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Splinter Rebirth

If the walls of the Splinter Brothers and Sisters Warehouse could talk, they would have many stories to tell about the building's past incarnations.

According to current owner Elizabeth Tobias, the Ronstadt family built the adobe warehouse approximately 90 years ago. It served as a storage facility for items ranging from fur coats to medical supplies for St. Mary's Hospital. High schools proms were held there in the '80s. But it is remembered most for its parties.

"It was discovered by artists in the '70s, and (they) changed it into art space," says Tobias. They would throw parties (to pay rent). It is a legendary space for having dynamic, fun, welcoming events."

Tobias purchased the property from Janelle Curry in June. Curry retains ownership of the northern end of the property, and Tobias owns the warehouse on the southern end. Tobias changed the name from Splinter Group Studios back to the Splinter Brothers and Sisters Warehouse, as it was in the '70s. Nine art studios are located there, housing potters, painters, welders and sculptors.

Tobias says she worked with architect Jeff Guga and environmental designer Brian Tortora to give the warehouse a new feel and look. "I worked with them to define the site ... to preserve the original design and to give it a contemporary feeling."

To inaugurate the new space, Tobias is holding The S Fest: One Night of Peace, Music and Art, from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 2. The warehouse is located at 901 N. 13th Ave. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door. Advance tickets are available at Antigone Books, Hear's Music, City High School and Bookmans. Proceeds from ticket sales and a silent auction will aid City High's arts program. Call 798-6009 for information.

Tobias says City High is a 2-year-old charter school. "Students who come to City High are talented artists. The school has limited resources and relies heavily on fundraising to supply art materials. This event is an opportunity to create a fund exclusively for purchase of supplies."

While the "S" stands for Splinter Brothers and Sisters, the peace element of the evening is a response to the resurgence of activism, says Tobias. "People are having a longing for peace and are willing to be open to new ideas. I am responding to that."

The artists and performers lined up for the evening all "have a certain outlook artistically. They have unique methods of provoking the audience to look at things with a different perspective. They are posing very interesting questions."

As one of the artists displaying work at the festival, Raina Benoit creates "large-scale installations using recycled materials, everyday materials, papier-mâché ... She questions innocence and the loss of innocence and poses how to maintain innocence in our ... culture."

Technological culture plays a large part in artist Laura Milkins' work. She will perform as "The Art-a-Tron" and will communicate with others through the Internet. A live Web cam and Internet feed will be set up. According to her artist statement, she will "sit silently staring at her computer screen waiting ... for a message from a participant." Tobias says Milkins is questioning the direction society is moving in with technology.

Artist Beth Weinstein will question what is means to build borders and to open our walls with her installation. Weinstein's work will be made out of blocks of ice "to represent the idea of borders, boundaries and barriers. Once the wall melts, she will bottle the water and sell it as border water," says Tobias.

City High students are also showing their works at the S fest. Randy Young teaches the art of sculpture. His collaboration with his students has resulted in the "Peace Burrito," a large sculpture. "To the students, it's a magical giant burrito. It has all the ingredients to bring peace into the world."

Three performing artists will also take the stage at the festival. Guitarist Mike Fonte mixes "pulsing edge electronic beats with the soulfulness of electric guitar." His music "elevates the consciousness in a way great music does. He has a way of speaking almost like a Zen poet through his music," enthuses Tobias.

The group No Alex (Alex Menck and Alex Flores) fuses social science and sound. "They experiment with sound bits that cross cultural boundaries," explains Tobias. "Their music creates a tapestry of border culture mixed with dance beats. It's fun and festive."

Tobias says she has enjoyed working with local musician Namoli Brennet, who is also set to perform. "She is an inspiration to me. She is a transgendered artist. She is so life-affirming. ... Namoli is just a spirit who guides others to affirm who they truly are, even if living as you truly are isn't always understood by other people. ... Being true to yourself is one of the components of peace. When you find peace within, you can create peace around you."

While Tobias creates performance art, conceptual photography and video installations in her own Splinter studio, she wants the warehouse to be a space open to the community to enjoy.

"I want people to come back and use this as a creative home. This is an invitation to come and use the space. It's not a gallery business for selling but a space for the creation of art. It's what I am hoping to contribute to the community in Tucson."

More by Irene Messina

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