Arts and Culture

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Powered by a Pissed Off Panda

Posted By on Tue, Jul 7, 2015 at 9:00 AM

  • Courtesy of Frank Powers

Tucson is ripe with stories. Important ones, happy ones, sad ones, funny ones and pissed off ones. With a population heavy with creative, humorous types, we are lucky to have skilled hands to take on every one of these tales. For the last 10 years, some of us here in Tucson have looked not to a person, but to a panda. A pissed off one.

Pissed OFF Panda, the brainchild of Tucson transplant Frank Powers, is a comic book character with a big chip on his shoulder. An outlet for his creator to speak on Tucson and life, the character's 13 years in existence  have led into the development of a dedicated fan base, merchandise, Comic-Con appearances and now an upcoming,  on-going comic series. 

Powers says his character wasn’t so much a creation as it was a meeting of two like minds.

“He lets me vent about everything that I find mind-numbing and hate,” he says. “I didn’t just invent him though, I actually met Pissed OFF when I impulsively flew across the country because I was in love with a girl, wound up in San Diego and went to the San Diego Zoo. Their big thing is pandas so when I was in the gift shop, there was one doll that was sitting on the shelf and sticking out like a sore thumb. He looked mis-stitched and I said, 'Look at him! He looks Pissed OFF!'”

After coming to Tucson, Powers dug into the source material of the city, made up of eccentric characters and the strange, beloved places they inhabit. Pissed OFF’s world is one many of us were part of, the late hours and cups of coffee at the now closed Grill, formerly located at 100 E Congress St. 

“I’d always wanted to make a book about Grill to capture all the insanity that the place offered," says Powers. "I have many creative projects, comics and characters and I realized I’d use all the projects as ingredients in one giant, Tucson-centric project. I merged my cartoon characters, life stories, Grill adventures, podcasting and everything into one succinct parody of Tucson. It’s all seen through the eyes of my angry little jerk of a cartoon character, Pissed OFF Panda- whose job is exactly what mine was- working the graveyard shift at Grill, which is alive and thrives in my cartoony-verse.”

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Splash Celebrates Food, Fashion and Art for a Cause at La Encantada

Posted By on Tue, Jun 23, 2015 at 9:00 AM

The food and drink is only part of the Splash experience. - COURTESY OF SAACA
  • Courtesy of SAACA
  • The food and drink is only part of the Splash experience.

On Saturday, June 27, Splash is hitting La Encantada to present a night full of fashion designers, community art projects and a grip of food and drink samples for attendees. This year, the Southern Arizona Arts and Culture Alliance will be featuring 20 local restaurants that will offer up tastes of many different cuisines, some offering colorful cocktail pairings. There will also be eight different brewers serving up drinks to keep attendees interested while browsing the many different pieces of art on auction at the event.

Here are some of the dishes you can look forward to:

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Friday, June 19, 2015

Get To Etherton Gallery To See the Artists of Citizens Warehouse

Posted By on Fri, Jun 19, 2015 at 10:30 AM

  • "Another Roadside Distraction," by Rand Carlson, is among the works on display at Etherton Gallery's celebration of the artists of Citizens Warehouse

Citizens Warehouse, on Sixth Street just west of Stone Avenue, is a hotbed of creativity. Etherton Gallery is celebrating 21 of the artists who use the warehouse as studio space with Citizens Warehouse Artists, a show continuing through Sept. 12. The gallery is throwing an opening reception from 7 to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 20, at 135 S. Sixth Ave. More details at Etherton's website.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jen Kirkman Brings Comedy to Congress

Posted By on Thu, Jun 18, 2015 at 10:00 AM

click image ROBYN VON SWANK

It’s pretty hot right now. So, any chance for a laugh, one that isn’t caused by manic dehydration, is to be cherished. Luckily for us, comedian and all around funny lady Jen Kirkman is coming to Congress this Friday.

Kirkman utilizes self-analyzation and observations on society to create stand up that is easily relatable and humble. Her brand of comedy has her put herself completely on the line, giving her ego up to the audience and landing successfully. It works, because many of us are way too consumed with stubborn pride to say what’s on our minds. It feels good to laugh at ourselves with the safety of an entertainer as an outlet.

Kirkman says establishing confidence and respect with an audience plays a big part in making someone laugh.

“They are kind of in your hands, and if you treat them like they’re idiots and you’re rude they won’t laugh at you,” she says. “They want to know that you’ve got this, that they are in the palm of your hands and you are confident. I think there has to be a lot of humility in trying to make people laugh. You can’t think you are doing some big, powerful thing, otherwise people will feel like you’re condescending.”

