Graphic artists Julie Ray and Rachelle Diaz count 26 vacant buildings in a tight cluster of downtown streets.
They are taking it upon themselves to bring life back to them, first with art exhibits that they hope will inspire businesses to move in.
Ray and Diaz are doing the first such exhibit from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Saturday inside the McLellan Building, 63 E. Congress St. The exhibit will continue through the summer in McLellan’s four exterior window boxes on the Scott Avenue side.
The Downtown Scavenger Hunt Exhibit will showcase photos and thoughts shared by participants in a scavenger hunt March 1. Participants followed clues to find 10 vacant buildings between Broadway and Pennington Street, and Stone and Fifth avenues.
“We are getting them to imagine the possibilities with the buildings downtown,” said Diaz, who has a Tu Scene blog devoted to visual arts events. “What would you do if you could open a restaurant? What would you serve?”
The exhibit will also include historic photos of the McLellan Building. Diaz and Ray will re-enact their Ignite Tucson presentations from last year, five-minute PowerPoint presentations with 20 images shown for 15 seconds each. The duo also want to talk with exhibit visitors about ways to fill the empty buildings.
“Our philosophy is these spaces should be full,” said Ray, who has a Burrito Files blog, where she asks people, if Tucson were a burrito what would be in it. “Let’s continue to make this place more vibrant. Let’s start with these spaces.”
Ray and Diaz are calling their project Pop Up Spaces. They won the support of McLellan Building owner John Wesley Miller, and they want to get exhibits from other artists into other empty buildings.
“We want to connect with more property owners and managers,” Ray said. “We are inviting the public to come downtown and interact with these buildings.”
The live scavenger hunt was March 1, but Ray said people can still go on the hunt by visiting popupspaces.org for clues and submitting comments and photos online.