Monica Surfaro Spigelman – Zocalo Magazine – Tucson Arts and Culture Tucson Arts, Culture, Entertainment, News and Events Magazine Thu, 06 Jul 2017 17:03:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Art Happens in Storied Congress Space Sat, 01 Nov 2014 20:32:57 +0000 Krikawa Jewelry

The Krikawa Family, left to right: LeCarie Whitfield, Chief of Operations (Patrick’s Wife); Patrick Swartz, Master CAD Modeler (Lisa’s brother and John’s best friend from High School); John Krikawa, Chief Technical Officer; Lisa Krikawa, Founder, CEO, Head Designer. Photo ©

Art Happens in Storied Congress Space
Krikawa Jewelry Designs is upping the ante downtown, adding its new design studio, gallery and retail space to an already critical mass of cool on Congress

The eastern end of Congress exerts a gravitational pull downtown – with a steady diet of food and drink phenomena. But it’s time to start walking west, where a faceted flash has been added to the mix…and a long-standing Tucson designer has raised the game along the far reaches of downtown’s entertainment corridor.

Lisa Krikawa – award-winning jewelry designer and the last graduate of the University of Arizona’s metal-smithing program in 1997 ––is moving her studio downtown, the first jewelry house devoted to a mix of contemporary wearable art gallery, jewelry bench, local artisan resource and offices. It’s an ambitious new project launched by her 17-year old Tucson family-operated company, following a year of research and planning. Leasing the 4,200 square-foot space once occupied by one of Tucson’s first jewelers (Daniel’s Jewelers), Krikawa has carefully renovated the historic jewelry store, exposing its brick and tiles, and preserving touches like the Daniel’s mosaic street tablet, under the sparkling direction of Baker-Hesseldenz Design and architect J. Chauncey Meyer, known for their innovative urban modern spaces.

Since opening shop in her garage, Lisa has forged a singular niche in an international arts landscape, where her couture-design custom rings, her extremely detailed layering of the old-world mokumé-gané technique on heirloom pieces, and her high-tech, intricate swirls of gems set in precious metal are renowned. As much at home carving her own jeweler waxes as crafting 3-D CAD-modeled designs, Lisa has built a business showcasing environmentally-clean and ethically-certified pieces, with a mystique unlike anything else you’ll see in Tucson. Krikawa has thrived under Lisa and her family’s symbiotic partnership, growing into an organization of 11 employees and over 5,000 custom designs for clients from Australia to Canada, and from Germany to New York, California and Tucson.

After multiple moves across the city, from garage, to a Sam Hughes studio and most recently to St. Philip’s Plaza, Krikawa says the 21 E. Congress St. relocation, opening November 22, signals that her studio is growing up, a perfect marriage of high art, community vision and unerring instinct for what’s cool.

“We’re artisans who belong downtown,” confirms Krikawa, who notes that everyone working at the company has his/her own art. “All our choices convey our vision of creative expression, and sustain our desire to be part of a dynamic community integral to our customers’ experience.

“When I saw the space I saw it as a possibility for anything,” she continues. “I knew it was right for Krikawa.”

With its tall ceilings and brick walls left raw, the innovative structure is being built out in a multi-faceted layout resembling a small design city. In a bright front exhibition area, visitors will observe handcrafted modern displays showcasing works of top-tier artisans; further into the 1,600 square feet of gallery showroom space will be a congenial lounge area as well “play stations” for customers to visualize and personalize the process of creating custom jewelry pieces. Further back, Krikawa gets even more interesting with window views in to the creative nurseries – the soldering, CAD and tooling stations, as well as the jeweler’s bench. Krikawa offices are in the back.

Lisa Krikawa has a vigorous agenda for her front exhibition space, and has invited approximately 30 premier artisans to be part of the first show, an installation called Local Flavors, on view through January 31. The collection features contemporary jewelry pieces, hats and other wearable art, making for a gallery experience that’s both intimate and communal, spiced up by unusual offerings that mix metals and patterns. Intuitive and diverse, the Local Flavors show is influenced by local design and what feels right. “It’s experimental, it’s fun,” Lisa observes. “It’s thoughtfully curated, but it also has a freshness relatable to everyone.”

Architecturally-styled Erik Stewart jewelry, as well as urban designs by Maureen Brusa-Zappelini and unique silverwork by Sam Patania, are among the works and artists represented. Like a fine digital mix made by a friend, the collection works because of the detail and the quality.

For the opening, Krikawa also is introducing a new line of sterling food-related charms, a whimsical nod to the foodie and fashionista locavorism of her Congress counterparts. A portion of charm sales will support the Food Bank, a philanthropic practice Krikawa routinely provides to local nonprofits.

A hint of Krikawa’s unique downtown programming is evident in its planned extracurricular activities, including DIY workshops, which will allow customers to be involved in the CAD design and even the polishing of their custom pieces. “Art is personal expression and we want those who wish it, to have a hand in their own jewelry,” she asserts.

This type of DIY involvement, although somewhat revolutionary in the jewelry business, is of growing interest, and Krikawa excitedly talks about the creative empowerment planned in her studio.

“I’m a Tucsonan who always has believed in the spirit of downtown,” the metalsmith says. “With this space, I can continue my business as a successful commercial venture, but also open up to new creative options for myself as an artist and for the community as a whole.”

Krikawa’s dynamic sense of possibility is jumping at the chance to explore the less orthodox. “I don’t want to put any limits on what Krikawa might do downtown,” she smiles.

Krikawa Jewelry Design’s new space opens Saturday, November 22, 6-9pm., with its Local Flavors exhibit, 21 E. Congress St., downtown. Showroom and design appointment hours: Tuesday-Friday, 9am-5pm; Saturday, 10am-4pm. (520)322-6090,



To the Seas! Sat, 23 Aug 2014 00:34:37 +0000 The Autumn Fest combines modern dance and historic facts with mythological elements.

Martial arts Master Junming Zhao is featured in the TCCC's Autumn Moon Festival performance. Photo: Leigh Spigelman

Martial arts Master Junming Zhao is featured in the TCCC’s Autumn Moon Festival performance.
Photo: Leigh Spigelman

Tucson just may be the world’s only desert city to have giant giraffes, martial artists and modern dancers all show up en force for a community party about a sea journey. This unusual fête happens Friday, Sept. 5 and Saturday, Sept. 6, when the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center (TCCC) and the Barbea Williams Performing Company meld ancient inspiration into a seamless creative pulse for the TCCC’s Autumn Moon Festival, called Autumn Fest.

This year’s festival (celebrated throughout most of East Asia and a traditionally big, annual event at the TCCC’s 1288 W. River Rd. complex) intends to test the conventional bounds of Tucson performance by blending storytelling with explosive ballet choreography and martial arts.

“In a theatrical, contemporary way we’ll craft an original dance-drama that incorporates both African and Chinese traditions,” says Robin Blackwood of the TCCC’s History Committee.

History Leaves A Trace
Set in a 15th century milieu, this Autumn Fest performance retraces the actual recorded journeys of Ming Dynasty Sea Captain Zheng He to Africa and beyond. Independent educator and historian Gloria Smith researched and produced the script.

As Blackwood explains, the voyages occurred 70 years before the time of the sea-faring Genoese explorer Christopher Columbus. The Chinese Emperor, known now as the Yong Le Emperor, commissioned seven voyages, sending mariners far from home for years at a time. It is a particularly apt story for the Autumn Moon Festival, says Blackwell, which is when Chinese far from home all over the world look up at the moon and imagine their families far away watching the same moon.

In three acts, the Sea Captain begins a voyage from China, traverses southern Asia to African cities of what is now modern-day Somalia and Kenya, and in a dream sequence finale, a great storm takes the mariners all the way to the Sonoran Desert. Only the dream sequence is not based on recorded fact.

“The true history of Zheng He and his voyages of diplomacy as far as Africa strike a chord with both Chinese and African-American groups,” says Blackwell. “For Chinese, it is a re-affirmation of a history suppressed until recently in China. For African-Americans it is a recognition of important African history long-ignored.”

Giant giraffe puppet by artist Mykl Wells. Photo: Libby Reed

Giant giraffe puppet by artist Mykl Wells. Photo: Libby Reed

Giant Giraffes
One gift brought back to the Chinese Emperor from the African voyages was a giraffe. According to Blackwood, Chinese paintings created at the time of the voyages illustrate how the giraffe made quite a stir in China, where initially the giraffe was believed to be a qilin – a benevolent horned creature in Chinese mythology.  So, to dramatize the creature in the Autumn Fest performance, a giant giraffe puppet has been constructed. This summer, sculptor artist Mykl Wells built the 14-foot tall puppet, covered in muslin, intricately detailing it with cabling and over 2,500 feet of steel wire to allow movements in the jaw and eyelids and throughout the puppet. Community participants helped put the skin on the puppet at TCCC-held workshops over the summer.

