Craig Baker – Zocalo Magazine – Tucson Arts and Culture Tucson Arts, Culture, Entertainment, News and Events Magazine Tue, 05 Sep 2017 01:48:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Mesquite Harvest Thu, 02 Jun 2016 16:58:21 +0000 Screwbean, velvet, and honey mesquites pods. Photo by Brad Landcaster

Screwbean, velvet, and honey mesquites pods. Photo by Brad Landcaster

It’s So Much More Than Just Milling Flour

It’s summer time again and, as many of you already know, that means it’s also mesquite harvesting and milling season in Tucson. And where including mesquite flour in your diet is a great way to add some diversity of flavor to your favorite culinary staples, Desert Harvesters Co-Founder Brad Lancaster would like you to know that the production and cultivation of native wild foods here in Tucson goes much, much further than simply whetting the appetites of local foodies. “We’re trying to get everyone to see the whole picture,” says Lancaster, “so the harvest is way more than just the pods.”

Our current agricultural system, says Lancaster, is based on “using imported plants, imported water, and imported fertilizer,” all of which, he points out, takes a major toll on our environment. But the plants that are native to the Tucson area—and that sustained life here for thousands of years before we were tapping the Colorado River as our primary water source—require no such interventions. The native wild food producing plants like the mesquite and ironwood trees, and the cholla and saguaro cacti, he says “are plants that can not only survive here, but thrive here with no imported water or fertilizer.” That’s why Lancaster says that Desert Harvesters is “looking at how we can use what we already have for free in a way that doesn’t deplete the ground water, doesn’t deplete the surface water…but reinfuses our ground water and reinfuses our rivers with water while reducing flooding.” And, Lancaster says, planting native wild food plants “where we live, work, and play,” while incorporating what he calls “water harvesting earthworks” helps to do all of these things while simultaneously improving our city’s landscape, as well as the habitat for local wildlife.

For this reason, though he says that local landscapes are currently dominated by non-native mesquite species that were largely selected for their tendency to grow quickly, Desert Harvesters focuses its efforts on the three types of mesquite tress native to the region—the screwbean, velvet, and honey mesquites. Not only are the local trees more consistent in taste and texture than imported varieties, but Lancaster says that they are also more beneficial to a number of native birds and insects. He says that a native mesquite will attract over sixty different native pollinators, whereas a non-native tree only attracts about a dozen. Thus, birds like the Wilson’s warbler have adjusted their migration patterns to coincide with the blooming cycles of native mesquites, and have therefore come to depend on those cycles in order to fatten up before the annual trip to their summer range about two-thousand miles north.

In support of their mission to increase the abundance of native wild food plants growing in and around Tucson, Lancaster says that Desert Harvesters is planning at least one seed-gathering expedition to look for native mesquites that taste great, ripen pre-monsoon (to avoid the growth of toxic, invisible molds that begin after the rains), and produce dense pod clusters for ease of harvesting. The group intends to harvest the seeds of these tress to sell at their events. That way, interested parties can be sure that they are planting native trees that not only provide summer shade and excellent wildlife viewing opportunities year-round, but will also provide them with a few pounds of naturally sweet, gluten-free flour every summer to utilize as they see fit. Lancaster says that some of his favorite uses for mesquite include making crackers, pie crust, and pizza dough, or using it to mix with or make coffee. He says it can also be cooked down and made into a syrupy sweetener that actually slows the body’s intake of sugar, making mesquite an ideal food for people who suffer from hypoglycemia or diabetes.

Lancaster says that mesquite beans produce a wide range of flavors, from “sweet, to nutty, to sweet-and-sour, to kind of lemony,” and that each and every tree is unique in its flavor profile. Thus, he says it’s important to sample from a number of trees when trying to find your prefect pod for harvest. He says that, when sampling from a mesquite, you should be sure to actually pick from the tree and not from the ground, and that “the pod should be dry enough that, when you bend it, it immediately snaps in two.” It should also be completely yellow, without any green left on it. You can gently work the bean with your teeth and tongue to extract the flavor when sampling, then spit it out. But be careful, as Lancaster says that the seeds are hard enough to crack a tooth. The hammer mills they use to turn the pods into flour, however, are strong enough to grind those seeds right along with the rest of the pod. When sampling mesquite beans, Lancaster says that you will not only want to taste for the presence of any one of the four “bad flavors,” which are “bitter, burning, chalky, or drying of the mouth or throat,” but that you should also look for beans that are particularly good-tasting to you. And it’s not enough to decide simply based on the initial flavor experience, says Lancaster, but that you should also wait for the aftertaste before making a final judgment. “It doesn’t matter how good of a cook you are,” he says, “you can’t take a bad flavor out of a bad-tasting pod.”

The mesquite-harvesting events this season kicked off with a fundraiser at La Cocina on May 31 which featured live music, along with food and drinks made from local wild ingredients, and they will continue throughout the month of June. For those looking to learn how to harvest native wild foods for themselves, Desert Harvesters will hold guided native food-harvesting walking and biking tours beginning at the Santa Cruz River Farmers’ Market at Mercado San Augustin on June 16 (tickets are $10). A concurrent demonstration at the market will showcase ways to turn those harvested ingredients into a range of culinary delights. The following week at the same location, June 23 is the 14th Annual Mesquite Milling and Wild Foods Fiesta, to which you can bring your clean and sorted mesquite pods to be ground into flour on site for a small fee. For reference, Lancaster says that it takes about five minutes to grind five gallons of harvested pods into about one gallon of flour. Other events include a mesquite seed collecting workshop, a happy hour fundraiser at Tap & Bottle, and a saguaro fruit harvesting workshop. More details are available on the Desert Harvesters website, the address to which is provided below.

