Glass Act

Tom Philabaum — Tucson’s own glass artist extraordinaire who recently retired from glassblowing — shares 10 of his favorite pieces, and explains why they resonate with him.

A life-long artist, Tom Philabaum was fortunate to study in the country’s first glassblowing program at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. After graduating, he started Tucson’s first glassblowing studio in 1975. Since 1985, Tom and Dabney Philabaum have been creating, selling and promoting glass art at Philabaum Glass Gallery & Studio near Downtown. Though Tom retired from a 50-plus year career of glassblowing at the end of 2018, he will continue to paint and fuse glass, and the Gallery will stay open, showing glass art from more than 30 artists from all over the country.


4”h x 3”w Blown Glass








1978- Present Shown: Reptilian Bag Vase * 15”h x 7”w x 6”

“I began exploring the Reptilian pattern in 1978, as an intriguing process with varying outcomes. It became the most long-lived and recognizable body of work in my glass career. It can still be seen in our Gallery in the form of paperweights, perfume bottles, bags, bowls and vases. I never tired of this series as it took on a life of its own and was always evolving and changing.”





2018 20”h x 57”w x 1”d Fused glass with paints & metals on wood base

From the Fused Glass Collage Painting Series “Back to painting again! My latest series involves fusing glass with paints and metals. This current triptych draws inspiration from painters Marsden Hartley and Max Beckman, emphasizing black outlined forms and intense, bright colors. I create these fused glass paintings with a mixture of pure intention and happy accidents.”



1981 9.5”h x 5”w x 4”d Blown Glass Histology Series

“While in graduate school at the University of Arizona, I began exploring biological themes, and was given images of bugs and cells that had been electromagnetically scanned in a UA laboratory. I first painted these images on the surface of ceramic sculptures. In my glass studio, I created images with glass shards and cane on a hot plate to apply on the surface of blownglass vessels and sculptures. Dabney and I enjoy this bag vase every day in our home.”






2011 16’ x 12’ Backlit by LED lights Dalle de Verre – 1”-thick cut tiles of glass joined with epoxy resin Lobby of Likins Hall – University of Arizona

“I still find my installation at UA uplifting. Looking up at the 16-foot-high panels of illuminated glass inspires me, and my intention is to inspire the students who live in this residence hall.”



2010 28”h x 26”x 22”w Blown glass that has been cut, polished & joined with adhesives From the Precarious Rock Series

“My first drive through Texas Canyon clobbered me with the indelible image of precarious rock formations. That inspiration returned to me during my sculptural exploration of shape-making techniques whose consequent was not a vessel. This large semi-transparent sculpture transforms from dark to light, like a sunrise.”





1971 9”h x 5”w Blown Glass Blown at University of Wisconsin Glass Lab

“In 1971, my glass teacher Eriks Rudans told me the story of witches’ balls as they relate to the Salem witch hunts of the 1600s. Glassblowers were inspired to make open-bottomed orbs to hang in windows to magically absorb evil energy. At that time, he cautioned me that one cannot sell “magic.” Regardless, I made hundreds of these mystical, spiritual objects to sell at a craft fair. Just as I finished setting up, a gust of wind destroyed all of the witches’ balls. Lesson learned!”





1997 13.5”h x 6.75”w Blown and painted glass From the Graal Series

“My excitement in discovering automotive enamels that were compatible with hot glass opened up a new avenue to employ “the narrative.” My love of drawing and painting was renewed. The graal glass technique formed the canvas for my subjects, which included “The Blind Leading The Blind,” “Drinking With The Devil,” and homages to other artists, such as this example dedicated to a painting by James Ensor.”





2007 38”h x 16”w x 7”d Cast Glass From the Kiln-Cast Series.

“I began with a wet clay mold, and rhythmically smacked my hand prints over the entire surface to the beat of Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five,” as if I were playing a drum. Making a mold of the resulting clay positive, colored glass was then melted into the negative cavity of the mold. Though everything I make is handmade, this is the only piece where the touch of my hands remains visible.”




21”h x 7”w Blown glass with scavo treatment From the Scavo Series

“As a ceramic artist, I was drawn to the surface texture of wood ash glazes. Translating this to glass, I discovered the Italian technique of scavo, a chemical attack that alters the glass surface from glossy to rough. I liked that. For me, scavo represents a look of instant antiquity.”