“It’s a collaboration of history, education, performance and visual arts,” says Blackwood, who indicated that the TCCC received a People, Land, Art, Culture, Engagement (PLACE) grant from Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC) for this project. PLACE grants, funded entirely by private foundations, have been awarded on an annual basis for the last several years, to around a dozen artistic projects per year .

Creative Pairing
The Barbea Williams Performing Company – Tuscon’s African-centered performance troupe founded in 1975 – is part of the collaboration, with Williams choreographing both Chinese and African-American dancers in an advanced dance interpretation for the Autumn Fest.

The Barbea Williams Performing Company in rehearsal this summer for the TCCC Autumn Fest Performance (left-right): Joy Broussard, Barbea Williams, Keisha Smith-Spears, Patricia Panaligan and Kiara Krystal Lloyd. Photo: Leigh Spigelman

The Barbea Williams Performing Company in rehearsal this summer for the TCCC Autumn Fest. Dancers (left-right): Joy Broussard, Barbea Williams, Keisha Smith-Spears and Patricia Panaligan. Photo: Leigh Spigelman

After another successful PLACE collaboration in 2013 with the Barbea Williams Performing Company, TCCC asked Williams if she would like to collaborate again to explore a common narrative discovered during the 2013 PLACE project, when a “rolling history” bus visited historic Chinese groceries in various neighborhoods. With her dance troupe headquarters at the Dunbar Cultural Center, Williams (and her artistic direction in both the performing company and in her UA dance teaching assignment) is well known for advocacy of arts as essential to well-being.

Martial arts Master Junming Zhao. Photo: Leigh Spigelman

Martial arts Master Junming Zhao Photo: Leigh Spigelman

Master Junming Zhao, a visiting scholar from the Songshan Shaolin Vocational Institute in China to the UA’s Confucius Institute, will perform as the Sea Captain in the Autumn Fest. Winner of numerous international martial arts and Tai Chi competitions, Master Zhao has over 18 years of experience in Wushu practice, including five years of strict training in the Songshan Shaolin Temple, the mecca of Chinese Wushu. He will lead the Tucson Sino Martial Arts group participating in the performance, with TCCC’s Lion Dancers, under the direction of Kevin and Ben Lau, debuting the Northern Lion Dance in Tucson for the Autumn performance. The paired artistry of Williams and Master Zhao – combining dance fluidity with the precision poise of the martial arts and Lion Dance movements – all promises to manifest the story in unexpected ways.

“There will be dialog, dance, drums, large-scale puppets, colorful scenery, and a celebration of cartography that puts another historical spin on the orchestrated work,” says Blackwood, who sees the Autumn Fest as a way to make multicultural collaboration visible, both within Chinese community and city-wide. The audience will be invited to make traditional Autumn Moon lanterns before the performance and then join the final procession.

Performances are at Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, 1288 W. River Rd. Admission is $10 adults, $5 all students (age 6 and above). Attendees also may purchase food voucher tickets for various items available at the multicultural feast. Festivities begin at 6 p.m. For reservations, call (520) 292-6900, and learn more at

The Loop Mon, 14 Apr 2014 16:01:43 +0000 “The Loop serves as a fantastic car-free multi-use recreational facility, and it’s also a legitimate transportation system that offers great commuting opportunities by connecting nearly every jurisdiction in Pima County.” – Andy Dinauer

Bridges, like at River Park Gateway, cross washes and display arts, while providing unparalleled vistas.  photo: Leigh Spigelman

Bridges, like at River Park Gateway, cross washes and display arts,
while providing unparalleled vistas.
photo: Leigh Spigelman

On foot, two-wheels, skates, stroller or horseback, you will find amazing place-making, one mile at a time, along this treasured haunt. The Loop entertains and invigorates all, every day, and it’s one helluva meander.

The city seemingly drops behind when you traverse this interconnection of blacktop, soft sand and gravel paths that hug Pima County’s various river-park systems. While the exact mileage of the linked, Loop-ed trails is a moving target – The main Loop (along the Rillito, Pantano, Julian and Santa Cruz River washes) is approximately 55 miles. With its “fingers” extending up Cañada del Oro wash to Oro Valley, and the Santa Cruz extensions north to Marana and south to San Xavier – this Loop system is more like 130 miles of connected trails.

Engineer Andy Dinauer is the Pima County regional flood control district Division Manager responsible for The Loop projects. His life’s mission is wrapped up in the vision for keeping The Loop accessible…but you’ll need to hustle to keep up with Dinauer, who cycles 120 miles on The Loop each weekend for fun and another 125 miles during each week as part of his daily bike commute.

“The Loop serves as a fantastic car-free multi-use recreational facility, and it’s also a legitimate transportation system that offers great commuting opportunities by connecting nearly every jurisdiction in Pima County,” says Dinauer, who began working on regional watercourse bank stabilization projects in the mid-1980s and has been active in the creation of new Loop segments for the last five years.

Michael McKisson, publisher and editor of the popular cyclist info and advocacy network, agrees that The Loop makes it easier for people around the city to enjoy a car-free place to recreate and transport. “I see The Loop as a gateway,” comments McKisson, who lives along the south bank of the Rillito River. “Many cyclists start on The Loop and graduate to other types of riding including using a bike for transportation.

“When we moved in it was dirt and cyclists were banned, but now it’s open to cyclists and my daughter learned to ride her bike on it,” he adds.

Fueled by Floods
According to Dinauer, Tucson’s river park system, and ultimately The Loop, started as a result of the 1983 floods. Following this disaster, Pima County undertook a tremendous effort to stabilize the banks of the Rillito, Pantano and Santa Cruz Rivers. Included with many miles of bank stabilization installation was the need for a continuous maintenance access route along the top of the channel banks.

Shaded paths offer green respite and gateways to adjoining neighborhoods. photo: Leigh Spigelman

Shaded paths offer green respite and gateways to adjoining neighborhoods.
photo: Leigh Spigelman

“Over time these long linear maintenance access routes evolved from simple dirt trails to the fully improved riverpark segments we see today,” he explains, crediting the County Administrator along with the Pima County Board of Supervisors, the Pima County Flood Control District and Pima County Natural Resources Parks and Recreation with crafting the Loop and riverpark vision that has been systematically implemented over the last 25 years.

“Citizens of every demographic can enjoy it,” adds Michael Woodward, founder of Michael Recruits talent recruitment agency who recently moved here from Seattle. “Because it covers so much of Tucson, The Loop is a great socioeconomic connector and sets Tucson apart from other cities.”

Refresh and Ramble
The Loop system incorporates many rest stops as well as places to see the artistry, and Pima County’s trail system map, updated in January, outlines the amenities as well as the paths.

A table outside of Tucson's Loop Bicycle Shop, where they extends repairs and special amenities off the Santa Cruz sector. photo: Leigh Spigelman

A table outside of Tucson’s Loop Bicycle Shop, where they extends repairs and special amenities off the Santa Cruz sector.
photo: Leigh Spigelman

One entrepreneurial must-see spot sits along the Santa Cruz route, just north of West El Camino Del Cerro. Tucson’s Loop Bicycle Shop, 3201 W. Diamond St., is an oasis co-founded by Michael Wilkinson along with Sonoran Landscaping owner Robert McLoy. Operating since 2012 out of a metal storage unit just off The Loop along the back side of the Sonoran rock and gravel biz – this respite offers grand vistas as well as bike mechanics, gear, coffee and cold drinks, energy snacks, various local products and very clean restrooms. On weekends and select weekdays, there’s also entertainment and more eats, including Tommy’s On the Road café/food truck, which cooks up breakfast, subs and other dishes.

Dotting The Loop are other interesting rest spots and parking areas. For example, on the south bank of the Rillito just east of Alvernon Way, one station offers crafted flagstone lounge furniture. Near Sweetwater Wetlands, recent path improvements on the east bank of the Santa Cruz between Grant and El Camino Del Cerro also offer a rest area with leaf-themed bike racks, a wildlife themed bench and a decorative trash can.

While each Loop segment has its distinct quality, the granddaddy of them all is the promenade along Rillito. Also the site of the most recent Loop improvements, the Rillito’s north bank path from Campbell to La Cholla (4.5 miles) was just widened and resurfaced. Dinauer notes that this section was the oldest (late 1980s vintage), narrowest and most congested section, and it was long overdue for its facelift, completed in March.

Path Picks

The Loop extends to the washes, with entries for close-to-nature and equestrian enjoyment.  photo: Leigh Spigelman

The Loop extends to the washes, with entries for close-to-nature and equestrian enjoyment.
photo: Leigh Spigelman

With The Loop being a center of gravity for so many, a crossover appeal has emerged, as walkers mix it up with cyclists, who hum alongside joggers, stroller-pushers, dog walkers and septuagenarians. There are unique vistas, eclectic artwork, parks and even historical buildings collected along the natural necklace of trails. There’s the Garden of Gethsemane and the artistic Luis G. Gutierrez Bridge/Cushing Street bridge in the southwest, the Fantasy Island Mountain Bike trails park in the southeast (note: sections here still planned or under construction), and access to Binghampton Rural Historic District to the north. Freestyle BMX riders, sports enthusiasts, hill climbers and soccer players can check the map for additional unique offerings all accessible via The Loop.

