On a typical pre-pandemic weekend, the Hector Espino tianguis – or flea market – is teeming with buyers and sellers. But on a recent pandemic weekday, it was all but dead: Most of the roll-up doors were down, and the smattering of shoppers were outnumbered by shopkeepers.
Tianguista Benito Encinas was helping a potential customer track down a lawnmower. A fan was running to keep cool on the unseasonably hot November day.
“They didn’t give you a price?” Encinas asked.
“No, they didn’t have one,” the man responded.
That’s because most tianguistas haven’t been able to cross to Arizona to buy secondhand merchandise for months. Normally, lawn mowers and other household tools are easy to come by, Encinas said.
“It was March, like the 15th,” Encinas said of the last time he crossed.
It’s Ballet Tucson’s 35th anniversary and the company is hitting the town to celebrate with social distancing performances at several local hotspots.
The 2020 Pop Up Performances kick-off Saturday at the Tucson Botanical Gardens with a Día de los Muertos-themed recital taking place alongside the garden’s La Calavera Catrina exhibit featuring 9-foot-tall skeletal depictions of figures of Mexican culture.
"I am so happy to be performing in these pop ups . . . art is so vital to our community, and during these times particularly so,” said Ballet Tucson company dancer Casey Myrick in a recent email. “Ballet has always famously brought magic to life for children and adults alike. The setting of the first pop up this weekend in the Tucson Botanical Gardens lends itself exquisitely to this show and couldn't be a more fitting venue."
However, before you attend be aware you need to purchase time-specific tickets at tucsonbotanical.org. The Botanical Gardens is limiting guest capacity and requiring face masks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
"These performances are much more intimate and informal than what our audience normally sees when they attend the ballet, but we think they will still be very uplifting and inspiring,” said Ballet Tucson spokesperson Margaret Mullin. “We're trying to create choreography that will be complementary to the venue and safe for our dancers to perform while still being exciting for the community."
Elegant dance moves on the stage are only part of the story, because the pandemic has shuttered the company’s ability to collect ticket sales. However, Ballet Tucson had a successful fundraising campaign during the summer and sees the Pop Up Performances as a means to assist local attractions during the pandemic.
The performances are included in the cost of admission to the venue and it’s a way to support these local institutions.
“We just wanted to make sure that we were partnering with organizations that have deep roots within the community,” Mullin said.
Uplifting others is a common refrain from Tucson Ballet this fall with Mullin expressing her gratitude to Tucson Weekly readers for naming the troupe the Best Dance Company in Best of Tucson 2020.
“It makes it so much easier knowing that the community has confidence in us and values us, because we know that no matter what steps we have to take going forward, they will be there to support us,” she said.
Tickets are only accepted at your preregistered time in order to comply with social distancing and COVID-19 precaution measures, restrictions vary by location. For more information visit www.ballettucson.org/performances-and-tickets
As the drums ring out the Chinese New Year in a Singapore market, two young women wearing face masks watch the celebration. It's a scene characteristic of local artist Jacqueline Chanda’s work, which often allows the viewer to construct their own narrative of a scene.
“I like to catch these those kind of scenes where people can say ‘I wonder what they were thinking?’ or ‘I wonder where was this guy is going?’,” Chanda said. “Did he have intent or was he was he simply taking a stroll?”
Chanda’s painting, “Girl with a Turquoise Face Mask,” is based on a photograph she took while on vacation in February. The artwork is featured in the “Great American Paint In,” a new collection of works which shares artists’ experiences of living through the pandemic.
“The Great American Paint In,” now available online, documents the emotions felt by professional artists across the country, with 48 states represented in over 250 pieces, according to project founder, artist and engineer Bill Weinaug.
“I put a lot of effort into trying to make sure I did not lose my business at the end of the day, because I had no clue when the end of the day was coming,” Weinaug said. “And my daughter's telling me ‘Dad, you just can't shut down you need to stay relevant. This will be over with someday.’”
His daughter pitched him the idea of taking the “plein air” painting events he hosted at his eco-resort Wekiva Island in Longwood, Florida, and moving them online. Arists gather for plein air painting events and simultaneously paint their outdoor environment.
“In our case they go out into the wilderness and they paint for a week,” Weinaug said. “So they come with blank canvases, every day they add art and we build a temporary art gallery.”
Thus, “The Great American Paint In” was created. Artists paint their response to the pandemic and the emotions of quarantine, and submit the work to a jury who decides if it merits inclusion in the project.
The concept was a natural fit for artists nationwide with ample time to practice their craft but without access to galleries or events. The project’s website allows the artists to be able to sell their work and promote themselves.