Though Lancaster doesn’t expect to turn all Tucsonans into expert harvesters of wild food overnight, he says that the work of Desert Harvesters serves the greater purpose of “trying to shift how people see agriculture, and to (encourage them to) practice it in a way that does not degrade our environment, but enhances it.” For this reason, the Desert Harvesters events are “meant to be a full hands-on, mouth-on experience; we want people to not just get the theory, but to actually experience it,” Lancaster says. This kind of immersion, he says, is the only way to fully grasp the connection that already exists between the people that live in Tucson and the historic, natural agriculture of the region they call home. “We’re trying to deepen people’s engagement and relationships with these plants,” says Lancaster. And once you begin to harvest from the abundance that occurs naturally around you, Lancaster says you’ll likely find that, not only is it better for you, and better for the environment, but it’s ultimately “easier than going to the store.” And cheaper, too. What could be better than that?

For more information on the Desert Harvesters-sponsored mesquite milling and wild food harvesting events taking place this month, visit them online at

FC Tucson Is Picking up Steam Mon, 01 Jun 2015 19:13:12 +0000 Courtesy Pima County

Courtesy Pima County

Midfield forward David Clemens left FC Tucson last year to try his hand in the professional soccer circuit with a USL Pro development team called the Dayton Dutch Lions. But when their local soccer community failed to show them the support they needed, the team folded down to the PDL level—the level at which FC Tucson competes—and so his contract was released. And even though Clemens could have probably chosen to play for any one of the 68 PDL teams across the nation given his USL experience, thankfully, he decided to return to Tucson.

“After being in the professional division,” says Clemens, “I saw that this club was run better than some of the pro teams in terms of the facilities that they have and how professional the environment is here, so I know that if I want to continue pursuing my professional career that (Tucson) is the best place to be.” And, since he was with FC Tucson in 2013 during their impressive run in the Desert Diamond Cup that earned the team an opportunity to play against the MLS Houston Dynamo, Clemens understands the power of a well-developed PDL program probably about as well as anyone.

Now in its fourth season with the PDL following a single year as an independent soccer club, FC Tucson has built a name for itself, as well as a healthy regular fan base with the self-applied title of ‘The Cactus Pricks.’ FC Tucson’s Head Coach and Founding Partner Rick Schantz says that their 2013 season helped to “open the eyes of the sports community at large” in Tucson and that, as a result, the local soccer club is starting to feel “like another one of Tucson’s teams…It’s not just the Wildcats anymore, and it feels good,” Schantz adds, smiling. Last year, FC Tucson managed to keep the attention of the local community with a record of 11-2-1, which was the fourth best of any team in the PDL. The Desert Diamond Cup Tournament that followed saw a record 3600 fans in attendance at Kino North Stadium for the second round of play.

Hoping to catch that wave of community support, FC Tucson has also decided to incorporate a women’s team under their banner for the first time. The women’s club, which formed in 2013 as Tucson Soccer Academy FC, has actually used the facilities at Kino Sports Complex alongside the FC Tucson men’s squad from the beginning, so the change in title doesn’t come with a requirement of relocation. In that respect, FC Tucson Women’s Head Coach Amy Garelick says that “it just made sense” for the two programs to merge. The increased funding and sponsorships available under the FC umbrella also offers some very simple benefits that were previously unavailable to the women’s team, such as the ability to travel to away games the day before a match rather than the day of.

The FC Tucson Women’s Club debuted in late March at Kino North against the MLS-affiliated Portland Thorns—a team which features a number of National-level players who Garelick says will likely appear in the upcoming 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada. FC Tucson Women’s Veteran Defender Kelly Pierce-Kearns says the crowd of more than 1100 at the Thorns’ game was the biggest the local women’s club has ever seen. “It’s really encouraging when you hear people cheering for you, or you score a goal and you get to celebrate and everyone in the stands is yelling with you—it’s a good feeling,” says Pierce-Kearns.

Pierce-Kearns, who is in her early-thirties, has been with the program since its inception, but before the team formed in 2013, she had no outlet to compete in the sport. Though a spot on an FC Tucson squad is technically an amateur position, Pierce-Kearns says she is just grateful “to get to play at such a high level and to be coached again”—a feeling no doubt shared by the majority of her peers.

Surely the Women’s World Cup this year will help shine a spotlight on women’s soccer in general, and that will likely mean at least a slight bump for the newly-incorporated FC program. Not only could that translate to more revenue for the often-idle sports complex, but it most definitely means more opportunities for soccer fans to catch high-level games here in town; between the men’s and women’s teams, Garelick points out that there will be a soccer game at Kino Park every weekend through mid-July. And, to the Cactus Pricks and all of the other soccer fans around Tucson, when it gets down to it, isn’t that the goal?

For more information, a complete schedule of games, and/or to get tickets to an FC Tucson match, check out


Tucson Summer Nights Mon, 01 Jun 2015 19:06:28 +0000 photo © David Olsen

photo © David Olsen

When the temperature rises to the point that the plastic cups in your car begin melting into their cup holders, some Sonoran Desert dwellers experience a buildup of unfathomable rage. If you’ve lived here long enough, you may have been there yourself—at that point where you feel like you could lift and toss a small car, or at least a motorcycle, just to snag the only shady spot in the parking lot. We get it.

But there are a few other ways that we as Tucsonans can choose to deal with these feelings which fall comfortably short of literal or metaphorical combustion: 1) we can complain about it, making the lives of everyone else around us just a little more miserable; 2) we can lock ourselves indoors in the protection of those ever-sacred climate modification devices that keeps us from losing all motivation to live; or 3) we can find a way to shift our schedules ever-so-slightly so as to enjoy more of the cooler, more palatable moonlit hours of the day. Here are a few ideas for those of you who are looking to go nocturnal this summer…

Cinema La PlacitaCatch an outdoor flick

When: Every Thursday evening at 7:30pm through the end of August at La Placita, or 5:30 pm at Reid Park June 5 and 19, as well as alternating Fridays through August 14.