Everyone has their favorite route. Dinauer tends to frequent the Santa Cruz and Rillito segments. “During the winter months I probably spend more time on the Santa Cruz because of the abundance of sunshine while in the heat of the summer the Rillito offers some very shady corridors on its many tree-lined sections.”

Velo’s McKisson pinpoints another Rillito spot as his favorite. “There is a section of The Loop on the north side between La Cholla and La Cañada where the trees make a kind of tunnel.”

For Woodward, his favorite section starts at Swan and River, with its parking area and small park, which allows him to travel across the washes in extended directions: “I love the bridges and the vistas they provide – heading north from Swan and River you can go off the tar path and walk the trail, experiencing the wildlife. I also love the River Park Gateway Bridge (just east of Rillito Raceway Park) that lets you cross over the wash.”

Future Talk
Ongoing are Pima County’s plans for interactive mobile mapping applications as well as completion of missing links on The Loop. Two hoped-for 2015 improvements skirt the Pantano Wash (from Craycroft Road to Tanque Verde Road) and the Harrison Greenway (which links the Pantano and Julian Washes).

Dinauer also mentions the Paseo de las Iglesias Phase I (a Santa Cruz river bank protection, ecosystem restoration and creation of a seven-mile linear parkway, along Ajo Way and Silverlake Road), as an active Loop project, with others in the planning stages.

“I think The Loop’s success should tell government officials that people really want a safe and separated bike infrastructure, not just looping around the region, but right though the middle of it too,” observes McKisson. “I’d also like to see more linear parks within the city limits that connect to the outer loop.”

Woodward adds his hopes for more access points, even a Streetcar connection. “There are whole sections off River and Sabino that can’t be accessed unless you live in a development that backs up to the path,” he says. “Another idea would be to have dedicated paths from The Loop connecting to spots where you can catch the Streetcar, really creating a car-alternate route for commuters.”

So many possibilities for The Loop to fulfill Tucson’s sustainability vision, and connect community to its soul.  The adage asks: Is it the journey or the destination? When you explore The Loop’s many dimensions, you discover it may be a little of both.

More information is available at

The Rillito is the oldest stretch, with recent renovations widening and resurfacing 4.5 miles of this trail way. photo: Leigh Spigelman

The Rillito is the oldest stretch, with recent renovations widening
and resurfacing 4.5 miles of this trail way.
photo: Leigh Spigelman

Rodeo Fever Sun, 09 Feb 2014 15:49:11 +0000 Rodeo events start Feb. 15 and transform Tucson through Feb. 23

"Hud" by Lousie Serpa, 1971. photo: Louise Serpa/courtesy Mia Larocque

“Hud” by Louise Serpa, 1971.
photo: Louise Serpa/courtesy Mia Larocque

Not much can outshine this Old Pueblo extravaganza, with its thunder of wranglers and cattle cars that charge into the city to turn Tucson into what it has historically been – the city of the cowboy, comfortable when hooves pound and dust billows.

Whether you’re a greenhorn or a career cowpoke, the amazing combination of athleticism, authenticity, showmanship and history corrals us all for La Fiesta de los Vaqueros, the 89th annual Tucson Rodeo and Parade.

This wild-west rumble draws an estimated 60,000 spectators for the sportsmanship, with 200,000 more turning out for the parade – all spiffed in polished boots and cinched jeans, with trailers of livestock filling our stables, generating more than $15 million for the city and our businesses. Beyond the dollars, top-notch horsemanship is underway: Tucson is the largest outdoor winter rodeo in the world and a key stop in the international pro rodeo circuit. This year’s purse – approximately $360,000 – will attract more than 700 contestants and 1,000 horses, including the biggest names in the business. A custom gold and silver buckle, inlaid with diamonds, will be awarded to the Tucson Rodeo’s top all-around athlete.

Rodeo is a serious sport, confirms Tucson Rodeo General Manager Gary Williams, himself a bull rider on the professional circuit with over 500 rodeos to his credit. Within the historic Tucson Rodeo Grounds on South Sixth Avenue and East Irvington Road, a complete western heritage experience awaits attendees, featuring six rodeos, including the culminating Sun., Feb. 23 finals, which will bring together the world’s top cowboys and cowgirls from the week’s events.

As Williams explains, the arena size dictates the momentum that livestock get coming out of the chute, and as Tucson is one of the largest arenas on the circuit, the Tucson Rodeo delivers world-renowned excitement. Competition all week will include bareback riding, steer wrestling, saddle bronc riding, tie down roping, team roping and bull riding, all sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) with the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) sanctioning the barrel racing. World famous rodeo clown Justin Rumford will be there to wow the crowds, as will the Casa Grande women’s precision riding team called the Quadrille de Mujeres, which will lead off the rodeo in their 35th consecutive performance.

Rodeo mornings will be for the kids, with 6- to 14-year-olds competing in the Justin Boots Junior Rodeo and 4- to 6-year-olds riding sheep in Dodge Mutton Bustin’ events. The afternoons will be for the pro Rodeo activities.

You may not know it, but Tucson is home to a world champion cowgirl – Sherry Cervi of Marana, who set the all-time record in barrel racing just this past December. She’ll compete as will as other rodeo champs including the great local team steer roper Cesar de la Cruz, a multi-time national finalist.

In addition to all the daring saddle bronc and rough stock arena action, the rodeo puts on world-class western shopping, entertainment and culinary experiences. While mainstays like the Silver Saddle Steak House on Benson Highway at Interstate 10 will be overflowing, fans also can rub shoulders with famous cowboys and girls in the Coors Barn Dance tent, the stop for rodeo evening food and live entertainment. Western Marketplace vendors will offer novelties, apparel and goods reflecting working ranch life as well as frontier glam.

“It’s a combination of enjoyment, western pride, arts and the community,” says Williams, who also notes that this year’s collectible objet d’art poster features Arizona artist and cattle rancher JaNeil Anderson. Businesses including Wandering Cowboy and Kalil Bottling are among the local sponsors involved in this Tucson event, with national sponsors including Justin Boots, Coors and Ram Trucks (Dodge).

But the essence of this western experience may be best personified in the parade, the largest spectator event in Arizona. On Thursday, Feb. 20, as is tradition, businesses and schools close and families camp out to cheer on the Rodeo Parade that this year will include over 900 horses, mules and miniatures, 90 buggies and wagons, nine marching bands and more than 2,100 participants.

KOLD Anchor Dan Marries is 2014 Grand Marshal of this massive western Americana celebration, which will process a 2.45 mile route, winding along Park Avenue to Irvington Road and finally collecting at the parade grounds. More than 300 volunteers are expected to support a hardy core of 36 who comprise the all-volunteer Rodeo Committee, and more than 38,000 households are expected to watch it live on the KOLD feed.

Parade entrants come from across the country (we’ve had camels, too), and the El Paso Sheriff Posse will be there with its historic wagon that rode the Butterfield trail, as will Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and City Council representatives.

“It’s our connection to the past and future of ranching, our way of celebrating our region’s tradition,” says Rodeo Committee Chair Bob Stewart, who has been with the Parade Committee more than 11 years. He and other volunteers also manage and staff the Tucson Rodeo Parade Museum, a hidden gem on the Tucson Rodeo Grounds which includes a 1930s sheriff’s adobe livery stable as well as a hangar that retains the original steel frame of the 1919 Tucson Airport, the site of the first municipal airport in the United States. Buckboards used in old movies, exhibits and even an 1863 carriage built for Mexican royalty are all part of this historic hideaway.

La Fiesta de los Vaqueros and all its Tucson Rodeo accouterments are profoundly larger than life. Giddy-up, and dig your spurs into this primo cowboy event.

La Fiesta de los Vaqueros begins Sat., Feb. 15, at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds, 4823 S. 6th Ave. near Irvington Road. Gates open at 11 a.m. The Tucson Rodeo Parade begins 9 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 20. Parking is available at the Tucson Rodeo Grounds. Call 741-2233 or email for fees, tickets and details. Learn more at or

Pascua Yaqui Festival Stirs Up Unique Arts & Fun Mon, 03 Feb 2014 04:51:26 +0000 A detail of "Searching-lightning before the storm," by Councilman Flores, exhibits at the art festival.

A detail of “Searching-lightning before the storm,” by Marcelino Flores, exhibits at the art festival.

Nothing quite captures the Pascua Yaqui’s spirit like a visit to the Nation, set southwest of Tucson in 1,000-plus acres adjacent to San Xavier’s eastern end of the O’odham reservation. On Saturday, Feb. 8, the public is invited to glimpse beyond the Nation’s ceremonial legends via the 2nd Annual Pascua Yaqui Festival of the Arts. The event at Pueblo Park (adjacent to the tribe’s  wellness center at 5305 W. Calle Torim) promises to be a creative mash-up of contemporary Native American arts, entertainment and foods – all informed by the tribe’s complex and rich cultural heritage.

