Pick of the Week

Celebrating the Arts

Sometimes, it's easy to forget that it's winter in Tucson. We enjoy temps in the 70s, sunny skies and outdoor festivals including the Rodeo and Gem and Mineral Show. Another popular outdoor event is the Family Arts Festival, which drew a crowd of 20,000-plus last year.

Now in its sixth year, the Family Arts Festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 15. The free event will be held in various places downtown, from the Tucson Convention Center though La Placita Village to El Presidio Park. For a complete schedule and map, visit www.familyartsfestival.org. Call 624-0595, ext. 10, for more information.

The Tucson Pima Arts Council coordinates the festival. "The Arts Council is an organization that supports local arts organizations and artists," says Amanda Place, director of development and marketing. "We receive money from Pima County and the city of Tucson to support artists ... and work to determine the high-caliber, greater need. ... There were 113 applications last year, and 72 grants were given."

The 21-year-old organization has supported the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Arizona Theatre Company, Tucson Children's Museum and Tucson Boys Chorus. The Arts Council also offers technology workshops in various topics such as digital photography and desktop publishing. (See tucsonpimaartscouncil.org for more information.)

But the Arts Council may be best known to the public for its Family Arts Festival. Place says for the first time, the event has a title sponsor--the Fear Not Foundation. The foundation is a family-owned nonprofit created in the 1990s. The family foundation supports programs at the UA and also the "history, visual and performing arts and sciences and family-oriented organizations of the Tucson area."

Place says the festival has a family-friendly emphasis. "Nothing will shock. ... There is such a huge public response for this event. We will have 20,000, close to 25,000 if it's a nice day. People love the experience and return."

With too many activities and performances to fully list here, I'll mention a sampling of events at various locations. For a complete list, be sure to visit familyartsfestival.org/schedule.htm.

At the Sister Cities Stage in El Presidio Park, a variety of music and dance performances will be offered. At 11:20 a.m., the National Danish Performance Team will entertain with their distinctive style--a cross between gymnastics and modern dance. (For more information on the National Danish Performance Team, see Margaret Regan's "Dancing Danes" story in the Jan. 5 issue of the Weekly.)

Within a matter of hours at the Sister Cities Stage, you can listen to European polka by the Alt Deutsche Band at 11:45 a.m.; world dance music by G Force Project at 12:25 p.m.; flamenco music by Luna Llena Flamenco at 1:45 p.m.; and mariachi music by Mariachi Herencia de Mexico at 4:30 p.m. And you don't even need a passport.

At the Festival Stage located near City Hall in El Presidio Park, there are plenty of dance and music performances to appreciate. It's almost a trip around the globe. Starting at 11 a.m., get a touch o' the Irish with Irish step dancing by the Bracken School of Irish Dance. Heading east to the land of the rising sun, Odaiko Sonora Taiko offers Japanese ensemble drumming at 3 p.m. And heading south of the equator, Batucaxé--an Afro-Brazilian percussion ensemble--performs at 4:20 p.m.

If you appreciate the art of the spoken word, head over to the Pima Stage, north of the Congress Street pedestrian bridge. At 11 a.m. and throughout the day, Bill Black will recite Cowboy and Western poetry. At 11:15 a.m., the Tucson Juneteenth Festival Committee will present African-American poetry.

Maybe your kids don't share your love for polka music or poetry. No worries. There are many activities they will enjoy. At the Kids Fest in La Placita Village Courtyard, they can watch a musical puppet show by Puppet Muzik at 11:15 a.m.; be mystified by The Tucson Tricksters magic show at noon; and learn about cowboy rope spinning from the Cactus Cowboys Corral at 2:45 p.m.

There will be plenty of activities and displays throughout the day at La Placita, including face-painting, science activities, Japanese calligraphy and more. Better put your best face on, because David Fitzsimmons will be drawing caricatures from noon to 3 p.m.

Looking to add a little science to your child's life? Head over to the north meeting rooms in the TCC. According to the Family Arts Web site, "kids can investigate the relationship between the arts and sciences with activities such as recycled art, origami, painting, creating a watershed and physics."

If you get tired and just want to settle down and watch a movie, you're in luck. The Lights, Camera, Action! Film and Video Showcase inside the TCC offers films from the Tucson Jewish Film Festival at noon; positive and uplifting short films from Reel Inspiration at 2 p.m.; and 15 Minutes by Access Tucson at 3 p.m., among others.

Between Hotel Arizona and the TCC, there will be displays from various arts organizations. "The nonprofits are able to sell their product and tell you what they do. If a person wants to, they will know the community a great deal better by stopping by the displays," says Place.

With so many activities to choose from, the Family Arts Festival promises to be an event that offers something for everyone. Place says the goal is to have fun. "It's a chance for children and parents to explore the arts together."