1990 18”h x 9”w Hot Coiled Glass From the Handbuilt Series

“My early interest in ceramic hand-building transferred to glass by making slabs and coils of molten glass, and wrapping them into a basket-like form. With no functional value, this series merely celebrated my exploration of working glass in a non-traditional method. The strength and teamwork necessitated by these complicated pieces taught all of us in the studio the value of rhythm, timing and choreography.”





*Currently available for viewing at Philabaum Glass Gallery & Studio

A Wall-Executed Plan

This project began with a need for privacy for the homeowners and turned into an award-winning full-on renovation.

By Debby Larsen | Photography by Colin Catron

Allen Denomy of Denomy Designs tackled multiple challenges for this landscape renovation at a foothills home. The complex project, which entailed the construction of several different new features, won an award from the Arizona Landscape Contractors’ Association in 2016.

First up in the project was solving a privacy problem with a nearby property. A rammed earth wall consisting of five, nine-foot walls, spaced one foot apart was built to create a visual screen. Not only was the wall functional, it added artistic interest to the new patio.

Each wall is two feet thick, constructed of a mix containing 90 percent native soil and 10 percent concrete. Integral color was added to the mixture in many shades, the wavy patterns mimicking a mountain silhouette. An LED strip for nighttime illumination was recessed inside an opening in the center wall.

The pool’s shape, interior finish and tile were not altered. However, the original coping and Kool Deck were replaced with concrete pavers that simulate natural flagstone.

The steps and the patio near the spa were expanded. A dramatic ground-level metal fire feature was added above the pool. Curved blue glass tiles were installed on the spa overflow section, resulting in a bright focal point. Three synthetic turf areas offer green relief from the flagstone patios and became play spaces for the dog.

The homeowners enjoy cooking outdoors, and a new kitchen — with granite countertops, a cantilevered bar area, and a built-in grill and smoker — was an important feature of the renovation.

Elsewhere in the re-do, custom designed metal trellises help to screen pool equipment, and a purple plant palette became a focal point. Lantana, Texas ranger, Texas mountain laurel and lilac vines added a touch of color to the landscape plan.

A cactus-inspired sculpture from Stone Cactus Water Features, from a local artist David Weinert, incorporates soothing sounds. Queen and ponytail palms gave the yard a touch of the tropics.

The homeowners have told Denomy, “Now we want to spend more time in our new, improved space!”

HG Source:
Allen Denomy, Denomy Designs,

A rammed earth wall consisting of five, nine-foot walls, spaced one foot apart was built to create a visual screen.



Festive Feasts

Celebrate the holidays in style with these special dining events at resorts around town.

The holiday menu at El Conquistador Tucson features slow-roasted leg of lamb. OPPOSITE: El Conquistador’s festive desserts include a holiday Yule log and Christmas sugar cookies.

For some folks, the holidays just aren’t the same without days of prep and hours in the kitchen. For the rest of us, there are several simpler options if you and the family prefer to let someone else do the work. Your go-to special-occasion spots around town also are offering traditional, as well as innovative, fare for the holiday season. Here’s a look at some of the menu selections at local resorts.

El Conquistador Tucson, A Hilton Resort

On the northwest side, El Conquistador Tucson also will tempt Tucsonans and tourists with a special holiday brunch on Christmas Day. There’s a reason locals have long counted on this particular spot for holiday celebrations — when a resort dedicates a whole ballroom to brunch, you know they mean business. Expect seasonal dishes, along with the Southwestern-inspired fare of Executive Chef Jan Osipowicz. This year’s signature offerings will include a slow-roasted leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic, sea salt-crusted prime rib, and baked salmon en croute. Holiday goodies such as spiced chocolate yule log will be in good company among the myriad other desserts and treats that the resort’s pastry crew bakes for this brunch. To keep the holiday spirit going after feasting, head to the resort’s lobby to marvel at a life-sized gingerbread house, which is open to the public. This is the fourth year El Conquistador has unveiled this specially crafted creation for the holiday season, bringing new meaning to “sweet digs!” 10000 N. Oracle Rd., (520) 544-5000,

