Therese Perreault

Therese Perreault started Arts Marketplace so local artists could have a place at the economic-development table in downtown Tucson. The nonprofit teaches business development to artists and creative entrepreneurs. Through her work, Perreault met five Tucson women involved in downtown and local arts—Nancy Abens, Victoria Falcone, Jackie Lyle, Julie Ray and Monica Surfaro Spigelman—who decided they wanted to work together to do more downtown. This month, they opened Crafted: An Urban Design Space, at 40 W. Broadway Blvd. Inspired by the book and documentary Handmade Nation, they want to showcase handmade arts and build community. For more info, visit artsmarketplace.org or www.craftedtucson.com.

How did the idea start?

For me, I want to be around artists, and I think the world is a better place when there are more artists around. But how it actually started was that Julie (Ray) and I went to Phoenix for (the event) Crafts, Coffee and Cookies. We met Kate Benjamin, who has a cool handmade (website) effort called Modern Cat. She loves it and is a happy person. She told us to buy the book Handmade Nation, by Faythe Levine. Both of us got the documentary and the book, and it is incredibly inspiring.

The space is where you've had the Arts Marketplace gallery. How will things change?

The fun part of the space that faces Broadway will be Crafted, and another room in the back will allow me to continue to do gallery work and work with artists on their shows for Arts Marketplace.

What are the criteria for the artists at Crafted?

The criteria are very subjective. ... We're just trying it on, but I'm sure as the months go by, our criteria will get more focused. We ask ourselves, "Is it unique? Is it something people would buy? Is it an affordable and sustainable design?" Each item will have a story card that will tell you how we found them, which one of us did, and what interested us in the artist.

What do you have planned for January?

January is going to be so awesome. One of the other women involved, Victoria, she's all about cool events and bringing some life and livelihood downtown. Jackie Lyle, a quilter, has also been an amazing advocate for local businesses downtown. We're going to do an event called "Muffins, Mimosas and Matchbox Cars." We want to do something for kids where Mom and Dad can hang out, and the kids can play. The courtyard here is so beautiful. That's what we have planned for January. We also decided to do something called "SoCo Saturday Night" on the third Saturday night of the month. We've branded "South of Congress" to get folks interested in doing some good things for downtown. We're trying to help people get the experience of what handmade is. You can do that in a physical space, but you also have to do that in person with workshops, meeting artists and creating community.

How did you get involved?

Arts Marketplace is really where we all met. That's the intersection, not just for me, but for artists and people who want to get things done. It's a nonprofit that provides business training for artists and entrepreneurs. But what's going on now, for me, we are retooling the whole program. I've been able to take advantage of (free) MainStreet consulting from the Regional Transportation Authority. I'm going to retool the organization. We will still have our monthly meetings as a point of entry for anyone interested, where an expert comes in, and we have a potluck. But we are now going to do a more concentrated business-planning program that will take place in a four-month period. We will offer two four-month intensive programs throughout the year. There will be a fee, and then all year, we will offer a free community evening with a potluck and have that be a place to build community.

What's the overall goal of Crafted?

I really have to say one of the overall goals that feel very common among the six of us is to make a difference downtown and with art downtown, and the building of a creative spirit. ... I also want art to be at the table. When we talk about cultural economic development, I want us to be at the table. I want the local government, as well as the larger population outside the downtown area, to see that the arts are also part of economic development in Tucson.