Weinaug said he used his training as an engineer to investigate previous pandemics and said he didn’t see much art being created at the time of the outbreaks.
“We wanted to document what was going on in America during this pandemic so that future generations could look back and see it through the artist's eyes,” he said
Through the eyes of Chanda’s since returning to the United States somethings that haven’t changed is she goes into her studio to paint but finds herself accumulating more of her work.
“It's really been that sense of isolation, not being able to be connected with my friends, my daughter lives with me and my mother is not too far from here ... So I see her often enough, but it's been a different sense of isolation, it's an unwanted isolation,” she said.
Weinaug’s vision for the project is for it to serve as a textbook example of how to paint emotion. He intends to publish the collection as a book and is in the process of selecting a publisher but noted: “We're still in the middle of the pandemic and the story is still being written.”
To view the collection and Chanda’s submission, visit: thegreatpaint-in.com
Moments of carefree, silly joy are more valuable than toilet paper, these days. The Best of Gaslight Fall Revue is chock full of them. While the folks at the Gaslight haven’t been able to hold a show in their indoor theater venue on Broadway Boulevard since March, their drive-up porch concerts throughout the summer were a delight. Order a pizza, a root beer float, or even some alcohol and sing and laugh along to a series of numbers that are almost impossible not to sing and laugh along to. (Bonus: You can also leave your windows rolled up and listen to the show through your radio, if you tune it to the right dial).
As the weather cools down (however slightly) the Gaslight has launched a special fall edition of the show, featuring a series of community favorites from the past 42 year, with an emphasis on spooky numbers and silly costumes. We’re talking the Time Warp, The Monster Mash and I Put a Spell on You, of course, but also fun renditions of tunes like Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Secret Agent Man and Silly Love Songs.
It’s really something special to watch the Gaslight crew perform, because you can tell how much they all love what they do. David Fanning, who has been with the theater for 27 years, now lives in New York. When the pandemic shut down venues across the country, he watched the Gaslight folks begin their porch concert series via Facebook, and missed performing there so much that he came back for a visit. Mike Yarema, who’s been with the theater for over 20 years, treated us to a series of his classic, cringe-inducing jokes (“What do you say about a mummy joke that’s really bad? It sphinx!”) and a variety of numbers—including an enticing performance as Doc Croc from the Gaslight’s show Spider-Guy. Heather Stricker, who started with the theater back in 2000, wears about a million different hats/wigs/outfits in the show, and looks and sounds great in all of them.
Take it from the group of kids in the parking space behind us dancing with ecstatic abandon to “Puttin’ on the Ritz”: If you’re looking for a night of fun, an opportunity to support local art and a delicious slice of pizza, you can get them all in one place at this show.
The Best of Gaslight Fall Revue takes place at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday nights through Sunday, Oct. 25. The theater is located at 7010 E Broadway Blvd. Pizza and popcorn packages are available at the time of reservation, and additional menu items are available at the show. You’re welcome to bring chairs and set up outside your car, but be sure to maintain social distancing and wear a mask when interacting with your servers. Bathrooms are available, and will be sanitized after each use. $40 per car.
The Tucson Botanical Gardens has opened a Dia de los Muertos-themed exhibit after COVID-19 forced them to close their doors in March. “La Calavera Catrina'' decorates midtown with nine-foot-tall depictions of Mexican cultural figures as joyful skeletal sculptures. The works are created by Los Angeles-based artist Ricardo Soltero, but the La Catrina figure is rooted in the satirical eye of illustrator Jose Guadalupe Posada towards his early 20th century Mexican society.
Posada found himself growing angry at seeing his fellow Mexicans go beyond merely adopting French fashion to literally making their skin appear whiter than their natural tone by using powders.
“Jose Guadalupe Posada got tired of it,” Soltero said. “At the end of the day, we are all of real hard bones, no matter the color of our skin.”
This is the first time the exhibit, organized by the Denver Botanic Gardens, is on display outside of Denver.
This idea of a common humanity across cultures is a major reason Soltero thinks the influence of the Day of The Dead has grown in recent decades, and is a source of great pride that people globally have embraced the holiday. Additionally “La Calavera Catrina” offers visitors an opportunity to see the gardens showcased in a way never before seen, according to botanical gardens spokesperson Rob Elias.
“We’ve added just a tremendous amount of lighting,” he said. “They're going to be in a range of colors that fit thematically ... We're going with a lot of oranges and purples and reds and yellows and blues. It's gonna be quite stunning.”