This rapport with the crowd and her pride free confessions of personal, laughable experiences translates effortlessly to her latest achievement, a comedy special on Netflix called, “I’m Gonna Die Alone (And I Feel Fine).”

The 78 minute special is comprised of everything she has been doing on the road for the last few years.

“I didn’t have to do anything differently,” she says. “One day I showed up and just like any other show there was a camera. I wore a lot more makeup then I would normally wear on stage.”

Netflix was an attractive outlet to Kirkman because it offered her freedoms most cable television couldn’t touch.

“I was lucky that I knew Netflix was interested," she says. " I always knew that I wanted to do a special that was not going to be on the kind of cable that has commercials, that doesn’t let you be in control of the editing. That’s why I wanted to work with them. I feel like comedy, when you’re doing it in a night club or comedy club, you can swear, there’s no commercial break and it’s about having a great time. It’s sort of a place where grownups talk about things you don’t talk about in high society. When comedy specials are on television they are all cleaned up and nice and I don’t really understand why that’s funny.”

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Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Arizona Biennial 2015 Artists Have Been Chosen

Posted By on Wed, Jun 17, 2015 at 3:00 PM

Grant Wiggins' "A New Way of Thinking About Everything" is one of 50 pieces selected for the Biennial. - COURTESY OF TUCSON MUSEUM OF ART
  • Courtesy of Tucson Museum of Art
  • Grant Wiggins' "A New Way of Thinking About Everything" is one of 50 pieces selected for the Biennial.

The Tucson Museum of Art is planning out the 67th year of its Arizona Biennial exhibition and the 33 artists that will be featured in the 2015 show have been selected. The juried exhibition was vetted this year by guest juror Irene Hofmann, Director and Chief Curator of SITE Santa Fe. Hoffman had her work cut out for her too, selecting 50 pieces from the 1,490 that were submitted in total and contributing to the oldest running juried exhibition featuring exclusively Arizona artists.

The museum event is meant to showcase up and coming, new and unique works from the state's artists. This year's exhibition will feature 33 artists in a range of media including painting, sculpture, photography, video and installation art. The artists selected for the Arizona Biennial 2015 are David Emitt Adams, Elizabeth Burden, Carlton Bradford, Curt Brill, John H. Clarke, Jeffrey J. DaCosta, Jeff Dodson, Abigail Felber, Denis Gillingwater, Jennifer Holt, Alan Bur Johnson, Daniel Johnson, Carolina Maki Kitagawa, Carolyn Lavender, Ellen McMahon and Beth Weinstein, Brooke Molla, Katherine Monaghan, Anthony Pessler, Emmett Potter, Rembrandt Quiballo, Robert Renfrow, Prima Sakuntabhai, Patricia Sannit, Steven R. Schaeffer, Mike Stack, Lauren Strohacker and Kendra Sollars, Novie Trump, Zachary Valent, Kathleen Velo, Grant Wiggins and Angie Zielinski.

You can catch all of those artists at the Tucson Museum of Art, located at 140 N. Main Ave., beginning July 25 and running until October 11. The public closing night event will offer up auctions of selected works, food, wine and live music by Crystal Radio, with Amelia Poe and Daniel Martin Diaz. Tickets are $40 in advance, $30 for CAS members and $50 at the door. For more information on that event, e-mail

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Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Desert Rockers, Congress Wants Your Stuff

Posted By on Tue, Jun 16, 2015 at 12:40 PM

click image musician-349790_1280.jpg

Spend enough time in Tucson’s music scene and you will start to hear the term “the Tucson sound.” It comes straight from the musicians’ mouths, from the fans, from the reviews and is embedded in our long history of musicality.

What does it mean exactly? Well, like any other classification or genre identifier, there is no one right answer. Tucson sound, is maybe best described as music which embodies the preserving spirit of dwellers in a desert environment, which from the start appeared so inhabitable. Maybe it speaks to a certain mysticism that permeates beneath the hot sands. Maybe it is influence drawn from country, Latin music and desert rock.

Though the answer is subjective, many of Tucson’s die hard music enthusiasts can speak to what this sound has meant to them. Nostalgia is a reoccurring theme.

Club Congress, 311 East Congress St., has long cultivated a space to showcase the unique voice of Tucson artists and kind of stands as a museum documenting the search for this “sound.” The historic venue will take that niche and turn it literal with their upcoming “Tucson Rock n Roll Museum” exhibit.

