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Rachelle Diaz

Rachelle Diaz is a painter and graphic-design artist who moved to Tucson from Austin last July with her husband, César. She wanted to find out what was going on; it was during the summer, a time when everything seems to slow down—but once summer ended, Diaz didn't see much of an improvement. She was inspired to start TÚ Scene, a blog about local art openings, events and activism. To visit, go to tuscene.com. For more information on the downtown project she is working on with artist Julie Ray, visit popupspaces.org.

What kind of work do you do as an artist?

Painting, graphic design, photography, conceptual ... really all over the place. I think I have more ideas than time. I've been interested in fashion design more and more lately. But I'm lucky I work in graphic design; I still work for the same company I did in Austin. I telecommute.

We tend to pick on ourselves around here. Is Austin's art scene better than Tucson?

In Austin, the art scene there is very lively. I had several mentors there who I worked with and helped start a warehouse studio space and gallery, the Austin Visual Artists Association. We moved here to Tucson in the summer. I remember thinking to myself, "Where can I go check out some art openings?" To be honest, I was reluctant to make the move. ... It was weird not to see anything really going on for a couple of months. And there was nothing online, and many Web sites hadn't updated their information. It was kind of disconcerting.

And that's where you got the idea for the blog?

Yes, but it wasn't until September. I met Molly McClintock (Maxed Art), and she invited me to an artists' forum at Dinnerware. It was a panel she was involved in, as (was) Julie Ray (Burrito Files). There was nothing out there about the forum. I only knew about it because I was invited. And that was when I said to myself, "This is why I'm going to start this blog." Now, I've noticed more people using the Internet, and Web sites are getting updated. It's like a zeitgeist of almost everyone thinking the same thing at the same time.

You went to a Tucson Pima Arts Council meeting recently and joked that you were the youngest artist there. What was that like?

I'm glad I was there to participate, although I wish more younger people would get involved. ... It's not as closed of a door as one might think. A lot of the older folks who were there said it was kind of disheartening to see the same faces at these gatherings over and over again. So there's definitely a need for some new energy, and I think the mission statement we came up with ... really speaks to that. We said, "Tucson will be a place in which artists are valued as catalysts of positive social change."

Co-workers who went to SXSW said it seemed the arts are taken more seriously in Austin. Bands even play before City Council meetings.

Sure, but there are similar conversations in both cities. ... They are speaking about a new fine-arts center and cultural growth in the city. But, look, Tucson is Tucson. It's unique geographically. It's multifaceted culturally and aesthetically. You don't have to be stuck just painting saguaros; you can react to the environment as an artist from so many different angles.

You've gotten involved in downtown and the idea that the arts community should be recognized as a leader in downtown redevelopment and growth.

Pop Up Spaces' first event was a scavenger hunt in which we asked participants to write, draw and take photographs about their experiences that day. We've now confirmed a display space where we can show the resulting work, at the McLellan building. ... We are trying to find positive ways to get people to imagine possibilities for all the vacant space that exists downtown, to be curious and creative rather than jaded. Julie (Ray) and I are putting the displays together, and it should be up in early May.

What's next?

We were waiting for the scavenger-hunt piece to wrap up before we thought about what we wanted to do next. We want to work with other people to see what the next phase is going to be. We're thinking about open doors ... physically open doors: Invite the public downtown inside the buildings. But we've also had requests to do projects in other spaces, like El Con Mall. Right now, we're focused on downtown, but there isn't any reason we couldn't think of going to other areas of town.

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