You can’t exactly measure creativity, any more than you can measure the inspiration that leads to creativity. But there’s no doubt that both live abundantly in Tucson. Just look around. Or listen, taste, watch, read, and experience the vibrant arts and culture of Tucson. Learn to love how this distinct Southwestern city attracts so many artists, and celebrates the joy of creativity.
The awe-inspiring desert landscape is surely a crucial building block of the city’s art scene. The multicultural history of Tucson is another. The thriving traditions of Native Americans and Hispanic culture continue their influence today. Add a leading public university and a free-spirited, DIY artistic community and you have a diverse and flourishing cultural destination. Come and explore, or create for yourself.
Come and explore, or create for yourself
MUSEUMS & GALLERIES
Galleries and studios are everywhere in Tucson, and you can see working artists all around the city showcase their work each year during the Fall Open Studio Tour—one of the country’s largest self-guided tours of artist studios and creative work spaces. To visit artist studios year-round, take a trip to the Warehouse Arts District for a robust variety of art styles.
Don’t skip the museums: The University of Arizona Museum of Art made national news in 2017 with the return of its priceless Willem de Kooning painting Woman-Ochre painting. Also on campus is the renowned Center for Creative Photography, home of the Ansel Adams archives. Downtown has the Tucson Museum of Art, which showcases its extensive collection of pre-Columbian and Latin American art, and the Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson with its bold programming and exhibitions housed in a repurposed firehouse.
Downtown Tucson is a canvas in itself, with a series of prominent murals creating a captivating and unexpected artistic convergence in the city’s core. Muralists like Rock Martinez, Joe Pagac, Steve Farley, and Danny Martin have made Tucson a public art hub.
A BOOK-LOVER MECCA
The literary arts have earned Tucson a sterling reputation as well. Acclaimed writers like Edward Abbey, Barbara Kingsolver, Charles Bowden, Jim Harrison, and Leslie Marmon Silko have found their inspiration in Southern Arizona.
Each March, book lovers congregate for the Tucson Festival of Books, where roughly 500 authors in every genre imaginable speak on panels, give readings, and sign books for fans.
Founded in 1960, with Robert Frost reading at the dedication, the UA Poetry Center houses one of the world’s largest collections of poetry. Throughout the year, the Poetry Center hosts public readings in its Reading and Lecture Series, which has presented more than 1,000 writers since 1962.
The Tucson Humanities Festival each October presents a series of authors, scholars, and films to explore human issues, ranging from the contemporary to the ancient, around a central theme.
PERFORMING ARTS IN TUCSON
Founded in 1967 as the Arizona Civic Theatre, the Arizona Theatre Company continues to thrive in downtown Tucson, staging both classic and contemporary shows in the Temple of Music, its gorgeously refurbished 1917 Spanish Colonial style home.
Elsewhere on the performing arts scene: for 31 years, Borderlands Theater has focused on the diverse voices of the U.S.-Mexico border region; the Gaslight Theatre has presented family friendly shows including musicals, comedy, and melodrama for more than 35 years; The Rogue Theatre has emphasized language, literature, and challenging ideas in its drama for more than a dozen years; and in 2018 ZUZI! Dance celebrates 20 years of providing performances as well as community classes and workshops.
MUSIC TO THE EARS
From DJs nights like the cumbia-flavored El Tambó led by DJ Dirtyverbs at Club Congress to the local hip-hop showcases from Gldn Artist Group, music in Tucson gets people movin’. Live bands perform every night of the week. Among the most steadily gigging performers: the country-blues of Hank Topless, the funky R&B of Street Blues Family, the slide-blues wizardry of Tom Walbank, the sophisticated piano pop of Steff Koeppen, and the psychedelic rock of Mute Swan. When they’re not touring the world, Tucson musical ambassadors like Orkesta Mendoza, XIXA, Calexico, and Giant Sand take the stages of historic venues like Club Congress and the Rialto Theatre, along with new venues like 191 Toole and Can’s Deli. Discover this world-class music scene before it blows up as the next big thing.