It seems like the debate over art space in Tucson is ramping up again. Every so often we see a story in the local media about some “sweetheart deal” local artists are getting at tax- payer expense. As a veteran of many art space development projects downtown I can tell you it is not as simple as it sounds. Development is hard, whatever of the end use. There are risks, benefits and headaches along the way for all projects.
What many people forget, or did not know, is that downtown used to be filled with quirky art spaces (galleries, studios, small theatres) and then big developers saw a potential for profit due to the crowd these spaces brought in. (especially during the heyday of Downtown Saturday Night as presented by the Tucson Arts District Partnership).
This almost-gentrification was amplified due to the chimera of free, easy cash from Rio Nuevo and, consequently, many artists fled for the warehouse district or simply left the core. Is it worth reasonable public support to keep part of what makes our community vibrant – yes. We need only to look at other communities to see what works and what does not. We have some vital parts of the puzzle, let’s keep adding the rest until the image is complete.