Where: La Placita Village downtown, 110 S. Church Ave; Reid Park, 900 S. Randolph Way.

What: The outdoor family-friendly film series, Cinema La Placita, has been running every summer since May 2000. Bring the kids, your (good) dogs, and $3 for admission, but popcorn is included for free! Check the Cinema La Placita Website for upcoming titles or to make movie suggestions at Reid Park also runs a similar series for free every second Friday with a number of vendors and entertainers on site starting at 5:30, and shows starting at dusk. More info at

Wander the Desert Loop Trail

When: Every Saturday night from June 6-Sept 5 from 5pm-10pm.

Where: Arizona Sonora Desert Museum; 2021 N. Kinney Rd.

What: Each uniquely themed Saturday evening in the 14th Annual “Cool Summer Nights” series at ASDM will feature three live music venues (including one specifically for children), live animal demonstrations, activity stations run by the museum’s Junior Docents, and educational and entertaining programming related to each theme. Covering everything from the oceans, to astronomy, to comedy, ASDM promises something for everyone this summer, and at no additional charge on top of regular admission. ASDM’s Director of Marketing, Rosemary Prawdzik, says that the kids are especially fond of “Insect Insanity!” (July 18) and can even buy black lights at the gift shop to help in the hunt for scorpions.  “Coming to the Desert Museum at night is a very different experience than during the day time,” says Prawdzik, pointing out that the low lighting on the grounds allows for easy stargazing, and that the animals on site tend to be more active after the sun goes down. No wonder this annual event has become a tradition for many local families. Watch in coming months for “Full Moon Festivals” which will shine a spotlight on the arts.

Celebrate the Solstice

When: Saturday, June 20 from 7pm-1am.

Where: Sky Bar; 536 N. 4th Ave.

What: What’s better than, pizza, beer, and fire spinning—at a safe distance, of course. Drop by Sky Bar to celebrate the summer solstice—the longest day of the year—with live music and an always-thrilling performance by the Cirque Roots crew.

23rd Annual Summer Art Cruise, image: Naoto Hattori, Recollection 029, 3.8 x 5.8, acrylic on board, 2015, at Baker + Hesseldenz Fine Art, June 6.

23rd Annual Summer Art Cruise, image: Naoto Hattori, Recollection 029, 3.8 x 5.8, acrylic on board, 2015, at Baker + Hesseldenz Fine Art, June 6.

Gallery hop

When: Saturday, June 6 from 6pm-9pm.

Where: Central Tucson Gallery Association (CTGA) Galleries downtown and on University Blvd.

What: What: The 23rd Annual Summer Art Cruise is the biggest night of the year for the seven member galleries (Baker+Hesseldenz, Conrad Wilde, Contreras, Davis Dominguez, Moen Mason, Philabaum, and Raices Taller 222) that extend their hours for this single evening of connecting art fans, collectors, and artists—and the best part is, it’s free to you. Each gallery curates its own events (of course) and co-owner of Davis Dominguez Gallery, Mike Dominguez, says that many offer hors d’oeuvres and live music. Dominguez says that, for their part, the Davis Dominguez Gallery will be holding a reception for the 80+ artists featured in the Small Works show that will close the following week. “There will be plenty of people out,” says Dominguez, “and a lot of the artists will come together to fill the streets here.” The question is will you be there with them?

Take a flashlight hike

When: Saturday, June 6 from 6:30pm-9:30pm.

Where: Catalina State Park; 11570 N. Oracle Rd.

What: Take a moonlit hike in Catalina State Park with the Town of Oro Valley Parks and Recreation Department to celebrate National Trails Day. Snacks will be provided and an expert guide will be on hand, but be sure and bring plenty of water and your own flashlight. More info available at

Hotel Congress Underwear PartyTake your clothes off

When: Night of Saturday, June 13 until 2am.

Where: Club Congress; 311 E. Congress St.

What: The annual Underwear Party at Club Congress has been known to draw more than 1200 nearly-naked alcohol-consuming individuals of both sexes for an evening of good-natured debauchery unlike any other. Any questions? If so, check out… I wash my hands of this one.

Check out Second Saturdays

When: Saturday, June 13 from 6:30pm-10pm .

Where: Congress St., Downtown Tucson.

What: If you haven’t been to a Second Saturdays Downtown event yet, take advantage of the quiet, cool summer evenings to do so this month. As always, there promises to be plenty of entertainment, music, street performances, vendors, and all of that fair food nobody can seem to get enough of. Grab a bite to eat and a drink or just make a free night of it by catching a live show or two—you’ve got nothing to lose with this regular crowd-pleaser.

Have a “Brew at the Zoo”

When: “Brew at the Zoo” is on Saturday, June 20 from 6pm-9:30pm; Summer Safari Nights run every Friday through July 10 from 6pm-8pm.

Where: Reid Park Zoo; 3400 Zoo Court.

What: The third annual iteration of this highly-anticipated event combines two of everyone’s favorite things—alcohol and animals. Craft Tucson provides plenty of sudsy drink for the event, the admission cost of which covers the beer. Tucsonans come out in droves, so make sure to get your tickets in advance. This year’s Brew event, themed “Healthy and Hoppy”, will help support the construction of a new medical facility on the zoo’s grounds, so drinking to excess here is actually for a good cause. You’ll have to leave the little ones at home for this night of frivolity, though, as it is strictly 21+. For a more family friendly atmosphere, check out the zoo’s Summer Safari Nights program, in which the zoo reopens between 6pm and 8pm every Friday for a cooler trip down the Tanzania Trail. Tickets to the Brew event are $40 general admission, $35 for zoo members, and $20 for designated drivers if purchased in advance. Admission to Summer Safari Nights is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors, and $5 for kids ages 2-14—zoo members get $2 off. More info available at

Catch a soccer game at Kino Sports Complex

When: Every weekend in June (various dates).