Loews Ventana Canyon

Loews will continue a longstanding tradition of bringing cheer to locals and visitors alike with a lineup of festivities, including free community events for all ages, and special fare in the resort’s restaurants. For the entire month of December, visit the resort on Fridays and Saturdays for their three-course afternoon Holiday Tea. If not already part of your family’s traditions, expect to add it after leisurely sipping tea or champagne, and nibbling on scones, finger sandwiches, and special holiday pastries. In addition, Executive Chef Ken Harvey of the Flying V Bar & Grill goes all out to create special dinner menus for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, while the Canyon Café puts out quite a spread for Christmas brunch. 7000 N. Resort Dr., (520) 299-2020,

At PY Steakhouse, house-brined and smoked Kurobuta Ham is a seasonal specialty, with creative sides including grilled pineapple.

PY Steakhouse

PY Steakhouse may be best known for their perfectly aged, prime cut meat and fresh seafood, but they also take great pride in their seasonally inspired menus. And for December, Executive Chef Ryan Clark incorporates pumpkin in his dishes, using those locally harvested from Tucson’s Pivot Produce. Chef Clark works his magic with this Chef’s Seasonal Selections menu, taking the familiar squash to new heights with courses of roasted pumpkin bisque, seared scallops served with pumpkin risotto and pepitas, and finishing off with pumpkin fluffernutter for dessert (made with pumpkin-peanut mousse, whipped marshmallow, and bread crumbs). On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, in addition to their regular menu service, PY Steakhouse will offer a few more holiday-inspired specials. First is an herb-salt-rubbed prime rib roast with rosemary jus and cream horseradish, accompanied by mashed potatoes and butter-roasted baby carrots. Also available will be house-brined and smoked Japanese kurobuta ham with grilled pineapple jam and a fresh-juiced cherry reduction, alongside butter whipped potatoes and winter vegetables. 5655 W. Valencia Rd., (520) 324-9350,

The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa

The special menu for The Westin La Paloma’s Azul Restaurant includes spicerubbed sterling salmon (above) and heirloom squash bisque served in roasted acorn squash.

Another time-honored Tucson tradition for sumptuous meals, La Paloma’s fine dining restaurant Azul offers a special holiday dinner menu this year. Among other tried-and-true seasonal dishes, look for Executive Chef Russel Michel’s artful Southwest-infused offerings with that extra festive twist. Year-round, Azul’s menu reflects the seasons, highlighting locally sourced ingredients. For December, Chef Michel puts a spotlight on one of his very favorite flavors with an aromatic heirloom squash bisque served in roasted acorn squash bowls. Another special entrée is sterling salmon dusted with a house-made 12-spice adobo rub, served with an herb and pomegranate pico de gallo. Keeping it all well-balanced, a special dessert also will be available — a caramel spiced-pear cheesecake trifle. 3800 E. Sunrise Dr., (520) 742-6000,

Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort

Head to this picturesque and historic spot in the heart of the Catalina Foothills to dine in style. Every year, Hacienda del Sol’s indulgent Christmas Day Buffet features an array of seasonal favorites and traditional fare. Choose from stations ready to serve up roast turkey with stuffing and thyme-andgarlic gravy, prime rib, or country ham. Dive into a seafood display or a variety of savory salads and sides like minted green beans, roasted beets with orange and horseradish, and cinnamon-cayenne sweet potatoes. With so many options, it may be difficult to leave room for dessert, but make the effort! Of course, there will be fresh donuts, cheesecake and fruit tarts, but to get into the season indulge in gingerbread mousse, figgy pudding, and chocolate cupcakes with peppermint buttercream. 5501 N. Hacienda del Sol Rd., (520) 529-3500, TL

Bacon-wrapped pork loin (above) and salmon en croute are holiday specials at Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort.

A Day In The Life Of An EMT

On TV and in the movies, EMTs are usually portrayed at the most dramatic moments in their jobs. But what is a shift really like for a firefighter/emergency medical technician?

We turned to the Tucson Fire Department to find out.

By Elena Acoba  |  Photography by Shelley Welander

This article follows a shift with Firefighter/Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) Cam Welander.

In 2017, the Tucson Fire Department dispatched medical emergency responders 72,138 times. That accounted for 78 percent of more than 92,000 emergency calls to the department.

