Best Of Tucson®

Best Arts & Culture 2022

Best Gallery

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

6300 N. Swan

520-299-9191, degrazia.org

What started as a small construction project in the early 1950s is now the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, designed and built by artist Ettore Ted DeGrazia. The first building to go up was an adobe mission chapel out of bricks made from the mud of the 10-acre property. Now you, too, may visit the open-roofed Chapel of the Sun, dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe, as well as DeGrazia’s works in ever-changing exhibits that trace historical events and native cultures of the Southwest. You may also tour the grounds, visit DeGrazia’s home and see the cactus corral. Plus, there’s a pretty sweet gift shop and a gorgeous view of the mountains.

Reader Recommended

Madaras Gallery, 3035 N. Swan Road, 520-615-3001, madaras.com

Etherton Gallery, 340 S. Convent Avenue, 520-624-7370, ethertongallery.com


Best of Art Museum

Tucson Museum of Art

140 N. Main Avenue

520-624-2333, tucsonmuseumofart.org

Established in 1924 as the Tucson Fine Arts Association, the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block features original and traveling exhibitions centering  on Latin American and East Asian art, art of the American West, and modern and contemporary art. In addition to guided tours, the TMA offers pay-what-you-wish events such as Second SundAZe, guest lectures from community members, artists and curators, markets and more. Wander through the “Monica Aissa Martinez: Nothing in Stasis” exhibit and enjoy lunch at Café a la C’art during your visit, but don’t forget to check out the museum store on your way out!

Reader Recommended

University of Arizona Museum of Art, 1031 N. Olive Road, 520-621-7567, artmuseum.arizona.edu

The Center for Creative Photography, 1030 N. Olive Road, 520-621-7968, ccp.arizona.edu


Best Visual Artist

Jessica Gonzalez

facebook.com/jessicagonzalesart

jessicagonzalesart.com

Who doesn’t love a good mural? Tucson has many and some of the best come from Tucson muralist and fine artist Jessica Gonzalez. Visitors have seen her work but may not know it’s hers. She does the show murals at the Rialto. Then there’s the mural at the Union on 6th Apartments and the Cactus Grill in the UA Student Union Memorial Center. Her work is colorful, vibrant and approachable. And, oh yeah, she works on commission, too. 

Reader Recommended

Joe Pagac, 1930 E. Grant Road, 520-429-4614, joepagac.net

Diana Madaras, 3035 N. Swan Road, 520-615-3001, madaras.com



Best Movie Theater

The Loft Cinema

3233 E. Speedway Boulevard

520-795-7777 for show times

520-795-0844 for box office

520-322-LOFT (5638) for all other inquiries, loftcinema.org

The Loft Cinema has real staying power, even through the pandemic. Established in 1972, this year marks its 50th anniversary with signature films from 1972. The Loft screens new independent and foreign films and documentaries, along with classic art films, interactive events including a monthly short film contest and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” singalongs and cult favorites. Its concession stand features a wide variety of beers, wine, tamales, sandwiches and Ethiopian wraps as well as other upscale items. The Loft is all about building community by celebrating the art and diversity of film.

Reader Recommended

Roadhouse Cinemas, 4811 E. Grant Rd Suite 150, 520-209-2728, roadhousecinemas.com

Galaxy Theatres, 100 S. Houghton Road, 1-888-407-9874, galaxytheatres.com


Best Art Classes

Tucson Desert Art Museum

7000 E. Tanque Verde Road

520-202-3888, tucsondart.org

A relative newcomer to Tucson’s museum collection, Tucson Desert Art Museum opened in late 2013 and strives to inform and, dare we say, educate us about the culture, history and art of our desert home. There are classrooms and meeting and auditorium spaces in the 25,000-square-foot building, sure, but then there’s also the lovely, spacious exhibition space. Just waiting for your visit are excellent examples of pre-1940s Navajo and Hopi weavings. Look for chief’s blankets, saddle blankets, optical art textiles and Yei weavings. That’s not all. Look for contemporary and classic Southwest paintings, Navajo sand paintings, and early armaments and artifacts. 

Reader Recommended 

Tipsy Picassos, 520-343-5977, tipsy-picassos.square.site

Sonoran Glass School, 633 W. 18th Street, 520-884-7814, sonoranglass.org


Best Musical Instrument Store

Chicago Music Store

45 S. Sixth Avenue, 520-622-3341

5646 E. Speedway Boulevard, 520-886-1516

chicagomusicstore.com

Since 1919, the Chicago (Music) Store bought and sold everything under the sun.” To date, it has a wide variety of musical instruments; equipment; and accessories to buy, rent and repair. Take a lesson and learn how to finally play that ukulele, accordion or whatever your fancy. A frequent winner in this category and a Tucson staple, the Chicago Music Store is a third-generation family-owned business that has all of your music-related needs. 