Where: Kino North Stadium; 3400 S. Country Club Rd.

What: With the addition of a women’s team to the FC Tucson family, there will be a lot more competitive soccer in Tucson this summer, and you can bet the Cactus Pricks are ready for the action. For a full schedule for both the men’s and women’s teams, tickets, or more information, visit Also, check out the article on FC Tucson in this issue.


Learn some history and celebrate freedom

When: Saturday, June 20 from 10am-9pm

Where: The Donna Liggins Center/Mansfield Park; 2160 N. 6th Ave.

What: Did you know that it took a full two-and-a-half years after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation for all of the slaves in the United States to finally obtain their freedom? June 19th—or Juneteenth—of this year marks 150 years since the last slaves were set free in Galveston, Texas. It also marks the 45th anniversary of Tucson’s own annual Juneteenth Festival. Indoor educational activities end at three and give way to the evening celebration, which will feature guest speakers, free hotdogs for the kids at 5:30pm, historical exhibits, as well as live entertainment. More info available on the “Tucson Juneteenth Celebration” Facebook page.

Do some stargazing

When: Every night through July 14.

Where: Kitt Peak National Observatory.

What: This stargazing program is so popular in the winter months that Visitor Center Manager Bill Buckingham says that Kitt Peak has to turn away more than 1000 people each day during high season. And it’s easy to see why the nightly observation program is such a hot ticket (wrong phrasing?)—Kitt Peak can be a full 25 degrees cooler than Tucson in the evenings. Reservations are $49 per person, but there’s actually a good chance of landing one during the slower summers. Also, be on the lookout for the Kitt Peak-sponsored binocular stargazing program to return to Saguaro National Park West for an out-of-this-world experience that’s a little bit closer to home.

The Downtown Clifton Thu, 05 Mar 2015 06:37:17 +0000 The Downtown Clifton

The Downtown Clifton

Clif Taylor is Tucson through-and-through. For starters, he was born and raised here, and one of his first concerts was actually an Elvis show at the TCC. Thanks to an interest he shared with his father growing up, he’s on a first-name basis with some of Mexico’s most famous bullfighters and, whether you know it or not, Taylor has put his own personal touch all over downtown Tucson as a designer for businesses like Hotel Congress and Maynard’s Market. Since he’s essentially been brought up 100 percent Sonoran, his style absolute reeks of that dusty, funky, kind-of-run-down-but-loved-to-death feel that typifies this city, especially in the way it seems to impress those visiting from out of town.

Perfect, then, that Taylor’s most recent project caters directly to that clientele—a type that Taylor himself identifies as “the adventurous traveler”. The Downtown Clifton at 16th St. and Stone Ave.—set to hold a public soft-opening event on the evening of March 28th—is a single-story ten-room motel that is tucked unassumingly onto a less-than-half-an-acre lot on the eastern edge of the Barrio Viejo neighborhood. Owners Phil Lipman and Moniqua Lane purchased the property from a private owner for $550k in October of 2013 and, for several months, they weren’t quite sure what to do with it.

Lipman says that, since there is a major housing shortage in downtown and South Tucson, his initial idea was to demolish the current building—a rather plain brick structure which had a former life as assisted housing—and install a much denser three-to-four story apartment complex on the site. But when the neighborhood reacted negatively late last year to a proposal to demolish the Downtown Motor Lodge with intentions of building something similar in scale to what Lipman and Lane had planned just two blocks north of the Clifton, the business partners had a change of heart. “We decided it would probably be better, rather than knock it down, to instead do something cool with the original building,” says Lipman. And, with an eye on the apparent interests of the other residents of Barrio Viejo, Tucson’s newest retro-chic motel was born.

Lane says that when she and Lipman first purchased the property, both of them wanted to stay clear of the hotel business. But after deciding to keep the original structure intact —and it was apparently in alarmingly good shape—the idea of getting into hospitality in downtown Tucson simply started to grow on them. When Taylor expressed an interest in taking charge of the project’s over all aesthetic, the two co-owners quickly gave him carte blanche to make the property into a vision all his own. The result, says Lane, “captures that real dusty-dirty feel” of the city without sacrificing on comfort.

Mural by Danny Martin

Mural by Danny Martin

Each room of the “twisted mid-century bunkhouse” is specially curated with “a million little weird details,” according to Taylor, including a great deal of art from his personal collection, swag lamps, custom-made platform beds, and even a mini-fridge, AC split, and flat screen TV for that all-essential touch of today required by the average modern tourist. The original colored concrete floors of the building were exposed in each room, the bathroom tiles and rafter ceilings preserved, and a number of brick planters, a fresh coat of paint inside-and-out, and a large full-color mural by local artist Danny Martin were added to give the property a certain border-town charm. Rooms at the Clifton will start at around $100 per night, though since there are only ten, chances are good that the place will fill up fairly quickly, especially during the busy season.

One more touch that promises to give the Downtown Clifton a slight advantage over would-be competitors in the area is the presence of a live-in manager and concierge in Liz Fogel. Fogel is also a Tucson native, though she spent a short spell in Austin, and the fact that she will be on the hotel grounds and in downtown in general full-time means guests can make use of her knowledge of the area and enjoy a completely customized downtown experience which caters to their specific tastes. “It’s like the tour of downtown Tucson that you would give your family if you were able to get off work,” says Lane. No doubt many locals will appreciate that sentiment—after all, that’s one less thing to worry about when the in-laws come to town.