All TFD firefighters get 150 to 190 hours of training as EMTs. They learn how to assess medical and trauma issues, take vital signs and provide basic life support (BLS) such as emergency wound and trauma care and giving oxygen and some medications.

Paramedics take at least 1,000 hours of training, including classes in anatomy and physiology. That allows them to provide advanced life support (ALS), including using a heart monitor, administering multiple medications, performing advanced airway procedures and transporting patients to hospital emergency rooms.

Sometimes EMTs will perform the same treatments as paramedics in extreme circumstances when a paramedic isn’t available, such as in rural areas.

One shift with firefighter/emergency medical technician (EMT) Cam Welander early this year showed the variety of calls that require medical help, from true emergencies to non-critical first-aid advice.

Welander’s day at Station 4 near Grant Road and Interstate 10 starts with station upkeep and exercising. Two hours later he responds to the first call of the day: A man who fainted in a doctor’s office.

He and two other firefighters take the ladder truck to the office, lights and sirens on. The older man with several chronic health issues is conscious when the crew arrives. Using their own equipment, the firefighters determine that his blood pressure and pulse are normal, both as he is seated and when he stands up.

Asked what he’d like to do, the patient opts to go home. The firefighters caution him to seek medical help if he continues to feel bad.

Welander, who has logged 12 years as a firefighter, puts in an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. “work” day to train, keep up on professional news, read and act on memos, drill and maintain the station and equipment. Although every firefighter is an EMT, Welander is designated at his station to make sure that stores are stocked with medical supplies and that medical emergency equipment is functioning.

A mid-afternoon call sends him, the rest of the ladder crew and the paramedic truck with two more firefighters to check on an unresponsive woman. They find an underweight 30-year-old breathing at a rate of six breaths per minute — the normal is 12 to 18 — with an elevated pulse and low blood oxygen.

They administer oxygen and help with ventilation using a bag-valve mask, also called a manual resuscitator, which is enough for her to “sort of” come to, Welander says.

“She didn’t look healthy. She was super skinny,” he adds. “The whole way she presented herself, she ended up being transported in advanced life support with the medics.” That means a ride to the hospital emergency room. On the way, information about the woman’s condition is transmitted to the ER by computer to prepare hospital staff for her arrival.

Medical emergency responders are guided by directives issued by Dr. Terrence Valenzuela, an emergency room physician with Banner — University Medical Center Tucson who also serves as the TFD medical director.

Instead of getting on the radio to get direction from hospital ER personnel, “we function under what is called administrative guidelines,” says TFD Capt. Julian Herrera, who is in charge of medical administration. That saves time and it standardizes how responders handle calls.

Firefighters drill on these directives and use them to quickly assess each situation.

For the unconscious woman, the team checked multiple vital signs, including blood pressure, heart rate, pupils, gripping and skin elasticity. They noted the circumstances—in this case, the patient was lying down with low respiration rate — and took a quick medical history.

Sieminski, Welander and EMT Jake Connor take the blood pressure and temperature of Kristin, a TFD cadet.

“We trust our numbers and the way the patient is presenting,” says Welander. “Based on what we find, we have guidelines that specify whether the patient needs to be transported in an ALS or basic life support ambulance.”

After 5 p.m., Welander’s work day is over and after dinner it’s down time until a call comes in. And one does: a fall injury. Four firefighters are let in by a man to a disheveled apartment and find a woman on the floor. One of her legs is wrapped in a bloody elastic bandage. And she is drunk. “She’s laughing and joking and moving her leg around,” Welander says.

The responders learn that the woman fell down and heard a pop. As they examine the injury, they find indications of a compound fracture of her tibia and fibula, both of which are poking through her skin.

The crew calls for a paramedic unit, which helps with treatment and drives her to the hospital. Detail matters when calling 911 regarding a medical emergency. Because the call about the woman was for a fall injury with no more detail, EMTs were sent first to assess the situation. Had someone mentioned broken bones that broke skin, says Welander, a paramedic unit might have been called out first.

“The caller needs to describe the scene as accurately as possible,” says Herrera, “and the dispatcher will make a determination of who to send.”

Mental health calls are some of the most challenging because the emergency health system isn’t set up to handle them. It’s clear that someone who has overdosed or done physical harm needs to go to an ER.