Reader Recommended

Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

Midtown - 3330 E. Speedway Boulevard, 520-325-5767

Northwest - 3733 W. Ina Road, 520-579-0303

East - 6230 E. Speedway Boulevard, 520-748-9555, bookmans.com

Instrumental Music Center, 7063 E. Speedway Boulevard, 520-733-7334, imc-az.com


Best Theater Company

Gaslight Theatre

7010 E. Broadway Boulevard

520-886-9428, thegaslighttheatre.com 

In 1990, the Gaslight Theatre moved into its current location, the old Jerry Lewis Theatre at Broadway and Kolb, where it has been entertaining Tucson residents. The Gaslight Theatre runs musical comedy melodramas six nights a week and five different shows per year, such as Westerns, sci-fi spoofs and its famous Christmas shows. The Gaslight provides comfort foods, soda and loads of free popcorn. Enjoy your favorite beer, wine, cocktails or an adult milkshake. Gaslight also holds music concerts every Monday.

Reader Recommended

Arizona Theater Company Temple of Music and Art Box Office, 330 S. Scott Avenue, 1-833-ATC-SEAT; 1-833-282-7328, atc.org

Rogue Theatre, 300 E. University Boulevard, Suite 150, 520-551-2053, theroguetheatre.org


Best Author

Lydia Millet

lydiamillet.net

Lydia Millet is a fairly prolific writer who has produced interesting stuff. Her most recent effort, “Dinosaurs,” came out Oct. 11. Still, if you want to know “How the Dead Dream” or how George Bush became the “Dark Prince of Love,” visit a local book purveyor and pick up a title or two. Millet is the recipient of many awards, the most recent being in 2020, when she was named a National Book Awards Finalist for Fiction for the novel “A Children’s Bible.” Millet also writes book reviews, opinion pieces and essays, among other things.

Reader Recommended

AJ Flick, facebook.com/writerajflick

Byrd Bailor, simonandschuster.com


Best Dance Studio

Breakout Studios

5811 E. Speedway Boulevard

520-275-1085, breakoutstudios.online

There’s more than one way to get fit: for example, dancing. At BreakOut Studios, patrons can transform their lives through the magic of stepping to the music. They feature all sorts of dance, mainly urban styles, beginning with the basics, like hip-hop, jazz and street styles. For the more experienced dancers, there’s ballet and advanced ballet. Guests aren’t limited to dance, however. There’s Pilates, yoga and, for the really adventurous, belly dancing. You must be at least 13 years old to participate. You may join if you like or buy classes one at a time.

Reader Recommended

Viva Performing Arts, 4563 S. Park Avenue, 520-544-9543, vivaperformingarts.com

Dancing in the Streets, 88 W. 38th Street, 520-867-8489, www.ditsaz.org


Best Dance Company

Ballet Tucson

200 S. Tucson Boulevard

520-903-1445, ballettucson.org

Each season the company entertains Tucson with historical classics as well as innovative contemporary works offering something for everyone’s taste. Upcoming performances include the fall concert featuring the Ballet Tucson premiere of Justin Peck’s “In Creases” being performed Friday, Nov. 11, to Sunday, Nov. 13, as well as “The Nutcracker” in partnership with Tucson Symphony Orchestra performed Thursday, Dec. 22, through Saturday, Dec. 24.

Reader Recommended

UA School of Dance, 1737 E. University Boulevard, 520-621-4698, dance.arizona.edu

ZUZI! Dance The sYnapse at Studio Y, 650 N. Sixth Avenue, 520-629-0237, zuzimoveit.org


Best Outdoor Art Installation

Joe Pagac’s murals

520-490-2794, joepagac.net/signs

Local mural artist Joe Pagac’s work is all over town. The flying whales on the southeast corner of Grant and Speedway — yep, his. He also paints on canvas, creates fabrications (what he calls them), and signs, which you have also seen around town, especially if at the Guadalajara Grill. Pagac said he loves to share his art with our Tucson community, and he also loves sunsets.

Reader Recommended

Ben’s Bells, 40 W. Broadway Boulevard, 520-622-1379, bensbells.org

Jewish Community Center, Sculpture Garden, 3800 E. River Road, 520-299-3000, tucsonjcc.org


Best Music School

Tucson Jazz Institute

3233 S. Pinal Vista

520-514-0935, tucsonjazzinstitute.com

Students learn to play big band-style swing at the Tucson Jazz Institute, which was created to support area band directors and their programs and to help middle and high school students develop skills in instrumental jazz performance. There are classes in Basie combos, Basie big band, Ellington combos, Kenton combos and more. Classes are conveniently scheduled on Saturdays and Sundays and in the summer. 

Reader Recommended

Kids Unlimited, 6066 N. Oracle Road, 520-293-1225, kustars.com

Allegro School of Music, 4641 N. First Avenue; 6979 E. Broadway Boulevard, 520-670-9162, allegroschoolofmusic.net

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