While most of us feel a kinship to the Pasqui Yaqui’s venerated deer dancing, there is more to uncover, as festival goers will learn. Combining pre-Lent community fiesta with authentic native sounds, sights and taste, there will be something for everyone at this showcase which kicks up the fun factor from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

The KPYT-LP 100.3  FM Yoeme radio station, owned by the tribe, is hosting the entertainment, with Station Manager Hector Youtsey and Program Director Gabriel Otero DJing a mix of Tejano, cumbia, classic rock and local sounds. Solid A-talent will rotate through, including The Demons (classic rock covers), Dream Chaserz (hip hop), Intertwine (funk/hip hop) and Vox Urbana (cumbia).

In a multicultural blending, Tony Redhouse (Navajo) will perform hoop dances, while master basket weavers, painters, gourd and jewelry artisans from other regional tribes also will participate. A core of Pascua Yaqui mixed media artists, painters and carvers also will be featured.

Food trucks will be on hand to provide the good eats, while hands-on activities for children will be set up in the park including mural making, led by local and visiting graffiti artists like LA’s Vyal Reyes as well as Rene Strike One Garcia, Renelle White Buffalo and Thomas Breeze.

The Lowrider Car and Bike Show is part of the 2nd Annual Pascua Yaqui Festival of the Arts. photo courtesy of Pascua Yaqui Tribe

The Lowrider Car and Bike Show is part of the 2nd Annual Pascua Yaqui Festival of the Arts.
photo courtesy of Pascua Yaqui Tribe

In a motorized version of art and culture – the Lowrider Car and Bike Show will move festival goers to the street to see Goodtime Car Club, Sophisticated Few Car Club, Swift Car Club, Unidos Car Club, Lowdown Bike Club, Ariza Bike Club, Stylistics Car Club, Dukes Car Club, Nemisis Car Club, Cristales Car Club and others. Cars and bikes will be judged according to the decade in which the vehicle was manufactured. First, second and third place trophies will be awarded along with other awards including Best of Show, Best Paint and Best Interior.

The Tucson Chapter of the Cherry Bomb Dolls (that high-style national non-profit social club that embraces the pinup and car scene while raising funds for local communities) will be there to support the artists and the clubs.

“It’s a multi-cultural community event that celebrates Pascua Yaqui and collective Native American creativity,” says Maria Arvayo, one of the organizers who also is Interim Director of the Nation’s Development Services. The festival is presented in partnership with the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the State of Arizona agency providing partial funding for the festival.

“Arts are an important and often overlooked part of a healthy local economy,” Arvayo comments. “The tribe is seeking to invigorate its own economy and promote artistic entrepreneurship by providing a venue for local native artists to share and sell their work. We are recruiting traditional and contemporary artists, and opening the event to the larger Tucson community.”

The festival serves up a strong assortment of crowd-pleasing music, food and eclectic pueblo vibe in New Pascua’s Pueblo Park, 5305 W. Calle Torim, Saturday, Feb. 8, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Learn more about artists and being part of the Nation’s cultural energy: or (520) 879-6316.

Express Your Inner Horse Wed, 15 Jan 2014 04:42:24 +0000 Tucson Sino Dancers at the 2013 Chinese New Year celelebration at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center. photo courtesy Tucson Chinese Cultural Center

Tucson Sino Dancers at the 2013 Chinese New Year celelebration at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center.
photo courtesy Tucson Chinese Cultural Center

Pass the lucky-money envelopes and deck the halls anew with simply red. In the spirit of inclusiveness, tradition and fun, Tucson soon should be awash with exotic new year revelry.  But don’t forget your saddle, because this is 4711, the Year of the Horse – one of the animals from the Chinese zodiac which rotates annually at this time of the Lunar New Year.

Tradition tells us that those born under the sign of the horse are energetic, intelligent, good communicators and physically strong. Of all the zodiac animals, horses love crowds and entertainment, so expect good social karma to bless Tucson during this most important and longest holiday, which lasts 15 days and begins on Jan. 31.  

While Chinese (as well as Korean, Vietnamese and many other Asian) families around town celebrate by feasting at home and making auspicious, elaborate paper cuts to hang from their windows, the rest of us will want to head over to the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center (TCCC), 1288 W. River Rd., to channel this traditional seasonal festival.

Opened in 2006, the TCCC’s River Road headquarters is the community hub for Tucson’s Chinese-American population, whose legacy in Tucson’s development started along Main Avenue downtown in the 1800s, and grew to include prominence in agriculture, grocery and other businesses across the region.

Now this 15,000 square-foot facility is host to a range of programs and services from business development to Tai Chi for elders, and is a community resource dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Chinese culture across Tucson. TCCC also houses a basketball court, community meeting spaces and a library, but nothing matches the concentrated burst of fiesta-styled energy that infuses Tucson via the center’s Lunar New Year celebration.

This year the public is invited to welcome in the Year of the Horse at TCCC on Sat., Feb. 1. That’s when you can snake your way through a Chinese cultural extravaganza throughout the center’s grounds, enjoying Chinese dancing, folk crafts, songs, instruments, foods and martial arts that demonstrate 5,000 years of cultural tradition. The exquisite Tucson Sino Dance will be there, as will tastings of various Chinese province cuisine. If you’ve not tried the traditional Jiaozi dumplings, local chefs including Wanda Zhang of Oro Valley’s Harvest Moon Chinese restaurant will be preparing the delicacy. (See her recipe below).

You’ll also get a chance to see the Tucson Lion Dancers, accompanied by traditional drums, cymbals and gong, in a colorful ceremony intended to drive away evil spirits and summon good luck. This precision dance requires years of training and a high degree of mental and physical fitness, and Tucson’s troupe (always a show stopper at the Rodeo Parade), has just returned from performing its twists and turns throughout the televised Dec. 28 Fiesta Bowl parade.

California author Sylvia Sun Minnick (who did groundbreaking work on the ethnography of the Stockton and San Joaquin Valley Chinese, and advises the Tucson Center’s local history program) also will sign copies of her new memoir, Never a Burnt Bridge, and present Chinese-American women stories of success and survival at the festival.

Center President Richard Fe Tom says the showcase of regional foods, culture and entertainment attracts thousands.

“We’re celebrating our biggest and most important cultural holiday, and there is something for everyone,” notes Tom, who emigrated as a child from China in the late 1950s. “For those tied directly to our culture, it’s also a time to stay connected with our heritage and our roots. At this time and throughout the year, Chinese Center also serves as a voice to remind ourselves and the community of the many societal and economic contributions the Chinese Americans have made in Tucson and the Southwest. ”

For two joyous weeks after the Saturday celebration, Tucson can expect a ritual of New Year’s activities to continue across the city. According to TCCC’s board member and history committee chair Robin Blackwood, families traditionally will clean their homes prior to the New Year’s arrival, sweeping out old, bad luck and allowing the good luck of the new year to enter. During the commemoration traditionally there’s no cleaning, so New Year’s good luck will not be swept away, she says.

Print“On the final night of the festival there are more dances, feasting, fireworks and displays of the paper lanterns that have brought light and color to Chinese observances for centuries,” Blackwood continues, “with mandarin oranges and tangerines, symbols of abundance and good fortune, given as gifts.”

While the New Year’s festivity grabs your attention, there are other activities throughout the year to help you further meander through Tucson’s Chinese culture and commemorate this Year of the Horse.

The center hosts lunch every Thursday to over 100 seniors, and also offers Tai Chi, lectures, mahjong and good fellowship. The center’s Chinese School teaches Mandarin Chinese and as well conducts classes in song, dance, ping pong, badminton and other arts. The center’s History Program is reaching into historic neighborhoods and including neighbors in its programs. A collection of storyboards telling tales of local Chinese families is on display in the TCCC and is free for public viewing.

Come spring, there will be a celebration of Tai Chi and Asian healthy living, and the summer Dragonboat Festival is highlighted by preparation of zongzi (Chinese tamales) by the Center’s Senior Program. A mid-autumn festival is marked by a youth lantern-design competition and lantern parade.

And so Tucson – a horse town in so many ways – finds one more reason to claim its title. To honor your inner horse, Zócalo suggests you dress in red, make some noise to ward off bad spirits and bring yourself special fortune by displaying fresh flowers. Remember your ancestors with poems written on red paper. Add Gung Hay Fat Choy (Cantonese) or Xin Nian Kuai Le (Mandarin) when extending your New Year’s howdy.

Remember how much a part we really are of this immensely diverse city, with so many treasured traditions still unbroken.