“But if someone has high anxiety or is very angry, it’s not necessarily true that the emergency room would be able to give the most help,” Herrera says.

Paramedics can drive patients only to ERs, so a crisis center is an extra ride away.

“We don’t want to just leave (patients) where they are because they need help,” he says, “so the emergency room has always kind of been the fallback.”

Before Welander’s shift is over, he and his crew tends to a man whose bug bite five days earlier is still swollen, itchy and tender to the touch. The EMTs recommend he take a pain reliever, use an anti-bacterial cream and visit urgent care if it gets worse.

Welander says he “loves his job” as a Station 4 firefighter. It’s the home of TFD’s technical rescue technicians (TRT) team. It responds to complex situations such as structural collapse, swift-water rescue, automobile extraction, rope rescue and confined-space rescue.

Firefighters rely on their training as a well-oiled unit to handle these calls. “You feel like you’re part of a Super Bowl team,” Welander says. “Say you pull someone out of a mangled car. That’s an awesome feeling. It’s great anytime we go on a real call.”

But frequent calls from one location for issues that are not medical emergencies “wears on you,” he adds.

EMT Andy Amos, Sieminski and Welander carrying their equipment.

There are many stories of these types of calls: People who are homeless and want to get out of extreme weather; the poor who can’t afford to see a doctor or urgent care; the person who frequently calls 911 for non-emergencies.

Many 911 calls can’t be solved by emergency medicine: a drug addict who wants to get clean, an elderly woman who needs help with every-day tasks.

“Many times people call 911 because they are at a loss on what to do or how to solve their problem,” says Herrera.

This frequent over-use and abuse of 911 causes “compassion-fatigue” among firefighters, says Capt. Brian Thompson.

“It’s one of those things when you’ve seen the same person out in the field three or four times and they are not taking the steps needed to make progress,” says Thompson. “Our crews are feeling it.”

To help these frequent callers and reduce the number of non-emergency calls, TFD implemented a program designed by Assistant Chief Sharon McDonough. The Tucson Collaborative Community Care (TC-3) program started in January 2016. Thompson is its team manager.

Four firefighters in the program take referrals from field crews who feel a person could benefit from the program. It also takes referrals from a database that tracks frequent 911 callers.

A TFD crew had to rescue a man who had fallen in his bathroom, Thompson reports. The crew, seeing his home in major disrepair, referred his case to the TC-3 team. As the man recovered in a skilled nursing facility, he got a visit from the team, which discovered that he also didn’t have transportation to buy groceries.

The team called the non-profit Community Home Repair Projects of Arizona to fix the water heater and evaporative cooler. Workers also installed a new bathroom sink to replace the one damaged during the rescue. TC-3 also made arrangements for a grocery store to make home deliveries.

“When he returned home, things were much better than when he left,” Thompson says. “This gentleman has been able to enjoy his family home and a better quality of life.”

TC-3 works with many agencies such as Pima Council on Aging, El Rio Community Health Center, Interfaith Community Services, Salvation Army and Sister Jose, as well as private companies that offer home health, hospice care and other services. They help TC-3 coordinate care that will reduce emergencies and, subsequently, 911 calls.

“The city of Tucson has a wide range of valuable resources,” Thompson says. “TC-3 navigates these individuals to the appropriate resources that fit their needs. It is then that we see a reduction, if not a complete stop, to the 911 super-utilization.” 

In The Loop

Path, Present, Future!

What links 30 public parks, has nearly four-dozen pieces of public art and is likely only one mile from your house? It’s The Loop!

By Kirsten Almquist

Riders modeling Loop jerseys on a commercial shoot along the Rillito River.

If you’ve driven across a bridge spanning one of metropolitan Tucson’s major (frequently dry) rivers, chances are you’ve seen glimpses of a paved path that runs alongside the wash, bristling with cyclists, runners and folks walking dogs. This is Tucson’s not-so-hidden treasure and, after years of development, it’s finally finished. Each day as the sun begins to peek over the Rincon Mountains, outdoor enthusiasts make their way to some portion of this 131-mile multi-use path.

A dog-walker along the north side of the Rillito River Park path, a particularly scenic portion of Pima County’s The Loop.

