially. I think it’s time for me to turn to projects that will bring in some money. And that is what I will be doing starting today.
I’d been thinking for some time that sustainability for SAN was questionable, but the straw that broke the camel’s back came to me this week in an email. The email said:
“I have subscribed to your newsletter, but you never talk about us down I-19 toward Nogales. We have some great artists down this way. I know we can't promote ourselves in this newsletter, but we do have shows and exhibits here. … Lots of studios, lots of artists, I among them.
It just seems to me that there can be much more "meat" that you can fit into each of your "issues". I am not a writer, nor do I want to be. …I just think that your venue could be so much more.”
First, this person is wrong. I have covered artists in the Santa Cruz Valley. I do agree that Sonoran Arts Network “could be so much more.” However I don’t have the financial resources to make it “so much more.” For the record, the email writer is not a supporter of Sonoran Arts Network, financially or otherwise. It is clear, though, that she does have opinions about how she could be better served by SAN, not how she could help SAN achieve more.
This last presidential election was a disaster. I don’t ever remember going through a presidential election in which I actually feared for the future of the United States. Sorry to say I do now. Just one topic suffices. Our new president-elect claims that climate change is a hoax. It is not a hoax. It is a very, very serious problem – the greatest ever faced by humanity. Under the new administration, a climate denier is said to be the choice for head of the Environmental Protection Agency, and Sarah Palin as head of the Interior Department (seriously). If left in the hands of those vultures about to take over the White House, the effects of climate change will lead to enormous suffering, social disruption, waves of migration, the decline of democracy, and the possible extinction of the human species. I can document what I say. I’m pleased to say that physicist Stephen Hawking, and I agree on this matter. I think instead of dealing with snippy Green Valley artists with a personal agenda, I’ll just start working on something more important – climate change - and my own art and my own writings, too Maybe the paint brush and the pen will have some effect.
My deepest gratitude goes out to those of you who have supported me. Thank you for those who bothered to say “thank you” to me for the work I’ve done. Thank you to the Arizona Press Club for the First in Community Arts Criticism that I received from my peers this year. Thank you to those few of you who have contributed money to Sonoran Arts Network. The last time I calculated contributions (checks and PayPay subscriptions), the contributions averaged $76 each month. Please don’t send anymore checks. For those of you who “subscribe” with monthly donations, you can unsubscribe anytime. On January 1, I will unsubscribe you.
I especially want to thank the handful of writers who contributed their writings. I salute especially Diane C. Taylor. I’m pleased that she has been able to leverage her writings (and links) for SAN to get paying gigs elsewhere. Thank you, Diane!!
As I said, the SAN website will still be there (as long as I can still afford the hosting). In the new year I will post an occasional article, interview or review. I will send out the email newsletter to inform you of new website postings. But there will be no monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly “issues.” Starting in January, you’ll see only “2017” on the home page.
A few days ago, a friend sent me an email. He suggested that now it is “best to do as Voltaire in Candide: ‘time now to cultivate your own garden.’”
So I’m off to cultivate my own garden now.
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.