The Downtown Clifton is located at 485 S. Stone Ave. More info on the hotel, booking rooms, and upcoming events can be found at



The Ultimate Shabby-Chic Bash Tue, 02 Sep 2014 16:37:09 +0000 Unbeknownst to the majority of locals, Tucson has in its midst one of the world’s foremost experts in recycled art. Though you won’t find his work hanging in the Louvre just yet, Mykl Wells makes his living as a working artist by creating incredible surrealist works out of paint and cardboard — his website proudly lauds the fact that he gets most of the stuff he uses for his work “out of dumpsters.” He even hand-makes the frames for his custom pieces out of recycled cardboard, effectively taking the castoffs from your Costco trips and turning them into colorful character studies that tantalize and delight. In fact, in 2012 Wells was one of only six artists selected to create an installation at Cartasia — a prestigious biennial cardboard art show held in the medieval Tuscan city of Lucca, Italy.

The idea of traveling to Italy to make a gigantic cardboard sculpture had natural appeal for this local artist (as I imagine it might for any warm-blooded human being) but the prospect did present a bit of a challenge — that is, continuing to pay his bills while working for free overseas. It was this predicament three years ago that gave rise to Tucson’s first ever Cardboard Ball. The event attracted about 150 people, Wells says, and got him where he was trying to go — Wells even ended up winning first prize in the exhibition for his 18-foot sculpture entitled “Snowdrop,” which was essentially a giant upside-down head with a flower growing from its neck.

Cardboard Ballers shaking their grove thing. Photo: ©2013 Warren Van Nest

Cardboard Ballers shaking their grove thing.
Photo: ©2013 Warren Van Nest

Once Cartasia was in the rear-view, though, Wells was reluctant to let the success of the first Cardboard Ball disappear for good. So they did it again, and last year’s iteration raised about $3,000 for the All Souls Procession Workshop Series, a series for which our local cardboard guru is also responsible. This year Wells hopes to raise about $5,000 for his workshops, which he says will be taking to the streets in a new mobile format. “We’re looking to the east side of Tucson, and also to Vail, Tubac and Oro Valley as well. We’re trying to reach out to the larger community that maybe doesn’t get by the All Souls Procession Workshops because they aren’t downtown,” says Wells. His hope is that in spreading the word about the event even further within our own community he might be able to raise enough money to bring on a guest artist for the workshops in upcoming years — an effort, he says, which could help spread the word about Tucson’s eclectic art scene to players in other artistic communities nationwide, and even worldwide.

The Cardboard Ball is now poised to become a favorite annual freak-fest amongst both local art enthusiasts and general party-people, and Wells says this year’s event will feature a few upgrades. Not only will there be a runway on which party-goers can show off their flashy-yet-frugal paper-based duds, Wells is also making tubes available for cardboard jousting and sponsoring a dance party with live music from Scott Kerr, Mik Garrison, and The Carnivaleros, as well as two live DJ sets to keep you jumping. There will be at least one keg of Borderlands Brewing Company’s “Las Almas Ale” on hand — which was crafted specifically with All Souls in mind — with beer, wine and food available from the Maker House Cafe. Artists are encouraged to submit pieces for the event. To participate, simply drop your cardboard masterpiece off at Maker House the day before the Ball any time between noon and 8 p.m.

Not sure what to wear to such an extravaganza? Just pop by Maker House at any point during the art drop off and Wells promises to be onsite with the materials and the know-how necessary to make sure you’re absolutely Cardboard Ballin’ for the big event. Paper cuts be damned — this is gonna be good.

The Cardboard Ball goes down on Saturday, Sept. 27 at Maker House, 283 N. Stone Ave., at 7 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at Maker House, Yikes Toy Store, 2930 E. Broadway Blvd., and Pop-Cycle, 422 N. 4th Ave., in advance for $10 or pay $15 at the door. More info on, search Cardboard Ball, or try

The Cardboard Ball embraces creative shenanigans.  Photo: ©2013 Warren Van Nest

The Cardboard Ball embraces creative shenanigans.
Photo: ©2013 Warren Van Nest

Comedic Improv on the Ave Sun, 31 Aug 2014 09:48:08 +0000 ustin Lukasewicz and Mishell Livio during an improv sketch. Photo: Patrick Moore

Justin Lukasewicz and Mishell Livio during an improv sketch.
Photo: Patrick Moore

Ever seen someone hit in the face by an imaginary pie or chased through an imaginary forest by an invisible flying purple people-eater? Well, neither have I, but if this sounds like something that could be your cup of, er, imaginary tea, a comedy show at the Tucson Improv Movement (TIM) is your perfect prescription. And come the middle of this month, a night of laughing your butt off will mean nothing more than an easy jaunt down 4th Avenue.

Though they are the youngest improv comedy troupe (and probably the youngest performance troupe in general) in Tucson, the TIM crew is rising quickly to the forefront of the local funny-folk scene, and their new location next to D&D Pinball on 7th Street promises them even more visibility — and more regular shows — than ever before.

TIM’s Producer and Founding Member Justin Lucasewicz came to Tucson in 2012 by way of North Carolina, where he performed and trained future cast members with a comedy group called DSI Theater. In October of that year he taught his first local improv class to a group of five students in the back room of Lotus Massage and Wellness Center (“so, lots of good jokes there,” he says) and by May of 2013, he and his first ensemble players were performing weekly shows and holding regular classes at the Red Barn Theater on North Main Street just south of Speedway. But, as enrollment in TIM’s workshops continued to increase, Lucasewicz and team saw that the small theater was not going to be able to meet their needs indefinitely.

