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 At the last minute, these grants were withdrawn and instead, SAACA (Southern Arizona Arts and Culture Alliance) received all the Arts Foundation money ($10,000).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.
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.