The Tucson Botanical Gardens closed on March 17 because of pandemic restrictions, drying up 70 percent of the gardens' income from lost ticket sales, gift shop sales and special events, according to executive director Michelle Conklin. However, the gardens were kept fiscally solvent during the closure from several sources.
“We had we had to make up a significant portion of our budget,” Conklin said. “Between donations from individuals, the Family Foundation and we were fortunate to receive a PPP loan and EIDL as well.”
Changes instituted by the gardens to slow the spread of COVID-19 include rerouting how guests walk through the gardens to accommodate social distancing, turning some walkways into one-way travel.
“Now the gift shop is an exit-only, and the entrance is around the corner where we've built a brand new admissions building on the northern part of our property,” Elias said.
With the COVID-19 closure and visitors cut off from the gardens, Elias said that Tucson Botanical Gardens like many other organizations has placed a greater emphasis on digital outreach by adding the largest number of online classes the gardens has ever had. Regular garden programing such as docent tours and children’s storying telling can now be found online while art and wellness classes for adults.
“We've had a phenomenal chef that we've been working with and she's been making all kinds of delicious food and we're actually going to be rolling out this week our class schedule for the fall,” Elias said.
Visitors need to plan ahead to experience the exhibit because the gardens have moved to a reservation system as a COVID-19 precaution. Guests select the number of tickets and a two hour block of visiting time during the day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The gardens will also be opening during evening hours Thursday through Sunday in hour and a half time slots from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Additionally the gardens will have another exhibit “Bird Houses & Nests” opening on Sept. 26 through Jan. 3. The organization SculptureTucson will feature 13 original art pieces from 13 local artists. The exhibit is centered around the theme of birds and nesting conveyed with large-scale sculptures in the gardens, the pieces themselves were built with the Tucson Botanical Gardens in mind.
For more information, visit tucsonbotanical.org
Ever wanted to see a 6-foot-tall, over 200-pound work of art that someone thought was so beautiful they decided to steal it?
The recently stolen and recovered metal sculpture known as Angelica is back on display at Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort's inner courtyard from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Saturday, Sept. 12. Artist John Benedict will be on hand to meet with guests on Friday, Sept. 4 and Saturday, Sept. 12 from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m.
Benedict said the return of his art was “remarkable,” considering he thought the case had gone cold—Angelica was stolen last May during a pop-up drive-thru art exhibit at the resort. He said the exhibit was intended to help local sculptors affiliated with SculptureTucson, a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering the profession.
“It was a good concept but it had a slight flaw,” Benedict said.
The guest ranch’s parking lot—where the drive-thru art exhibit was held—had recently been renovated. Electricity needed for lighting and security cameras in the area had not been restored at that time.
Benedict doesn’t fault the resort.
“Hacienda del Sol did everything they could. They had someone sitting out there in a car for the majority of the time,” Benedict said. “I believe the person who did this was an opportunist who waited for the right time when no one was around, dropped his tailgate, popped it in and drove away.”
The metal sculptor also said he isn’t mad at the man accused of stealing Angelica, 56-year-old Kelly Friedman. Friedman was arrested and charged with felony theft after an anonymous tip led the Pima County Sheriff’s Department to an eastside storage unit belonging to the 56-year old. Sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant and the sculpture was located.
“I heard second hand from a detective who was present at (Friedman’s) interview that he absolutely fell in love with it,” Benedict said. “I take that as a compliment but you don’t steal it. I’m not mad at the guy, though. I’ve done things I’m not proud of.”
Benedict said the multiple friendships forged and strengthened over the two months the work of art was missing is the experience's silver lining. The sheriff’s department and Hacienda del Sol both went out of their way to locate the lifted sculpture, said the artist.
“I have huge respect for the community of people who made this happen,” Benedict said. “The person who called in the tip didn’t even know there was a reward. They did it out of the goodness of their heart.”
Saturday, Sept. 12, will be the last chance for the public to view Angelica before Benedict sets the sculpture in her new home on the art walk in front of his residence. Benedict’s wife encouraged him to keep Angelica since the work has such a unique story.
“I was asking my wife what I should do with it? Should I put it back on the market? Should I donate it?” Benedict said. “She shook her head at me and said we should keep it because of the amazing story. So, I poured a concrete pad in the front yard and I’m going to bolt her down after the exhibit.”
For more information, contact haciendadelsol.com.
The University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film and Television’s 15th annual I Dream In Widescreen student film festival faced several challenges this year due to COVID-19. However, these complications turned the showcase into an online festival, allowing more viewers to see the student films than ever before.
Originally planned to be hosted at the Fox Theatre, I Dream In Widescreen will be held on Aug. 8th and 9th on Youtube live.