After losing a lease and getting evicted in 2010, ArtFare re-emerged last year along with its director, Tig Collins, at its previous home—the 1916 Arizona Hotel (not to be confused with Bert Lopez's closed Hotel Arizona), on Sixth Avenue across the street from the Ronstadt Transit Center. After working out a deal to partner with the building's current owner, Collins says she's again providing incubator space to local artists and businesses, and has a plan to eventually buy the building. For more information, take a look at ArtFare.org, or find it on Facebook.
You have a unique view of downtown, living and working at the hotel. Do you think businesses downtown and on Fourth Avenue will survive this (streetcar) construction?
Well, I think (of those areas) as apples and oranges. Fourth Avenue is not downtown. ... Those of us who have been downtown for a long period of time can look at what is happening today and call it a boom, with the exception of Hydra and Shot in the Dark (Café). Shot in the Dark just five years ago expanded. It is a cooperative-owned business, and they were able to expand. But, look, other businesses are doing well. Ike's isn't suffering. Baggin's isn't suffering.
I'd guess it's because those businesses are supported by workers in the surrounding buildings, right?
Well, if you speak to some of the other business owners and ask, "When did you experience a negative impact on your business?" they'd probably answer, "When they started emptying out the Bank of America building." We do not have a party problem downtown. We have a daytime lack of consumers.
But to you, right now, are things going along as they are supposed to?
There's nothing wrong with the city. It is organically growing as our resources grow. The road is torn up, so, great; let's have photo shoots; let's have fashion shows. People come to your place of business for two reasons: They like your product, and they like you. I go to (Café) à la C'Art every Sunday. Why? Because it is open on Sundays, and I want them to stay open on Sundays, and I want them to remain downtown. That's how we need to support our businesses downtown.
How have you been documenting the changes taking place?
Since December 2011, I've been taking pictures all over downtown and through the windows of the hotel. On Dec. 12, 2012, I want to show those photos at the businesses along Sixth Avenue. Some people think it is being gentrified. I wanted to document that as well, and see what the culture was and is.
How does ArtFare fit into that picture after all these years?
I think of us as a nice bridge between downtown and, ultimately, the warehouse district. A community like Tucson needs something like ArtFare. We've been there for art groups when they've lost their space or when they were first starting out and couldn't find a space they could afford. We have a lot of babies out there that have grown. ... We're still doing that work, and we're doing it downtown.
But you are also dealing with a perception that this is a block that is seedy.
But we don't have any crime. Tucsonans by and large don't think we're seedy. It's the affluent ... who see this as seedy—those who'd like to tear the building down and go 22 stories in the air and have more corporate commerce. But that doesn't help us as merchants unless they bring in more employees. I'd rather see a corporate call center in the Bank of America building. Then you'd have people stuck here eight hours a day. We're not naive in that respect.
So you recognize that there are people out there who want this property?
The idea that they have other plans for this block, yes, and when you have someone say, "Your block will not survive five years," it's obvious. But, still, our strength is in allowing people, like (coffee shop) Brewd, a place to start.
What do you need to buy this building?
I need $500,000. I was hoping to get one loan for the entire amount, but that doesn't seem realistic. I thought perhaps I'd get a loop investor and right off the bat make them an owner of 49 percent of the building. Eventually, I understand what has to happen. ... I'd love to keep the facade. This is all the original building. We understand that this is on a high-rise footprint and can go up 22 stories in the air. I'm not against progress, but I'd sure like to be part of seeing her 100th birthday, which is just around the corner.