“We’ve outgrown our digs at the Red Barn Theater,” says Lucasewicz. He explains that TIM has had to work around the schedule of the house performance troupe there, meaning severe limitations on the number of shows that the comedy troupe can put on, as well as limits to the availability if the space for teaching classes. The new space, he says, will allow TIM to bump the number of weekly performances from one to upwards of five right off the bat, and will also allow for much greater flexibility with respect to catering to improv students.

Since June, cast members have been working to get the new space ready (soundproofing the wall shared with the neighboring pinball arcade, building a stage, getting the lighting and sound systems up to snuff, painting) to prepare for their “Backers-Only” soft open on Saturday, Sept. 6, which will feature performances for the fans that contributed to their $10,000 Kickstarter Campaign toward renovations. The following Friday, though, performances will open to the public for the first time and needless to say, the TIM comedians are jazzed for the big day. Not only will TIM be the best (and, often, only) place to catch a live theatrical performance on 4th, but Lucasewicz says that being on the Avenue means that the crew is “getting a lot of really good buzz, which,” he asserts, “is cool.” Super cool.

If you’re looking to have your gut-busted on a Friday or Saturday night or are searching for a way to sharpen your funny bone, 4th Avenue is now officially Tucson’s primary proprietor of the world’s best medicine. No, I’m not talking about medical marijuana — I’m talking about laughter. And when it comes to that good stuff, I think we could all afford to up our dosage.

The new TIM location can be found at 329 E. 7th St. The grand opening is Saturday, Sept. 13. Showtimes and information on registering for improv classes are available at

Sidecar Serves Mindful Mixed Drinks Sat, 26 Jul 2014 23:39:39 +0000 sidecar_1Lead barkeep Luke Anable has thought carefully about everything on the menu at Sidecar, the newest 900 square-foot concept bar by Tucson restaurateur Ari Shapiro. Working with fellow Wilko mixologist, Starr Herr-Cardillo, Anable custom-crafted each house recipe and hand-selected every bottle on display behind the bar in the newly renovated space in the Broadway Village shopping complex. As a result, he can tell you the life story of each product from soil to shelf.

“All the language is there to meaningfully talk about any product the way people talk about wine,” says Anable of his spirit-selection process. He believes the dialogue that has developed amongst wine connoisseurs—like conversations about where and how something was made—should be employed when talking about beer and liquor as well. “When you add the history layer on top of the cocktails and the culinary layer of mixing flavors, I think that’s a really rich and powerful way to think about what we’re doing here.”

Shapiro, who is consistent with Sidecar in his efforts to “bring Tucson artisan concepts that have an emphasis on craft and health,” worked with partners Page Repp and Rick McClain of design firm Repp + McClain to fully remodel the corner space in what has been called one of Arizona’s oldest shopping complexes. The red brick has been whitewashed, giving the inside of the 1939 Josias Joesler building the smell of fresh paint. The concrete floors are newly stained; deep-buttoned, lime-green banquette benches line the walls underneath the large, south-facing windows; a large 3-D piece by artist Nick Georgiou decorates the space between the windows. The tables feature polished wood surfaces. Natural brown leather accents and warm pendulum lights give the otherwise-industrial space all of the charm of a cozy after-work escape.

Shapiro lives nearby and commutes to Sidecar by way of a fixed-gear bicycle. According to Shapiro, all of his restaurants—which include popular smoothie stop Xoom Juice, Downtown coffee hub Sparkroot, and the wood-fired pizza joint, Falora (just two doors down from the new bar)—have been built on concepts that addressed the owner’s personal culinary cravings. Sidecar is Shapiro’s neighborhood bar, and it’s a place that he hopes mid-town Tucsonans will also “be able to call their own.”

Though it has all of the makings of a hip Downtown club, Sidecar’s intimate environment can only accommodate about 70 people at maximum capacity, including the tiny outdoor patio—an effect, Shapiro points out, that makes an afternoon at the bar feel “like you could be in your living room.”

Sidecar maintains a staff of only four to five, both in the lounge and behind the bar, lending a much tighter-knit vibe between the employees and their patrons, versus the high-octane pace of Downtown on a Friday night. Anable says he “appreciate(s) being able to take a little more time and be a little more patient” with each drink he mixes at Sidecar. The easier pace also means more opportunity to chat with his customers and provide them with a little bit of cocktail education during their experience, he says.

The opening week of operation brought with it a steady flow of customers; a promising start to the business’ first summer—a season which, due to the loss of about 50,000 UA students to their various hometowns, can make-or-break a new Tucson restaurant. But Shapiro’s goals for the space stretch far into the future, which is why he went for a “timeless” appeal when contemplating Sidecar’s aesthetic.

As for getting the word out, the presence of both Sidecar and Falora in a complex of shops that have traditionally been retail-only has meant plenty of media attention for the new watering hole. Other than that, Shapiro plans to keep his advertising efforts to a minimum, hoping that word-of-mouth alone will allow future patrons to “discover” the space for themselves. Those that wander in even by accident will surely not be disappointed.

In sentiments no doubt shared by his employer, Anable says of his position as (perhaps) Tucson’s most mindful cocktail master, “Knowing that everything you push across the bar has a reason for being there—that’s meaningful.” If social drinking can have a greater meaning than an hour-or-so of revelry, this is where you’ll find it.

Sidecar is located at 139 S. Eastbourne Ave. (off of Broadway Boulevard, just west of Country Club Road), and is open from 4 p.m.-11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 4 p.m.-midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Call 795-1819 for more information.