The vision for the collection is to pay tribute to Tucson’s music history over the past half century, through the help of the community who was a part of it.

Congress is reaching out to this city’s musicians and fans for rock and roll memorabilia to include in the community driven museum. The guidelines are light and they are welcoming posters, photographs, newspaper clips and videos which help tell the story of “the sound.”

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Friday, June 12, 2015

The New York Times Examines Tucson's Historical Gems

Posted By on Fri, Jun 12, 2015 at 3:30 PM

Guy Trebay of The New York Times meditates on the hidden gems of Tucson architecture:

It is a mini-metropolis whose proximity to the Mexican border has resulted not only in a shadow economy but also some fairly stark racial and economic bifurcations. It is a blue dot in a red state, a college town whose seasonal population of students and retirees departs this month in a mass migration that leaves tumbleweed vacancies in its wake.

It is also a city whose loopy retail landscape skews heavily toward yoga studios, thrift shops and vape stores. And one of the city’s better-kept secrets is how often these places occupy structures that could easily be counted among the more significant examples of mid-20th century architecture in the country. That is, if anyone were bothering to look.

I had first taken note of this curiosity some years back when attending the annual American Gem Trade Association fair in Tucson. In reality one central fair and an agglomeration of 40 or so satellites, where dealers trade in the countless minerals of which the earth is formed (and also a certain amount of random space flotsam), the fair is the place to be if you are ever in the market for an eight-carat Mozambique ruby, a Brazilian rock crystal carved like a phallus or a fragment of a meteorite.

Increasingly, on what have become annual pilgrimages to the gem fair (including one in February) I’ve found myself straying from the parking lots crammed with geodes, beads and boulders, and venturing out to explore the local architectural treasures. Back home, whenever New York threatens to ruin my day, I follow my thoughts back to my random excursions around Tucson and to memories of its illimitable skies, dry, clear air and its abundant supply of wizened drifters right out of Richard Avedon’s “In the American West.”

I reflect on how deeply I enjoy the ramshackle dispersion of the city and on the fact that I now know which Mexican handicrafts store to visit if I am ever in need of a six-foot ceramic pineapple from Michoacán. I think about a photo gallery I like as much for its location near a funky tattoo parlor as for its adventurous exhibitions, a diner in a movie-ready structure unaltered since the 1960s, and the thrift shops of which Tucson boasts more than it has hipster brunch spots.

I recall, too, the pleasures of ordering a heaping platter of huevos rancheros at my favorite hipster brunch spot, the Five Points Market, situated on an intersection whose other notable landmarks include a florist selling $1 roses and a used-car dealership with the motto “Ugly but Honest.”

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Grants for Traditional Southwest Artists and Apprentices

Posted By on Tue, Jun 9, 2015 at 4:00 PM

click image Esteban Osuna, Traditional Boot Maker - SOUTHWEST FOLKLIFE ALLIANCE
  • SouthWest Folklife Alliance
  • Esteban Osuna, Traditional Boot Maker

What truly defines a city? Its economy, its landscape, its businesses? It is all those things, but it's people that make a city home. It is the blend of cultures present that reveal its personal history through art.

The Southwest Folklife Alliance, a nonprofit organization of the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, serve as historians of Tucson. The group documents the cultural heritage of local ethnic and folk communities and works to educate and plan ways to increase opportunities for these communities.

One of Tucson’s largest events, Tucson Meet Yourself, is the product of the Southwest Folklife Alliance and they are now unveiling a new program to serve individuals in the community who are expressing their heritage through art.

Their Master-Apprentice Grant Award Program, announced May 29, works to “support and encourage the preservation and perpetuation of traditional art forms present and thriving in Arizona.” This grant program is the first of its kind in the state, joining 20 states nationwide with similar programs.

Grants will be awarded to three local, traditional artists who have proven themselves to be masters at their craft. To fulfill the mission of this program, spreading community based traditions through one-on-one teaching, each master artist will identify an apprentice (or apprentices). The grant will award each artist $2500 and $500 to their apprentice.

The funds are meant to expand the horizons of its awardees and may be used for compensation, travel expenses and materials and supplies.

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Staff Pick

La Cerce at Ermanos

La Cerca provides a unique stripped-down performance for Thursday night Live Music at Ermanos… More

@ Ermanos Thu., July 30 220 N 4th ave

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