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Julie Glaser Ray is a freelance writer and graphic designer who has come up with a new way to support downtown and the people who live and work there: "The Burrito Files," a performance-art project in the shape of a food-vending cart that will be making its way to more downtown corners soon. How will the project end? Ray doesn't know, but the goal is to get people thinking about downtown and sharing their stories. For more information, go to the Burrito Files Web site.

How did this idea come about?

(I was) working at home the past two years. I was feeling isolated and wanted to find a space, so I found a place to work from the Dinnerware Artspace in downtown. ... A lot of people are frustrated by Rio Nuevo, as you know, but there are a lot of people who love downtown and want to see good happen here. I went to an arts conference in Phoenix on downtowns. People from everywhere shared how they created a vision for their downtown. I started to think, "OK we need to do something in Tucson," and someone said that advocacy is really important ... So I came up with the concept of "Downtown Revision" (which) would be an umbrella project for downtown art-specific projects, but then I came up with "The Burrito Files." ... People seem to like it.

When did it officially start?

In April, I kicked off "Downtown Revision" through a blog and a few guerilla-art projects, and then I got a mini-grant from the Tucson Pima Arts Council and worked with a local artist who has a lot of woodworking experience to build the burrito cart. It took about two days. It made its debut at Tucson Park(ing) Day on Congress Street on Friday (Sept. 19).

So what do you do at the cart?

I wanted to do a survey at first. I've always been interested in interacting with people and interested in differing peoples' ideas and thoughts. I was thinking of questions I could ask people. It was my husband who came up with the question, "If downtown Tucson was a burrito, what would be in it?" Really, the cart is a prop and an extension of guerrilla marketing. We're just so saturated with a lot of advertising and writing (that) to reach people, we have to be creative and innovative. It was fun, too. I like performance art, and this fit that, too.

What are you doing, specifically? Asking questions and collecting files?

It's a two-part process. First, I ask (people) the questions. I have a clipboard and then ask them to write down the answers to my questions, and then I take the picture. Words are not as interesting by themselves. A photo is more interesting. Some people didn't want to have their face in the picture, so I took pictures of their feet instead.

What will the end result be?

I guess my goal is sparking a dialogue, and I'd like to say that because of this, I'm going to help make downtown the creative place it should be. But I want to contribute and be a little spark and maybe part of what happens. But my initial goal is to get people talking and excited.

What have you been most surprised about while working on this project?

I guess the positive reaction. ... I've been surprised people have enjoyed the concept--and also people's stories. I thought the focus would be what's in their burrito, but really, to me, the interesting part is (when people say), "I fell in love downtown," or, "I moved to Tucson because of downtown."

I want to ask you the same questions you ask everyone as part of "The Burrito Files." ... Are you a Tucson native?

No. I'm from Los Angeles.

What are you doing downtown today?

I don't have my space at Dinnerware anymore, but when I'm downtown, I like the library (and) Hotel Congress. I might be meeting people or just walking around.

Describe downtown in three words or less.

I would say eclectic, historic and ripe.

If downtown Tucson was a burrito, what would be in it?

It would be a very eclectic burrito, (with) hot dog, spaghetti, salsa, fried chicken (and) whipped cream, because that's how I see downtown: a little bit of everything.

Have any significant events in your life happened downtown?

Yes, when I first moved to Tucson, I volunteered at the Tucson Pima Arts Council. ... And being involved with Dinnerware and a lot of the things I've been involved with have centered on downtown.

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