The Year of the Horse Lunar New Year celebration at the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center, 1288 W. River Rd., is Saturday, Feb. 1, from 11 a.m.-3 p.m. General admission: $2; free for children under 12. Year of the Horse Dinner and Fundraiser is Sat., Feb. 8, commencing at 5 p.m. at the Westin La Paloma Resort. The gala features live performance, a silent auction, casino and an elaborate dinner. Tickets are $150 per person, with proceeds benefiting the Tucson Chinese Cultural Center. Call the Center at 292-6900 for additional information.

The Tucson Chinese Cultural Center ( is open from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturdays, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays.

Wanda Zhang (Harvest Moon Restaurant in Oro Valley) will demonstrate Chinese cooking techniques at TCCC’s Feb. 1 Festival. Following is her recipe for New Year’s jiaozi (which makes about 20 to 40 of the dumplings, depending on your wrapping skills, which can take years to perfect):

4 ounces shrimp
4 ounces Napa cabbage
2 tablespoons finely chopped green onion
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 pound ground pork (or chicken)

Pinch salt
1 teaspoon garlic-flavored olive oil
3 ounces chicken broth
1 ounce cooking wine
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon sugar

Pinch white pepper
1 teaspoon oyster sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon ginger
1 package Peking Potsticker Wraps
2 teaspoons vegetable oil (for skillet)


1. Separately chop shrimp, cabbage, green onion and cilantro into very fine pieces.
2. Mix together shrimp, cabbage, green onion, cilantro, and ground pork, then add the rest of the ingredients (except wrappers, oil and water) and mix thoroughly.
3. Take 1 potsticker wrap and using a finger or brush line the rim of the wrap with a thin layer of water (use a spray bottle to mist water on the wrapper if still dry).
4. Place 1 1/2 to 2 tablespoons of the meat and vegetable mixture in the middle of the wrap.
5. Fold and repeat steps 3-4.
6. Fry about six potstickers at a time in a nonstick pan, using 2 teaspoons of vegetable oil at medium heat, until golden brown. Then add a half cup of water and cover pan with a lid (leaving enough of a crack on the lid to allow the steam to boil off). Continue cooking about 10 minutes. The wrap will appear to bubble away from the meat when done.

Source: Wanda Zhang, Harvest Moon Chinese restaurant, Oro Valley

Eight Stars a-Shopping Mon, 02 Dec 2013 17:42:21 +0000 The Holiday Everything Guide

What will your true love give to you in this month of holiday everything? These suggestions from local taste makers help expand definitions of holiday and get everyone in the zone.

Here’s the deal: Because style is so individual, what matters most in holiday gifting is staying mindful of your own flair, at the same time thinking outside the box for that special something.

So it is with these eight local notables from a long list who have climbed into the ranks of Tucson taste makers without trying. It takes a little digging to unearth treasures, but these masters of local style have done the hard work for us, curating a delectable collection of good stuff that goes to the edge of what’s on fire now. Because savoring tradition is one of the best gifts to give this season, our taste makers also share tidbits about creating their own traditions and personal sense of holiday meaning.

From locally-distilled whiskey to hand-sewn leather bags, you can totally feel the love that went into this tasty list. It will be hard to decide which you prefer — the joy of starting a tradition, receiving a locally-sourced curio, or giving one of these fabulous finds.

Anne-Marie Russell

Anne-Marie Russell
Executive Director, Museum of Contemporary Art-Tucson

Russell’s list is plucked from a mix of high style sleek to lushly traditional.

  • Russell likes gifts that support local endeavors and also have value year-round – thus she suggests a membership to Tucson Community Supported Agriculture ( or any of our local museums.
  • Desert-folk rocker Howe Gelb ( has just released “The Coincidentalist” album, and Russell recommends a vinyl version of this low-key indie Americana classic. Order it from Gelb’s website.
  •  Shelve the sangria….for winter imbibing, Russell suggests that you shake up the season’s alchemy with a Tucson-distilled Whiskey del Bac from Hamilton Distillery ( It seems everyone is talking about the latest project of Arroyo Design furniture maker Stephen Paul, who is crafting mesquite-smoked whiskey and un-aged raw whiskey from his micro-distillery on North Hoff Avenue.  The whiskey will be offered soon at downtown hot spots, so the suggestion is to get on the website’s mailing list to learn about availability before the holidays.
  • Perfect Picks from MOCA: If pressed for a MOCA gift shop ( gem she suggests a piece of Nick Tranmer’s celadon pottery, Dave Sayre artist t-shirts, Nicki Adler jewelry and Alexander Girard dolls. Call the museum if you want a heads up on what’s in stock at the gift shop before you visit (520) 624-5019.

Old Timey Traditions to Treasure
Growing up, holidays for Russell were spent in the woods in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. But now she associates this time of the year with the desert, and most of the fun and pleasure revolves around cooking and eating: “My fiancé and I have a new holiday tradition that we’ve established over the last few years. We make a country pate with pork shoulder and chicken thigh, tons of garlic, sage and thyme. We bought a hand-turn meat grinder at a junk store and we make enough to give to all of our favorite people… our favorite vegans get wine.” Playing pool at The District also is part of Russell’s tradition, as is celebrating the solstice by pulling out the telescope for what she calls “perspective and grandeur.” 

Patricia Schwabe

Patricia Schwabe
Owner, Penca

The holiday visions that dance in Patricia Schwabe’s head are definitely of the family kind – rich with tradition and filled with the spice of local and handmade goods.

  • Like other taste makers, Schwabe heads to Bon, MAST and MOCA for favorite gifting. But she also recommends University Avenue’s Ooo! Outside of Ordinary ( for its eclectic and stylish collection of gifts, fashion, home décor and jewelry.
  • If you have not shopped at the utilitarian and awesome Too Strong (, Schwabe says you should. The guys with the sewing studio downtown on South Sixth Avenue make jeans, shirts and jackets sourced with Pima cotton and Arizona copper rivets, but Schwabe’s most favorite item is the Too Strong chunky leather messenger bag.
  • Perfect Pick from Penca: Since food is a gift that always delights, Penca ( creates a chef’s dinner as a holiday food gift above-the-ordinary, with good wishes folded into every course.

Old Timey Traditions to Treasure
With five children, Schwabe and her husband Ron still follow the tradition of a family shopping night the evening before Christmas Eve: “Each kid suggests something they would like to receive for Christmas… the others have to listen! Later we divide ourselves in groups. It’s big yet fun logistics. When we get home, each kids gets a chance to wrap their gifts and each year they look forward to surprising each other.” And of course they cook, affirms Schwabe, who also recommends families hear the Boys Chorus at Sabino Canyon. “My mom and I try to cook everything possible, from Bacalao a la Vizcaina, bunuelos, tamales de mole and capirotada (Mexican bread pudding, kind of).  We then celebrate Christmas Eve, following my Mexican tradition and on Christmas Day.”

Kristen E. Nelson. Photo: Sarah Dalby.

Kristen E. Nelson
Executive Director, Casa Libre en la Solana

This Tucson poetess and Casa Libre founder channels her literati instincts into a few suggestions for the book lovers among us. 

  • At least one of Nelson’s picks may be hard to come by, but she suggests anyone searching for rare, out-of-print books head to The Book Stop ( or Bookman’s ( Nelson’s spent years hunting for an affordable copy of Sophie Calle’s “Exquisite Pain.”
  • To anyone who likes to read, Nelson recommends “Troubling the Line,” a transgender and genderqueer poetry anthology co-edited by TC Tolbert, and “The Sin Eater,” a short story collection by Elizabeth Frankie Rollins. Both of these books should grace everyone’s bookshelves and you can find copies at Antigone Books (
  • Because Casa Libre,, is on Fourth Avenue, Nelson says she is surrounded by the best local places to find unique holiday gifts. Beyond longing for a bottle of Stephen Paul’s mesquite-smoked Whiskey Del Bac  her favorite shop these days is Pop-Cycle (, with its assortment of recycled artwork from local artists. Nelson particularly likes the vintage leather cuffs they carry and the succulents planted in dinosaur toys.

Old Timey Traditions to Treasure
This is the first time in about a decade Nelson will be in Tucson for the winter holidays, and she’s looking forward to spending time with her partner and some good friends to start new Tucson traditions: “Perhaps a trip to the trampoline park Get Air (, sitting on the beautiful new outdoor patio at Che’s Lounge ( on a Sunday and listening to their acoustic musicians, or hiking Pima Canyon early in the morning on New Year’s Day.” Nelson also is looking forward to spoiling her brand new honorary niece, Vivian Charlotte Saterstrom, will piles and piles of presents. Don’t tell, but Vivian will be getting books, clothes and toy trains.

Ben Johnson
Filmmaker and Tohono Chul Park’s Curator of Exhibitions

Ben Johnson is just as adept at selecting gifts as he is at curating the Tohono Chul’s exhibitions. His deep appreciation for nature mixes happily with modern urban style in these selections.