Interestingly enough, recreation is not what first inspired the creation of “The Chuck Huckelberry Loop.” Pima County began building cement bank protection along the banks of the Rillito and Santa Cruz rivers after the mighty floods of 1983. What the city soon discovered was that nearby residents were using the unpaved maintenance access paths on top of the banks to walk their dogs, go for a run or ride their bikes.  That’s when inspiration hit.   

What started as a good idea, turned out to be a great idea. The county began creating river parks with paved trails. It didn’t take long for these parks to become widely popular. As the years passed, every time the county constructed new sections of embankment along major canals, they built more parks and multifunctional paths. One of the largest, finest and most popular public recreational trails in the country was being blazed right through the heart of Tucson.

On a regular basis, Pima County residents use The Loop as part of their commute and exercise routine. But locals aren’t the only ones taking advantage of this park-centered perk. Over the past decade, The Loop has become a major tourist attraction. Some visitors to Tucson may scratch their heads in confusion as they stare out at our dry riverbeds. However, come monsoon season, they’re shocked to see these parched veins flowing with water, and delighted by the soothing scent of the dampened creosote bushes as they traverse the many miles of pathways.

Rain or shine, for those keen on outdoor recreation, The Loop provides yet another reason to explore Tucson. In February, Pennsylvania residents Clay Shaw and Karen Mitchell made a five-day-long drive to the Old Pueblo in search of winter refuge and to bike outdoors on recently completed paths. “We wanted to get away from our winter woes and just spend a nice relaxing month in Tucson because we knew it was beautiful, having been here before,” says Mitchell. “The Loop is really well done. The signage made it easy to figure out where we were. I love the fact that you just follow the river and you don’t get off on a bad shoot.”

Jon Jegglie, a resident of Sierra Vista, discovered The Loop nearly three years ago. He makes it a point to use it on weekends when he and his wife are visiting. “My wife drops me at Thornydale and Orange Grove and goes shopping. I walk along The Loop up to the QT on Craycroft and she picks me up there,” he says.

Jennifer Brown and Sandy Ballis ride their horses along the The Loop as it runs along the Rillito River

In addition to luring tourists and locals, The Loop has played a significant role in the art community, as well as the success of local shops, restaurants and farmers markets. For Jessie and David Zugerman, owners of Tucson Hop Shop, locating the brewery in the Metal Arts Village near the path was a no-brainer. “We knew the cyclists would be a huge target demographic for our business,” says Jessie. “Proximity to this major cycling artery was a cornerstone in finding a location.” The pair feels lucky to have found a spot less than a mile from The Loop entrance at Dodge Boulevard.

The Rillito Farmers Market is another business that has benefitted. Although many market shoppers still arrive by car, The Loop provides safe passage for those who wish to bike there. Numerous visitors to the market make a spontaneous stop because they spot the market while biking or walking.

After picking up some local goodies from the Rillito Farmers Market and grabbing a brew from Tucson Hop Shop, “loopers” can take in the spectacle of more than 90 pieces of public art located along the river park paths. Some are obvious, even dramatic, statements designed to reflect the character of the location or enhance a neighborhood’s distinctive identity. Others are more subtle and serve to complement the appearance of more functional features of the linear park such as bridges, noise walls, railings and benches.

Artist Stephen Fairfield submitted the first of his popular “Batty Biker” sculptures in response to a request for concepts incorporating bats, bikes and bridges. “Pima County sought to have sculptures along The Loop where people would go to see the roosting bats fly out at dusk to feed, and come back at dawn to rest up. They also wanted the sculptures relevant to passersby on bicycles,” Fairfield explains. “I kind of have a cracked sense of humor and it isn’t hard for me to find whimsy in everyday things, hence the bat and the bike series.”

Whether you’re using it for restaurant hopping, vegetable shopping, or just enjoying the great outdoors, there’s still one question that may be circling your mind: is The Loop complete? The answer is, yes — but it’s not finished. Future projects to make it bigger and better are already in the planning stages, including improved river park pathways in certain areas, as well as adding sections in Marana and Oro Valley. The county will widen paths in some places and increase native vegetation in others. Look for more improvements and path extensions over the next decade. TL

Editorial Note: Thanks to Pima County Attractions and Tourism for providing information and photos for this article.

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Tucson Lifestyle

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