Peter Frampton Plays Ring Master Tue, 22 Jul 2014 16:00:16 +0000 Peter Frampton opens for Deep Purple at Le Zenith on October 20, 2013 in Paris, France. Photo: David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images

Peter Frampton opens for Deep Purple at Le Zenith on October 20, 2013 in Paris, France.
Photo: David Wolff – Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images

Forget about Ringling Brothers’ “Greatest Show On Earth!” Peter Frampton’ Circus — his Guitar Circus, to be precise — is much more bad-ass with its guitar-shredding virtuosos like B.B. King, Buddy Guy and Robert Randolph on board.

Now in its second year, Frampton says the concept for the tour-in-three-parts grew simply out of “woodshedding on an idea” with his manager Ken Levitan for something to follow the 2010-11 Frampton Comes Alive 35th Anniversary Tour. Says Frampton, the reaction to the that tour was so overwhelmingly positive that they “decided that we had to do something thematic so that I could compete with myself… and to have something that was a little bit more interesting than just another Peter Frampton concert.” Frampton explains that he simply “wanted to have as many guitarists as (we) could possibly have on the stage” for the next round of shows. Levitan came up with the name. The rest is legend.

Frampton is as thrilled about the show’s lineup as any of his fans might be, and he credits B.B. King for the long list of A-listers that made appearances along the way last year. “We put the idea out there…and lo and behold, immediately the first call that we got back was from B.B. King,” he says.

After that, Frampton says the phone was “ringing off the hook” with interested artists like Vince Gill, Robert Cray and Kenny Wayne Shepherd — guitarists in every genre from jazz to pop. Frampton says that the plan with the Circus was to celebrate “guitars in general,” and so the abnormal lineup of legends was more than welcome. It also has the effect of providing a chance for fans to see something new at each show. Last year, says Frampton, “(Jazz legend) Larry Carlton and (Cheap Trick’s) Rick Nielsen played with me on the same night, and you can’t get more different than those two.”

Frampton’s 1976 album Frampton Comes Alive, which spawned such hits as “Baby I love Your Way” and “Do You Feel Like We Do,” is one of the top best-selling live albums of all time. Though famous for his heavily synthesized sound, the ideology of diversity associated with the Guitar Circus tour has bled over into other arenas of his career. His most recent album, Hummingbird in a Box (released June 2014) was actually written with long-time collaborator Gordon Kennedy as a performance piece for the Cincinnati Ballet. Much like while jamming on stage with music’s biggest superstars, when writing music for dance Frampton says, “the rules go out the window. Because you’re not writing for radio… it can be whatever I want at any given point.”

This as opposed to constantly conforming to the rigid production standards of radio-ready music. Which employer would you prefer?

The August 31 show at AVA Amphitheater marks the end of the first leg of the 2014 Guitar Circus tour and Frampton promises that the guys that night will be “going out with a bang.” It seems Frampton himself is as pumped for the Tucson show as anyone. Since scheduling often prevents multiple big names from showing up to play at every stop on the tour, Frampton says that having King, Guy, Randolph and himself all at the same show is “pretty heavyweight… to get them all together in one night is a coup.”

Lucky us. A word of advice for concert goers: bring earplugs with you if you don’t want your head to explode.

Peter Frampton’s Guitar Circus comes to Tucson’s AVA Amphitheater, 5655 W. Valencia Rd., on Sunday, Aug. 31 at 6 p.m. Tickets and more info available at and


PACC’s $100K Challenge Tue, 01 Jul 2014 23:15:19 +0000 Pima Animal Care Center's $100K Challenge events includes community adoptions and puppy cuddles. photo courtesy: Pima Animal Care Center

Pima Animal Care Center’s $100K Challenge events includes community adoptions and puppy cuddles. Photo courtesy: Pima Animal Care Center

If you are considering adding a furry friend to your family, doing so before the end of the summer can help Pima Animal Care Center (PACC) win a huge chunk of cash.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) is in its fifth and final year of their annual $100K Challenge and PACC is in the running for the grand prize of (no big surprise here) $100,000. Fifty shelters from across the country were selected from hundreds of applications to compete for a total prize pool of $600,000 by rescuing more animals in the months of June, July and August than they did in the previous year during the same three-month period.

PACC sees an average of about 24,000 animals come through its facility on Silverbell Road each year with between 600 to 900 dogs and cats on site at any given time. Last summer between June and August, PACC’s Development Director Karen Hollish says that the shelter was able to save a total of 3,046 animals, meaning that in order to win the grand prize they will need to find homes for well over 1000 animals each month this summer.

To help make this happen, in addition to their regular monthly adoption event on site, Hollish says that PACC will be running adoption specials and events at their facility throughout the competition. Some of these events include a community dog walk and cat cuddle on Friday, July 4, which will be coupled with a freedom week adoption special; a Community Art Fiesta on Saturday, July 19 featuring more than 40 pieces of art in a silent auction; a Family Fun Fiesta on Saturday, August 2; regular “Free Cat Fridays,” with all of it culminating in a Cat’s Pajamas Countdown Party at the end of August, during which the shelter will remain open for 36 hours straight for that final push to meet their goal. And, says Hollish, all of PACC’s animals “come fully-loaded,” meaning that they are “spayed or neutered, micro-chipped, vaccinated, and up to date on all of their shots” before you take them home, not to mention the free vet visit you are entitled to afterwards.

Though they are excited about their opportunity to compete in the $100K Challenge’s last gasp, Hollish says that if PACC had it their way they probably would have chosen another three-month block in which to hold the contest. “Tucson’s a snowbird community,” says Hollish, “so we really need our locals to come out and help us this summer. As a fundraising director, I wouldn’t normally have an art auction in July.” But, she says, things being what they are, they’ve pushed much of their calendar forward so as to remain competitive with the other shelters in their division.