  • A favorite go-to gift haunt is the Native Seeds SEARCH ( retail store on Campbell Avenue, with its wonderful selection of beans, teas and chiles as well as artisan crafts by native peoples of the region. This time of year is great to think about soups and chili, and in that direction, during a recent visit Johnson sampled the shop’s chiltepin water, which he recommends.
  • Sarnoff Art Supply ( and Summit Hut ( are two additional shops for spot-on local gifting. Johnson is eying Sarnoff’s drawing pens and sketchbooks, while the day packs at Summit Hut also have caught his eye.
  • Perfect Pick from Tohono Chul ( The new Small Works Exhibition features works by over 130 local artists, all smaller than 12 inches in size and less than $250. Stepping outside of Tohono Chul Park, Johnson is a huge fan of the museum shop at the Tucson Museum of Art ( and its selection of artwork and crafts by local artists.

Old Timey Traditions to Treasure
Although Holiday Nights at Tohono Chul is a favorite tradition, Johnson and his wife Frankie also make a point of spending the holidays outdoors, hiking: “When we lived on the East Coast that always meant a shivery huddled hike under grey skies, but we were dedicated! Since moving to Tucson, it’s been ever more our calling to go for as many hikes and picnics as we can manage during the holiday season. Hiking up into the Tucson Mountains or Santa Catalinas, and finding a rocky outcropping with a vista to have a picnic lunch while talking over our year is a perfect way to celebrate.”

Patricia Katchur. photo: Valerie Gallowa

Patricia Katchur
Proprietress, Yikes Toys & Gift-O-Rama

As expected, the Yikes proprietress’ brand of gifting runs on the curious side, and Tucson certainly offers her a banquet of the unusual for her shopping.

  • Katchur encountered an intriguing, mysterious animal treasure last year from Broadway Village’s Bon Boutique ( and has been dreaming of it ever since. Not necessarily a holiday decoration, the Wolf Head ornament can grace a corner or shelf year-round as an object of conversation. Of course, everything at Bon is exquisitely beautiful for gifting, says Katchur.
  • Katchur also recommends a visit to Etherton Gallery ( for amazing works of art. Her favorites: Mayme Kratz (of Phoenix) or Kate Breakey (of Tucson)
  • Memberships to Loft Cinema (, MOCA or Tucson Museum of Art also make much appreciated gifts.
  • Perfect Picks from Yikes ( For some endearing, pop culture gifting, the shop offers hand-tooled and painted wallets by Tucson artisan Allegiant Brand Leather/Tony Pickup. There’s also the super-cute and French Neko Wood Pull Along Toy, Watercolor Collages by Tucson artist Valerie Galloway, and Vegetable Candy (in a tin, in carrot, green bean and corn flavors) for stocking stuffers.

Old Timey Traditions to Treasure
Hanging out with her family of friends is Katchur’s most treasured tradition. “Friends are the best gift in the world, and I am so lucky to have such wonderful and embracing beings in my life. My friend Sharon Holnback invites me every season to her Triangle L Ranch in Oracle. It is wintery and cold, and the main house is heated by an old, adobe fireplace. We play Yahtzee and Scrabble; tell tall tales and true tales; and merry-make among our group of oddball friends. I stay for a few days and commune in the high desert. A fantastic way to end the year and kick start the new one.”

Erin Cox

Erin Cox
Master seamstress, Southwestern Belle Alterations and Design

Re-purpose, restore is the mantra of Tucson seamstress Erin Cox, formerly of Preen and now proprietress of her own alterations shop. Food is on her mind for memorable, one-of-a-kind gifting.

  • With so many delicious restaurants popping up all over downtown, Cox believes anyone (including herself) would be thrilled to receive a gift certificate to any of these establishments. New favorites at the moment are Proper (, Reilly’s (, and Penca (, although her long-standing darlings are Little Poca Cosa ( and 47 Scott (
  • One gift that that she never tires of is a good candle, and Cox recommends the naturally-scented, 100 percent vegetable wax candles made by Izola and found at MAST (
  • Vintage-loving Cox also recommends a trip to Desert Vintage (, particularly to source a lovely selection of Native American jewelry. Cox recommends the collection of Fred Harvey sterling and turquoise cuffs at the Fourth Avenue shop.
  • Perfect Picks from Southwestern Belle ( If a friend has out-dated garments that deserve remaking into new fashion, Cox is offering gift certificates. For ornaments or bookcase baubles, Cox also hand-beads old horseshoes with Czech and vintage glass, mixed with sterling and African beads. Call (520) 955-3719 for an appointment.

Old Timey Tradition to Treasure
Erin’s holiday ritual involves preparing three or more dishes that she and her husband have never cooked before. “We wake up in the morning and start prepping immediately. Once the dishes have been completed we graze throughout the evening while opening up a gift or two in between courses. Last year’s dinner was perfectly roasted lamb ribs with rosemary, French mussel bisque with lavender baguette, and an asparagus salad.”

Joe Pagac, right.
Photo: Wendy Van Leuveren

Joe Pagac
Muralist, portrait and performance artist

Much acclaimed muralist Joe Pagac shows fans a series of personas via his large-scale art – it’s  no wonder that there’s a bit of freestyle funk and local love thrown into his holiday gift-giving.

  • For one-of-a-kind booty Pagac says there is great gift fodder in Fourth Avenue’s Pop-Cycle. “My friend Ashley recently gave me a glittered-up photo of a child holding a chicken and smoking a cigarette mounted on a tiny cabinet door. Perfect!”
  • Although not a man who craves many material things (Pagac says he has all the fur pillows he needs), Pagac has had his eye on a “Keep Tucson Shitty” shirt for a while now. You may have heard of the KTS movement (with origins of the phrase traced per Tucson Weekly reporting to 1990s graffiti in the Fourth Avenue tunnel.) Local artist Donovan White ( has most recently pressed the phrase on oh-so-Tucson t-shirts he sells around town and direct from his Facebook page.

Old Timey Traditions to Treasure
You’ll often chance upon a Pagac mural by just wandering downtown, and a similar meander is what Pagac says is his holiday tradition: “I really enjoy filling a thermos with spiked apple cider and wandering Winterhaven, or running it when they do the organized runs through it. I also always ‘plant’ my dead tree in an empty lot at the end of the season. A lone pine really spices things up when driving around town. More people should do this.”

Gabriel Ayala

Gabriel Ayala

This is the time of year when wish lists magically appear. If there’s a Kris Kringle out there, Native American Artist-of-the -Year and local guitarist Gabriel Ayala wants you to buy him a saxophone. In return he has some suggestions for your holiday gifting.

  • Finding worthwhile holiday gifts is easy, says Ayala, and you skip the malls and give Fourth Avenue love instead. Ayala, without wanting to single out one shop, feels the avenue is the city’s best option for holiday bazaar in terms of artisan eats, home decor and vintage threads. You’ll find your perfect functional pieces of art and worthy gift options here, where Ayala shops often: “I’ve bought small, random home decor inexpensively. Nothing like supporting our own entrepreneurs…buy local and make sure our community is thriving.”
  • Perfect Pick from Gabriel Ayala: Ayala ( is offering a boxed gift set of five CDs at a special discount. His “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” was released in 2007 and can be purchased via the website or directly through Ayala (

Old Timey Traditions to Treasure
If you’re looking to stroll among thousands of holiday lights with your hot cocoa and sugar cookie, Tohono Chul Park offers one of Ayala’s favorite traditions. Holiday Nights at the Park are held the weekends of Dec. 6-7 and Dec. 13-14, from 5:30 p.m.-8 p.m. Ayala loves the holiday season for the mood that it puts people in: “I’m very fortunate to perform at Tohono Chul Park for the past 5 years now, and this year I’ll be performing there on Dec. 6 and 7. Seems like people just tend to be a little nicer around the holidays ‘cause of the holiday spirit.”




Where L’Chaim Illuminates Sun, 01 Dec 2013 02:26:20 +0000 Head to Downtown’s Jewish History Museum to learn local Jewish lore that goes beyond this month’s Hanukkah candles and Christmas-Day Chinese dinners. 

The front of the Downtown Jewish History Museum. photo courtesy Jewish History Museum

To delve into the sometimes-odd-but-always-fascinating corners of Southwest Jewish history, you need to turn onto the road less traveled: Go south on Stone Avenue, past the police station and the cathedral, to the simple, classical revival structure that was the original synagogue in the Arizona Territory, in fact the first house of worship for Jews throughout the Southwest.

There’s lots of what you might call the stranger side of Tucson Jewish folklore there to be discovered.

Before 564 S. Stone Ave. was re-opened as the Jewish History Museum in 2001, iterations as a Mexican radio station and a flophouse collected in the 1910 building’s long and storied history. Abandoned after Temple Emanu-El moved further east from Downtown in the 1940s, the building thankfully survived and is now a restored showcase of one-offs and collections depicting a rich regional Jewish history.  The museum specializes in found objects — amazing stuff that somehow made its way out of owners’ hands and into this house of treasures.

