Uncovering new facets of Tucson’s arts scene is one of the joys of living in Southern Arizona. Many of those gems are found at The University of Arizona in the form of exciting concerts, art exhibitions and other events.
The pandemic restrictions closed the door on those explorations for more than a year. Now, those have mostly lifted, and we can once again seek out the jewels in UArizona’s arts scene. It’s a treasure for which the University would like to be better known.
“I’ve only been in Tucson for three years,” remarks Andy Schulz, the dean of the University of Arizona’s College of Fine Arts, as well as the Vice President for the Arts for the University.
“What I’ve discovered is there’s a lot hidden in plain sight. How do we amplify that, and how do we work collectively to figure out what the arts identity of Tucson should be? I resist the idea that we should aspire to be the next Austin. We should think about what’s here and how we can most capitalize on it,” he adds.
UArizona is at the heart of the arts in more ways than one. The campus is home to the Stevie Eller Dance Theater, Crowder and Holsclaw Halls, Marroney and Tornabene Theaters, Centennial Hall, and a number of other venues.
Additionally, the visual arts are well represented on campus with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona Museum of Art, student galleries, and the Arizona State Museum. The literary arts are honored at the Poetry Center, and the UArizona Library’s Special Collections, among other areas.
UArizona also has connections with just about every arts group in the city, in some capacity.
“We’re trying to foster that local arts ecosystem,” notes Schulz. “We partner in one way or another with pretty much every organization across the city.”
Along with hosting joint presentations, UArizona provides performance space for a number of organizations. And there’s another direct connection, as well. Reflects Schulz, “Arizona Arts Live’s Tucson Studio program has provided a pretty amazing platform and showcase for local musical talent. It makes you realize just how rich and vibrant the music scene is here. It’s been interesting for me to see how many of the artists have had connections to the university. They’re graduates of our programs, and not always in the arts.”
The same is true in the visual arts, as Schulz comments. “Pretty much every major muralist that you can think of, like Jessica Gonzalez, or Danny Martin, they’re actually alum. Many of the people in TMA’s Biennial exhibition have connections to the university, as well.”
The visual arts will be well represented on campus this fall with an important exhibition — The Art of Food — opening at the University Museum of Art on Oct. 24. “It will feature works in a wide variety of media from a really amazing collection owned by Jordan Schnitzer and his family foundation,” explains Schulz. “Andy Warhol, Damien Hirst, lots of major figures. It uses an artistic lens to examine the role of food and its relationship to communities and cultures. With our UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation, it’s a great theme for Tucson, and you can imagine the many partners, not only across campus, but whole the region. That’ll be a cornerstone event throughout the fall. There will be tons of programming associated with that because food is really a theme that extends in every direction, and we’ve been working on this for a couple of years.”
Additionally he observes, “We’ll have a lecture this fall with pioneering installation artist Judy Pfaff, whose work is in a zillion major collections. She’s won MacArthur and Guggenheim awards and lots of other things. That’s part of our VAS (Visiting Artists and Scholars) lecture series.”
Movie buffs waiting to see the work of the next Errol Morris should head to The Loft Cinema this fall. “We’ll again be doing our School of Theater, Television and Film event — What’s Up Docs? — featuring student documentaries,” reveals Schulz.
Music fans have a lot to look forward to, with concerts put on by students and faculty at the Fred Fox School of Music; Tony Awardwinning musicals such as Hamilton, The Band’s Visit and Wicked presented by Broadway in Tucson; and an exciting mix of performances from Arizona Arts Live. Schulz singles out one standout for fans of classical music. “Arizona Arts Live will present the Kronos Quartet. They’ll be here November 11th, and have a residency week, with events on campus and in the community. We’re very excited to have them back.”
The School of Dance will hold their showcase Premium Blend this fall, as well. To find out the dates for the dance concerts, or any campus arts events, as well as purchase tickets, there’s an easy one-stop site — Arts.Arizona.Edu.
“Arizona Arts [under the website Arts.Arizona.Edu] is this new division that we created to establish a unified gateway for the arts at the university, take some of that mystery out of it, and make visible and accessible all of the amazing things that are going on in the arts across the university,” Schulz says. “Arizona Arts brings together the College of Fine Arts with UAMA, CCP, Arizona Arts Live, and really provides a platform for a more transparent and accessible experience for the campus, and community members.”
Visitors to the site can search it in any area of interest, making it simple to find out about say, jazz concerts, movies screenings, or lectures that relate to current events.
“The arts play a role like athletics — kind of a front porch for the university,” Schulz sums up. “So many people experience the university through the arts. We really see that as a key role that we’re playing. It goes hand in glove with our educational mission.”