Recent additions to PACC’s budget to the tune of about $400,000 are also helping the facility to beat last year’s numbers, having provided the facility with a climate-controlled outdoor tent to house additional adoptees as well as their first on-site vet (no one wants to take a sick puppy home, after all). Though it is outside the scope of the challenge, PACC will also see a measure on the November ballot which could provide them the funding they need to build a state-of-the-art $22 million medical facility, though they are having to put that thought on the back burner for at least the next few months.

Not in the market for another mouth to feed? Adopting an animal isn’t the only way you can help PACC make headway in the challenge — Hollish says that the ASPCA is actually monitoring and giving out awards for community engagement as well for sheer number of lives saved, so visiting PACC’s Facebook page and sharing their posts, leaving comments, and Tweeting with the hashtag “#100kChallenge” or “#100kSaved” will all help the cause in one form or another.

What do you say, Tucson? Are you up to the challenge? Then throw a dog a bone and bring home a new buddy.

The ASPCA’s $100K Challenge runs through August. More info at or by calling (520) 243-5900. Pima Animal Care Center is located at 4000 N. Silverbell Rd.

Have a “Brew at the Zoo” & Help the Apes, Too Mon, 02 Jun 2014 16:46:49 +0000 "Brew at the Zoo" will raise funds to move the white-handed gibbons to a new habitat. photo courtesy Reid Park Zoo

“Brew at the Zoo” will raise funds to move the white-handed gibbons to a new habitat.
photo courtesy Reid Park Zoo

This ain’t any kind of monkey business, oh no. But come Saturday, June 14 at 6 p.m., the Reid Park Zoo opens to local party animals and other 21-and-over friends for a fundraising gala aimed at helping the zoo’s white-handed gibbons move to a new enclosure.

“Brew at the Zoo: Ales for Apes” is the second annual event, partnering the Reid Park Zoological Society (the non-profit entity whose sole mission is to support the city-owned attraction) with Craft Tucson, to raise funds for a site-specific project on the zoo’s 24-acre property. Last year’s sold-out event saw 1200 visitors and served to help welcome grizzly bears Finley and Ronan to Tucson. According to Reid Park Zoological Society’s Events Director Gail Brown, the event raised enough money to pay for the educational components of the grizzly exhibit. This year, Brown says they are expecting a slightly higher turnout for the event at about 1500 participants—with a goal to raise about $25,000—though this is only a portion of what the entire relocation project will cost.

The three gibbons currently on display at Reid Park are a single nuclear family made up of a father named Billy, a mother affectionately called Moms, and their 16-year-old daughter, Lilith—a family structure which Zoo Director Jason Jacobs says is closer to that of human beings than any other species. The apes currently occupy a cage-like enclosure near the entrance to the zoo which Jacobs (formerly of the Los Angeles Zoo) says is ready to come down to make way for something more modern and aesthetically pleasing. The plan is to modify the nearby sun bear enclosure with a mesh canopy and move the gibbons in there.

Jacobs explains that Dresena, the sun bear who currently lives in the gibbons’ future home, is elderly at 35-years-old and prefers to spend most of her time in the indoor section of her habitat—complete with a swamp cooler and regular visits from peanut-wielding backstage tourists. “She doesn’t go on exhibit unless she chooses to,” says Jacobs, and those times are increasingly far in-between, leaving zoo personnel thinking about retiring her from public viewing altogether.

Vivian VanPeenan, the zoo’s educational curator, points out that Billy and Moms are also approaching their golden years; both animals are now well into their forties. Having produced multiple offspring, the pair is now officially out of the national Association of Zoos and Aquariums breeding program, but that does not mean they are any less important to the zoo, its staff, or visitors.

“We like to tell the story (of animals as they age),” says VanPeenan, “we don’t hide it, we don’t put it out of view, but we make it part of our story—how our small community zoo is leading the way in whole-life care for our animals.” She says that it is important for the zoo to serve as an example of “how important it is that when you commit to an animal, whether as a pet or at a zoo, that you are committing to that animal for life.”

Reid Park Zoo's white-handed gibbons are slated for a new habitat. photo courtesy Reid Park Zoo

Reid Park Zoo’s white-handed gibbons are slated for a new habitat.
photo courtesy Reid Park Zoo

The gibbons on display at Reid Park, though, in no way show their ages. Trying to distinguish parent from offspring is hard to do without a personal introduction (hint: Moms is the one without the white ring around her face), so it’s no surprise that the only ape species on display at the zoo—with their tendency to swing energetically around their enclosure and propensity for singing in the morning—is a visitor favorite. Jacobs says the gibbons are “the best acrobats in the animal kingdom, bar none. Not  to demean them in any way,” he adds, “but they are very entertaining.”

Guests interested in helping the gibbons transition to their new homes can buy a ticket to the Brew at the Zoo event online. Attendees can enjoy live music from two bands, eat pub-style food, and sample beers from the 15 unique microbreweries that will be present. Since all of the money raised at the event will go directly into the budget for the gibbon project, VanPeenan points out that “Brew at the Zoo” is a great way for zoo supporters to see their dollars at work on a specific project rather than simply giving to the general fund.

Though the event marks only the first step toward reestablishing both the gibbons and the sun bear in their newly modified habitats, Jacobs envisions other modifications to the exhibit down the line including the addition of an overhead walkway to increase the potential for a close-up encounter. He says the new enclosure will mean easier viewing for the public and more opportunity for interaction with the apes without their current susceptibility to dietary infractions. “For better or worse,” says Jacobs, “our gibbons have learned to beg for food.”

All of these things, according to Jacobs, add up to one thing—happier primates. And that means happier visitors and zoo employees as well—just as long as no one hears you call them monkeys.

Tickets to the June 14 event range in price from $20-$65. The event runs from 6 p.m.-9:30 p.m. For more information, including tickets and room discounts at the nearby Double Tree Resort, visit