Take, for example, one of the first 48-star flags flown in Tucson (February 14, 1912). Mercantile businessman Charlie Gold flew the flag over his shop on Congress Street, just west of Church Avenue. There’s also a Tucsonan-owned pocket watch with a Hebrew-inscribed time-face that was given to Jewish soldiers who served the Kaiser during World War I. And there’s an 1897 centavo Mexican coin, which was in the time capsule placed in the cornerstone laid at the synagogue in 1910.

A timeline of western Jewish lore and the personalities who shaped it surround the meticulously-preserved original woodwork and pews as well as the cases of memorabilia. The Jews of the late 19th and early 20th century territorial Tucson were an interesting mix of miners, bankers, merchants and businessmen prominent in the entertainment business. Some of these Jewish pioneers include Drachman (earliest Tucson Jewish businessman), merchandiser Zeckendorf (and nephew Steinfeld), Mansfeld (founded first public library and helped found UofA), Levin (founded first entertainment district, whose descendants include Linda Ronstadt), and Strauss (Tucson’s first Jewish mayor). Gabby Giffords and her family also are highlighted (Gabby’s dad Spencer became a bar-mitzvah at Temple Emanu-El, when it was still on Stone Avenue, and just last month Gabby, a member of Congregation Chaverim, was honored with the Museum’s 2013 Jewish Heritage Award.)

This picture of Charles Strauss – the first Jewish mayor of Tucson, with his son – can be viewed at the Jewish History Museum. photo courtesy Jewish History Museum

Local volunteers conduct enthusiastic, informative tours, regaling visitors with tales of territorial Jewish oddities. One story worth listening to involves Southern Arizona mine owner Mark Lulley, the scrappy proprietor of Wandering Jew Mine who captured bear cubs in the Santa Rita mountains. Lulley apparently made a saloon wager which called for him to walk the bears down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House if McKinley was re-elected in 1900. The January 1901 newspaper clip of McKinley’s inauguration, and also Lulley’s presentation of the Southern Arizona bears to the National Zoo, are on display through December at the museum.

Because you can’t look at memorabilia all the time, the museum also is ringleader of a number of quirky Tucson happenings, including trivia and Brooklyn nights. It also masterminds the annual Christmas Day Chinese Dinner; however, this year the overworked and tiny volunteer museum staff has decided to give the formalized Chinese-food-for-Christmas dinner a rest. Would-be yentls, however, are encouraged to continue the tradition via their own serendipitous gatherings at Chinese restaurants across the city on Dec. 25.

And instead of Christmas day sesame chicken, museum staffers hope you’ll join them New Year’s Day, when a museum gathering will offer 2014 New Year refreshments, a fashion show and the kick-off of a new exhibition.

Combining Judaism and art, the Jewish History Museum’s exhibition will feature Ketubahs, beautifully-decorated Jewish marriage contracts written in Aramaic, and wedding dresses. Even Tucson has a long tradition of creation and signing these formal contracts that are ceremonial works of Jewish art and the January exhibition, with its collection of dresses and related items dating back to the late 1800s, should be perpetually absorbing.

“You don’t have to be religious to enjoy it,” promises Dr. Barry Friedman, the hardy Jewish History Museum president and all-around advocate.  “The museum is a carefully-preserved collection-turned-public treasure that’s relevant, incredibly diverse and phenomenal fun.”

In October, in collaboration with the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, the museum opened The Holocaust History Center – a walk-in, floor-to-ceiling installation that’s a poignant yet ultimately inspirational depiction of over 130 Holocaust survivors who made Southern Arizona their home.

Photos and digital displays immerse the visitor in a tiny space, opened adjacent to the Jewish History Museum in a portion of a partially-restored 1880s territorial purchased by the museum.

There is a Jewish custom of placing stones rather than short-lived flowers on graves as a sign of permanence. A bowl of small stones sits at the entrance to the museum’s Holocaust center, for all who wish to leave such an offering for the survivors.

Open to the public Wednesday-Thursday, Saturday-Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m., and Friday from noon to 3pm, the small museum ( and its carefully-curated homage to Tucson Jewish lore helps you travel back in time. There’s everything to surprise you, with displays that treat Tucson history with respect and thorough documentation. A visit here also will make you laugh. Your eyes will be opened and so will your heart.

Entrepreneurs in a Cultural Urban Kitchen Tue, 12 Nov 2013 02:44:13 +0000 A common denominator fuels body, spirit and economy.

Marie Bampamluolwa demonstrates FuFu flour tin at Tucson Meet Yourself.
photo by Samantha Angiulo

There’s a lot to talk about around Tucson’s culinary table, with so many finding their passion in locally-nourished baked goods, suds, cheeses, spirits and condiments. Food is the universal facilitator these days. But when cooks, as Michael Pollan says, stand “squarely between nature and culture,” food sovereignty is ignited, adding the spice of tradition to Tucson’s kitchen, in surprising ways.

Dishes & Stories, a refugee and immigrant women’s culinary enterprise, has entered the conversation as a new social purpose organization focused on food culture and women’s self sufficiency. This is a joint venture between the Iskashitaa Refugee Network and Crossings Kitchen, the sole proprietorship of Priscilla Mendenhall, a Washington D.C. transplant, foodie and career non-profit professional who has transitioned to social enterprise.

In its start-up phase, Dishes & Stories is a catering service with a globally-inspired, locally-sourced menu prepared by the refugee and immigrant women who are co-creating the enterprise. “Featuring a menu of our mother’s recipes,” Mendenhall adds.

Culinary Connector
There’s synergy between Mendenhall’s Crossings Kitchen and Iskashitaa, established by Dr. Barbara Alice Eiswerth in 2003 as a sustainable foods harvesting and redistribution program and a language and employment skills support network for refugees transitioning to life in Tucson.

“With food as the common denominator, we’re helping refugees and immigrant women in a strange land use their skills and cultural practices to build community and livelihoods,” says Eiswerth, who founded her large-impact organization after visiting and working in Malawi and returning to see food waste in Tucson.

After organizing youth mapping programs to identify locations of produce going to waste in Tucson, Dr. Eiswerth received a grant from the United Way to begin regularly harvesting with refugees, then redistributing to refugee families and other Tucson organizations to assist families in need. Thus, Iskashitaa (the Somali Bantu word for “working cooperatively together”) was born.

Each year, approximately 1,000 new refugees of 20 nationalities make their way to Tucson, and Iskashitaa reaches hundreds to help them rebuild businesses, share stories, learn English and, importantly, harvest local fruits and vegetables from cooperating farms, backyards and neighborhoods, to be re-envisioned within healthy recipes that help refugees retain tradition and activate a sustainable place for themselves in the Tucson’s local food system. Iskashitaa produces a line of 30 specialty food products, including marmalades and salad dressings, featuring locally harvested produce.

What Dishes & Stories/Iskashitaa does is catalyze opportunities for education, employment and entrepreneurship, comments Mendenhall: “For us, ‘catalyze’ is the key word, Our roles as founders of Dishes & Stories are to leverage the financial, structural and logistical means of building a sustainable business which, within five years, will be a cooperatively managed and owned social enterprise.”

Activating the Enterprise
The start-up phase of the Dishes & Stories catering service already is serving up at local venues including the Tucson Museum of Art and during the annual Tucson Meet Yourself event. With its changing array of participants from Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Congo, Sudan, Bhutan, Somalia, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mexico and El Salvador, Dishes & Stories is a moveable feast, according to Mendenhall.

Brittany Svoboda (of the UA Enactus Club, left), Manerva Bashta and Kelzi Bartholomaei (of Mother Hubbard’s Cafe, right) preparing a platter of an Egyptian dish called koshari at the Dishes & Stories Cooking Retreat.
photo by Melissa Gant

The organization, utilizing rented while actively seeking a permanent commercial kitchen space, is beginning a basic culinary art training program while working out of the large Rincon United Church of Christ kitchen on Craycroft and Broadway. The Dishes menu is inspired by the traditional recipes of the refugee and immigrant women participating, and items range from tortilla sambusas (Somali wraps) and falafel to pumpkin stew, sautéed amaranth and chicken-mushroom curry. Mendenhall says that cheese pairings, desserts and marinades also feature seasonal Iskashitaa specialty food items.

Critical to the program is the storytelling component that surrounds all dishes featured on menu. “The stories of these dishes are told by the cooks and staff as they host and serve,” Mendenhall explains, “and the stories will also be incorporated into cooking classes and cultural celebrations. For many refugee and immigrant women, the utensils and cookbooks they bring from home help encapsulate their stories into their dishes, in ways that words cannot possibly convey.”

Dishes & Stories has a business plan which progressively expands catering, adds a food truck and ultimately opens a 40-seat restaurant, which will also be sales venue for Iskashitaa specialty food items.

