Artists in Their Natural Habitat

April 18, 2015 |

Tucson Artists Open StudiosManaging an art studio tour is a lot of work. There’s a lot of paperwork. There are phone calls—endless phone calls—and accounts to manage. There are ads to write, design, and place, and listings upon listings to build, check, correct, and recheck. And then there’s the press to deal with. Ugh. Endangered Architecture’s Dirk Arnold is a local artist, and he handles most of the logistical stuff for the Tucson Artists’ Open Studio Tour singlehandedly every spring. Add to that a recent bout of the flu, and it’s little wonder why he forgot—or else simply failed to notice—that 2015 marks his tenth consecutive year as the primary champion and coordinator for the much-anticipated annual community arts event.

The studio tour tradition actually goes back almost three decades. Years ago, both the spring and fall tours were managed by the now-defunct Tucson Arts District Partnership, says Arnold. The Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC) took over when that group went belly-up, but in 2006 TPAC’s plan was apparently to drop the spring tour all together for funding reasons. That’s where Arnold stepped in, effectively saving the spring tour from dissolution, and he’s been doing it ever since.

This years’ Artists’ Open Studio Tour features more than 120 individual artists in more than 80 locations all across metro-Tucson, and even a few places—such as Craig Schumacher’s Wave Lab Studios and the so-called Process Museum at Kolb and I-10—that you might not expect to see on a conventional art studio program. “I always think that the Studio Tour is all about seeing the creative process at work,” says Arnold, “seeing artists in their natural habitat,” then he laughs slightly. And he says that many more would no doubt miss that opportunity were it limited to a single weekend each year.

Local visual artist Donovan White and leatherworker Anthony Kincheloe are currently in the process of refurbishing a new showroom in the Firestone Building on the southwest corner of 6th St. and 6th Ave. Both artists have proven successful at local art fairs and vendor events, but they look forward to the opportunity to be included in this year’s studio tour together as 6n6 Gallery. “Tucson is a great place to be an artist,” says White, due in part to the efforts of community-minded organizers like Arnold.

It is that foundational arts community that has enabled these two old school skateboarders-turned-fathers and professional artists to make a living—at least in part—doing what they love. “If you work hard and keep doing art it’s pretty easy to get exposure here,” says Kincheloe of living and working as an artist in Tucson.

It’s easy to make a day or even an entire weekend out of exploring the many studios like 6n6 that are centered in the downtown area—indeed, Arnold points out that there are no fewer than eleven studios on or near the Cyclovia route, alone—but you’re not going to see everything on the Tour if you limit yourself to downtown. In fact, one local art enthusiast likes to take the opposite approach.

“I purposefully don’t (screen the artists) ahead of time,” says art-lover Jerry Peek. “I just take myself to an area of town…way the heck out there, and I go to every single artist studio that’s open and just see what I find.” Peek says that he is always pleasantly surprised by what he discovers. “There’s some wonderful art to be found if you pick a part of town away from the middle of things,” he says, “it’s a little more scattered, but you really find some special stuff, and it’s not really as crowded as downtown.”

Where the TPAC tour last fall took him to the northeast side of town, this April, in the spirit of Bike Fest, Peek plans to lead a guided bicycle tour of several studios in mid-town; an area he describes as loosely bound between Swan and Country Club on the west and east ends, and Ft. Lowell and Speedway on the north and south. As of the publication of this article, he was still looking for a partner to help wrangle stragglers and keep general order during the ride—interested parties are encouraged to email Jerry Peek directly at

Whatever your pleasure—uptown, downtown, gallery, or studio—we know you’re going to be out and about all weekend already. Why not dive in and soak up a little culture while you’re at it?

The Tucson Artists’ Open Studio Tour runs the weekend of April 18 & 19 from 11am-5pm on both days. More information can be found in the following pages of this magazine or online at


Category: The Scoop