Ballet Tucson’s Urban Picnic on Friday Funds Local Dance, Recognizes Local Artists, and Comes with Mimosas Too!Thursday, April 11th, 2013
I know five admirable young women who work exceptionally hard — much harder than you or I — six days a week, at their chosen vocation. At 4:30 p.m. each day, after their studio closes, they carpool home and force themselves to turn in for sleep time at about 6 p.m. Why? Their “day” job is — as one colleague put it — “dealing with the crazies who need their caffeine during the morning shift” and my friends have to get up real early for that particular type of punishment.
They are counter staff at a well-known (and, in my opinion, impressively overpriced) coffee chain.
To be paid their minimum wage earnings, the ladies must rise by 3 a.m. in order to arrive at work on time. Once the early morning café shift is over and ordinary humans are tapping on keyboards in office cubicles, my friends try to fit in a super-quick shower, and then head back to the studio for a 10 a.m. start to that previously mentioned vocation. One apprentice in the group routinely works at a fast-food joint until 4 a.m. — after daily putting in 6 1/2 hours of the most strenuous and taxing activity. She grabs a few hours sleep when she can, before the next punishing round of physical training begins. Why would anyone do that? What kind of devotion must you have, what kind of drive, to push yourself so hard, to believe so completely in what you do?
My friends are dancers with Ballet Tucson.
Sadly, we live in a country where arts funding is one of the lowest priorities, probably slightly behind our nearly nonexistent space program. Artists, dancers, performance groups struggle to survive, and without the arts, why would any of us want to survive anyway? What is the point of working hard and putting away a few dollars if you cannot enjoy a great novel, a brilliant movie, a rousing live concert, or an alluring dance performance? These are the things that make life worth living — at least for the people I know.
Our celebrated local dance company, Ballet Tucson, just finished its short run of “Dance & Dessert” performances. It was the best BT program I’ve seen in the past three years (and I’ve seen all of them) — a period in which I happen to have fallen in love with one of the company dancers, become engaged to her, and also become a corporate sponsor of the dance company. One of the great things about Ballet Tucson is they don’t just hold out a cap and say: “Please give.” They organize enthralling events that delight attendees, yes with dance, but also with great food and wine, art auctions, invitations to open rehearsals, outreach projects to underprivileged school children, and other actions that demonstrate caring and dedication to their art and to their community.
Each spring, a small army of generous artists — some local, some nationally recognized — contribute a fairly dizzying array of original works of art for Ballet Tucson’s Urban Picnic. Funds raised go directly to help keep the determined dance company gliding through another year of performances. Donations include paintings, ceramics, Navajo rugs, unusual jewelry, pencil sketches, and charismatic custom lunch boxes designed specifically for the event (very much in keeping with the outdoor picnic theme).
I wrote about last year’s Urban Picnic, and I had a blast. It’s a chance to meet artists, dancers, and the generally interesting culturally-minded Tucson set — as charming and eclectic a group as I can imagine. The $45 ticket will admit you the event, win you a very tasty al fresco picnic lunch complete with mimosas, give you the opportunity to bid — in a relaxed manner — on a gallery-sized lot of underpriced art, enjoy live music and a live performance by Ballet Tucson dancers themselves, all of it in Tucson’s most delightful shopping venue, complete with fountains, La Encantada.
The 16th Annual Urban Picnic & Art Auction will take place on Friday, April 12, 2013 at La Encantada Shopping Center from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Admission is $45 and tickets can be purchased at the door, by calling Cynthia Hansen at (520) 400-5426, or safely and easily online here. La Encantada is located northwest of Skyline and Campbell, in Tucson.
With the spring Open Studio Tour starting this Saturday, a brunch auction and dance performance on Friday is, without a shadow of a doubt, the smartest way to kick-start your Tucson art weekend. View the lunchbox creations here and the rest of the original art here.
Arts funding is down, attendance at many arts events seems to me to be down. People are worried about the economy, as usual. I moved to Tucson nearly a decade ago, largely because of its astonishing arts scene. Our thriving and quirky creative community is way out of proportion (in a good way) to our modest little city. I want to keep it that way, so I donated a $400 custom piece of meteorite jewelry to Urban Picnic. It’s not in my nature to ask people to support something unless I’ve done so myself.
And I quite like the idea of taking lunch to the office from now on, in a one-of-a-kind specially-created, hand made food transportation vessel, the purchase of which may just have helped win a modest company dancer’s salary for a talented young woman (thereby allowing her to give up the soul-destroying 4 a.m. coffee crazies thing and concentrate on her art). Now, that’s a worthy cause.
Follow me on Twitter @geoffnotkin
Text and auction photograph © by Geoffrey Notkin.
Artwork photographs are © by respective artists and are used with permission.
All rights reserved. No reproduction without written permission.