“Knowing the challenges of any food service, and the complexities of providing programs tailored to women living on the edge, we are moving incrementally,” says Mendenhall, who notes that culturally-inclusive training in pre-employment (in cooperation with YWCA Tucson), business management, success coaching and financial literacy will be implemented as business operations continue to demonstrate success. All of these programs will be designed to accommodate the daily logistical and financial challenges experienced by women who face multiple barriers to creating their own self-sufficiency, says Mendenhall, who adds, “We have a formal framework in place for cooperative management and financial independence within five years.”

Healthy Communities, Supporting Local Systems
Through food preservation workshops, formal cooking retreats and the catering events, refugee women are sharing their cooking experiences and knowledge of traditional foodways as they envision theirs and Dishes’ future.

Mendenhall recounts a recent September night, when one refugee cook from Upper Egypt, Manerva Bashta, watched with both tears and smiles as hungry attendees to a Tucson Museum of Art event relished her dolmas (stuffed grape leaves) and burek (savory puff pastries).

“This was the first time Manerva had prepared food professionally, the food of her family and homeland,” Mendenhall says. “She came to the U.S. seeking asylum as she fled the persecution of Christians in her town. Here, she studies English, applies for jobs, shops carefully at Babylon and Caravan markets, takes care of her grandchildren and spends hours waiting for buses, especially on weekends. In Egypt, she taught business. Dishes & Stories provides a venue within which Manerva can renew confidence in her business and culinary skills.”

Faeza Hililian (center) and Dishes & Stories founder Priscilla Mendenhall (right) at Tucson Meet Yourself Culture Kitchen.
photo by Samantha Angiulo

Mendenhall also explains that as part of her involvement, Manerva will assist in routinely helping to calculate ingredient costs, the preparation time and price points for each dish.

Dishes & Stories recently received a grant from the Women’s Foundation of Southern Arizona to initiate a culinary and vocational English as a Second Language (ESL) training curriculum and begin developing menu items. Both will integrate the rich food traditions of our refugee women co-creators, says Mendenhall.

Acting as a Dishes & Stories fiscal sponsor, Tucson Meet Yourself (TMY) helped incubate Dishes at last month’s festival, when Mendenhall led an exploration of ethnic food traditions and good eats in the TMY Cultural Kitchen. At the full demonstration kitchen in downtown’s main library plaza, panel presentations were interspersed with group demonstrations, which included five Dishes refugee women as featured demonstrators.

“Many of these women are in the United States for just a short time but they’re eager to bring the traditional dishes of their homelands to our community,” says Mendenhall. “From my perspective as coordinator of the TMY Cultural Kitchen, the festival and Dishes & Stories, as well as Iskashitaa, are part of the same Tucson movement to honor the diverse, family-rooted foodways of our community.”

While cooking at TMY, the women conveyed their stories, including how eating with the hands honors the cook, the food and the earth. As stews of greens simmered, audiences asked questions about odd uses of local fruits now in season, including processing dates into vinegar or syrup. The scent of curry and mixed spices lingered. Everyone was well fed; everything was delicious.

In the end, it was just the way a kitchen should be.


Heart of the Harvest
This tiny treasure of a cookbook was recently published by Iskashitaa and funded by the Pima Arts Council. It contains cross-cultural cooking and canning tips, as well as global recipes making using of local ingredients. To purchase this little gem for $13, go to

Cookbook Excerpt:
Rwandan Grapefruit Marmalade
(recipe by Venantie Uwitonze, Rwandan refugee)
Yields 8 ½ pints

4 lbs grapefruit
3 cups sugar
2 cups water
3 bananas
2 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped.

1. Peel grapefruit, removing pith, membranes and seeds
2. Place grapefruit in large pot, adding ingredients.
3. Bring to boil then lower heat to simmer for approx 45 minutes, or until thick.
4. Place in sterilized jars, following canning procedures (in cookbook).


Forging a Utilitarian Classic Mon, 04 Nov 2013 02:25:54 +0000 The art of the blacksmithing returns to the Tucson Presidio.

Blacksmithing is disciplined, detailed work, needing strength and dexterity to stoke the fires and hit the molten metal with the correct pressure.
Photo via Wikimedia Commons/Scott Sandars

On Nov. 9, the unmistakable scent of hot metal will waft through the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson, re-introducing the lore of the smithy to Tucson.

That day, from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., the Arizona Artist Blacksmith Association (AABA) holds a metalworking event at Presidio San Agustín, a mix of demonstration for the public and technique-honing for the professionals. Modern-day blacksmiths will hammer away at the red ore in the reconstructed fort at the corner of Washington Street and Court Avenue, keeping tradition alive and showing crowds how frontier smithing was a cornerstone of settlement survival in Tucson.

Blacksmithing was critical to this dusty northern outpost of New Spain when the presidio fort was built in the 1780s by the conquistadors. Smiths were the armorers who repaired weapons for military and their trade also served settlers by shaping metal shoes for horses and mules, forging nails, hardware or tools for building, and repairing essential equipment, such as wagons and plows.

The AABA has conducted demos state-wide since the association’s founding in 1981, for both the public and also for the 235 state-wide members, 44 of whom are based in Southern Arizona. Although many members are hobbyists, there is a strong core of practicing blacksmiths still at work in Tucson. Two Tucson metal smiths and AABA members, Bill Ganoe and Eric Thing, helped initiate this Tucson Presidio demonstration.

Tucson’s blacksmithing legacy has roots in the 11-acre presidio downtown, probably to the west of City Hall and south of Alameda, at the site pinpointed by archaeologists as the first blacksmithing operation. In the 1850s, a ring-shaped, 1400 pound meteorite (still the largest of its kind in the world) was used as an anvil at this site. Although the Smithsonian now houses this meteorite, its replica is on display at Flandrau Science Center on UA’s campus. More modern-day Tucson smithing lore is found at 724 N. Main St., where Wm. Flores and Son, Tucson’s contemporary first family of practicing blacksmiths, has been stoking its forge since 1929. The family’s first shop was on Court Street.

Storied Hands
Blacksmithing was always hard work in the west. With new iron expensive and hard to come by, very little was produced in colonial Mexico, and iron that was shipped to settlers from across the Atlantic Ocean needed to be hauled up to New Spain by mule train from Veracruz. The Industrial Revolution sped the demise of the handcraft, and blacksmithing may have become extinct if not for the founding of the Artist Blacksmith Association of North America (ABANA) in 1973.

The AABA, a chapter of the North American organization, continues its demonstrations and workshops in an effort to document the stories and techniques of the master craft. Harold Hilborn, a Tucson blacksmiths and founder of Holy Hammer Ironworks, doesn’t want the craft to fade into history, and meticulously preserves old-style handwork as do many of his fellow association members.

“This is why we hold our demonstrations for the public, to keep the forges lit and burning, and help the craft stay alive,” says the skilled smith.

Blacksmithing is disciplined, detailed work, needing strength and dexterity to stoke the fires and hit the molten metal with the correct pressure. It’s a lifetime practice that’s also an art.

Functional Craft
According to Hilborn, blacksmiths put a little bit of themselves into each piece, while staying true to historic principles of craftsmanship and functionality.

Adrian Legge at a September AABA demonstration in Camp Verde.
Photo by Barry Denton

“We take tools of and techniques of the past and use them to sculpt functional art for homes or business,” says Hilborn. For metal art admirers, Hilborn wants to clarify an often incorrectly-used term: “The metal security iron you see on homes and business is ornamental iron, not wrought iron. Wrought iron is a type of metal with very little carbon in it, and around World War II manufacture or production of it stopped, as alloy steel became more prevalent. Back in the day, ornate decorative iron was produce by a blacksmith shop but it was largely forged wrought iron bars with cast iron elements.”

Modern blacksmiths still produce this type of work today but use low-carbon steel alloys for art that ranges from railings and decorative furniture, to fireplace enclosures, sculpture and lighting. “A main difference between a modern blacksmith and a fabricator/welder is that we use a forge anvil and hammer to shape our products, to give them texture and life,” Hilborn explains.

Demo Details
The pros will get a chance to work with master craftsman Mark Aspery – certified with Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, the UK-based guild that begun in London in 1324 – in a two-day Joinery Workshop the same weekend as the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson demo. Skills (ability to perform basic forging techniques and to hammer for several hours each day) and separate registration for the Nov. 10-11 workshop are required.

While the blacksmith demonstrations are underway on Nov. 9, onlookers also will have a chance to purchase gear and books, as well as browse a tailgate with association members selling mostly blacksmithing-related items and tools. An afternoon drawing for an “Iron-in-the-Hat” raffle (of forged art and functional items on display during the demonstrations) will benefit the AABA general fund.

Head to the Presidio San Agustín del Tucson, 133 W. Washington St., Nov. 9 to see hot metal hammered and a classically-wrought, utilitarian art. Admission to the demonstration is free to the general public, but there is $20 fee for AABA members. Donations will help benefit the Presidio rebuilding effort.

Safety goggles may be de rigueur, of course.

More details on the  Nov. 9 event are at For information on the Nov. 10-11 Joinery Workshop and Arizona Artist Blacksmith Association, visit