From the Barrio Santa Rosa, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to the beautiful El Presidio district, Tucson is home to history and culture, but its contemporary art scene is not lagging behind. Many private art collections, as well as public institutions dot the city, showcasing art from Arizona and beyond. We take a look at ten of the best spaces and galleries to see modern-day art in Tucson.
Specialising in museum-quality fine art photography, Etherton Gallery has been around for three decades and continues to thrive as one of the best photography galleries in the region. Its roster of exhibited and represented artists attests to this status: from Ansel Adams, the father of nature photography, to Diane Arbus, the queen of the portrait, and many new and well-known artists from across America, a visit to Etherton is a spectacular cultural experience without the pretence. Drop by for one of the regular exhibitions – past shows have included the mixed media Under the Violet Sky, which focused on the colour purple, the self-explanatory and representative Masters of American Photography and Seeing in Silver, with works by Harry Calahan and Ralph Gibson.
Etherton Gallery, 135 S 6th Ave, Tucson, AZ, USA, +1 520-624-7370
Madaras Gallery is the brainchild of Diana Madaras, a popular artist whose work and dedication to the local art scene has earned her the title of Best Artist in Tucson for four years running. The gallery – with its two locations – is a showcase of Diana’s paintings, decorative pieces inspired by life in Arizona, fauna and flora, as well as local landscapes. Specialising in painting with watercolours and acrylics, she has, over the years, developed a recognisable style where colour is a dominant aspect of each new work. Diana’s personality is as bold as her paintings, so drop by and have a chat about her practice as an artist.
Madaras Gallery, 3001 East Skyline Dr, #101, Tucson, AZ, USA, +1 520-615-3001; and 1535 East Broadway, Tucson, AZ, USA, +1 520-623-4000
The cool, laid-back vibe at Solar Culture defines this music venue-cum-art gallery, where an eclectic schedule of music concerts complements the funky exhibition space. Solar Culture’s unique atmosphere stretches to the several artists’ studios and one bigger gallery, whose walls are literally covered with paintings from floor to ceiling, no matter their quality or value. This fantastic smorgasbord of creativity in all shapes and forms is an experience in itself, far detached from the formality of the conventional art space. Drop by with a bottle of wine, look around the gallery and enjoy an evening concert by one of the many unusual bands hosted at Solar Culture.
Solar Culture, 31 E Toole Ave, Tucson, AZ, USA, +1 520-884-0874
DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun
Surrounded by mountainous, desert landscape, and located in a National Historic landmark, DeGrazia Gallery is no ordinary gallery: it sits within the Mission in the Sun building, home to a beautiful, colourful altar of Our Lady of Guadeloupe – a place of pilgrimage and contemplation. Built in the 1950s by Ettore ‘Ted’ DeGrazia, the exhibition space narrates the story of native culture and Arizona’s past with six permanent collections as well as rotating exhibitions, all displaying the stunning, bold work of the eponymous artist and founder who combined personal and local stories with powerful brushstrokes and an instantly recognisable, assertive style much akin to European impressionism. Although DeGrazia passed over three decades ago, his notorious spirit lives on in this former studio and residence.
DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, 6300 N Swan Rd, Tucson, AZ, USA, +1 520-299-9191
Spacious and well-curated, Davis Dominguez Gallery exhibits high-calibre art from the state and beyond in its historic warehouse location a stone’s throw from the Tucson Museum of Art. With a programme dedicated to representing quality, past exhibitions have included a show inspired by 20th century abstract art – with input from a solid range of painters and sculptors, including Pennsylvania-born artist Josh Goldberg and Barbara Jo, a talented sculptor working with organic forms and wood. Soon entering its fourth decade, Davis Dominguez continues to grace Tucson with its roster of talented artists and organise some of the best regular exhibitions in the city.
Davis Dominguez, 154 E 6th St, Tucson, AZ, USA, +1 520-629-9759
Conrad Wilde Gallery supports emerging artists with the aim of promoting their work and making it accessible to the wider public. Much of the work hung and exhibited at the gallery is abstract in nature, but styles vary, making for a panorama of colour and shape. Emily Silver, for example, is a Californian painter inspired by the desert, whose works combine geometry and texture to suggest land; local artist Emilia Arana’s paintings convey a sense of balance through complexity of layer and harmony of colour; and Deborah Kapoor, an encaustic artist and sculptor, has played around with surface and form during exhibitions across the USA
Conrad Wilde, 439 N 6th Ave. #171, Tucson, AZ, USA, +1 520-622-8997
Metal Arts Village
The Metal Arts Village is situated in the Ft. Lowell Furniture and Art District and could be described as the heart of the neighbourhood, home to several art galleries and studios. The metal artisans who work here come from different backgrounds, but their collaboration is loyal and makes the village a tight-knit community, from Tucson-born Joe Brown, who works with stone, to Lynn Rae Lowe from Colorado and her metal creations. Every full moon, the Metal Arts Village hosts an open studios night, which is a good opportunity to visit all the exhibition spots in one go and meet the artisans themselves. Don’t forget to drop by the village’s own coffee loft, Big Moe’s Coffee Emporium.
Metal Arts Village, 3230 N Dodge Blvd, Tucson, AZ, USA, +1 520-975-9792
Center for Creative Photography
Opened in 1975, the Center for Creative Photography is the University of Arizona’s own photography research facility, archive and gallery, home to countless iconic images by America’s master photographers. In addition to being an unmatched resource for the photography historian, the Center also puts on captivating exhibitions for the amateur fan. Expect to see some of the biggest names of this creative medium, accompanied by informative materials and framed by skilled curation; past shows have displayed the work of Mexican post-revolution photographer Lola Alvarez Bravo, American legend Charles Harbutt and assemblage artist Wallace Berman, among many others.
Center for Creative Photography, 1030 N Olive Rd, Tucson, AZ, USA, +1 520-621-7968
Another institution that’s part of the local college, the University of Arizona Museum Of Art has worked hard for over half a century to develop its comprehensive collections of early and modern art, which includes pieces by the likes of Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Edward Hopper. Art students also get an opportunity to exhibit here during the annual Faculty of Art show, but exhibitions have been varied and exciting, and displayed, among others, surrealist pieces, Robert McCall’s works and the designs of Anthony Burgess. As an academic institution, the UAMA places much emphasis on research and education, making the museum an invaluable source of information on art in the Tucson area.
UAMA, 1031 N Olive Rd, Tucson, AZ, USA, +1 520-621-7567
Museum of Contemporary Art
Founded in 1996, MOCA Tucson is a public art space dedicated to showcasing new trends in contemporary art, and that makes it the only of its kind in the city. While exhibitions are modest in size, they are expertly curated and change on a seasonal basis; Japanese art legend Takashi Murakami and American abstract painter Peter Young are just two of the greats who have shown their work here. Come prepared to experience the cutting-edge of today’s art, installed in the beautiful loft-like space of Tucson’s former fire department. A programme of intellectually stimulating events and talks accompanies most exhibitions.
MOCA, 265 S Church Ave, Tucson, AZ, USA, +1 520-624-5019