Ode Lang Syne

A Look Back At The Year In Art.

The end of the century drawing near in time
It's the hour to ponder the arts in rhyme.
A strangely wondrous year did Tucson make.
Its artists oft shun brush, canvas and paint.
At the Tucson Museum of Art's Arizona Biennial
The artwork was not of materials perennial.
"Contemporary art" is what they call it
And of every object they do form it,
Of sewing pins and velvet cloth
Of toys and tools and sundry froth.
Julia Latané, Tucson's own, makes sculptures soft.
Her silver cloth "Sparkler" won best of show;
It looked like the crown of Miss Liberty-o.
Latané too directs HazMat,
A gallery on Toole that wants to turn spit spot
Into a new Museum of Contemporary Art
On Congress, where Thrifty Drugs did depart.

Yet in the year of '99
Painters still continued to shine.
Eric Twachtman at Dinnerware
Slashed paint on canvas, emotions laid bare
Likewise Joe Forkan at DC Harris
And Debra Salopek at Davis Dominguez.
In Davis' new downtown digs,
Monika Rossa showed paintings of her kids.
Feminist artist Miriam Schapiro,
Fearless hero, led the way
To a new women's art at TMA.
But we're impatient, we're forced to wait
For the biggest painting yet by our own Jim Waid
Destined for the new federal courthouse
Its proportions great,
Its construction late.

Photographers too from every shire's end
Of America to the Old Pueblo they wend.
Lured by desert light in March they came
For an international society meeting with shutterbugs of fame.
And in the galleries gelatin silver prints galore!
At Etherton Danny Lyon, Alex Webb
Scrutinized segregation and Third World dread.
Vik Muniz at the Center for Creative Photography
Made pix of spaghetti and choco-latte.
Myriam Babin at Elizabeth Cherry
Showed motel-Mondrians, surprisingly merry.
Old-time Edward S. Curtis at the Temple
Provided images of a time more simple.

Downtown, that eternal puzzle,
Continues to give politicos and arties trouble.
But there's good news afoot in the old lanes.
A brand-new gallery, Gocaia by name,
Filled an empty corner, downtown's bane,
Left by the departure of Hazel Rugg's Yikes.
In the warehouse district, beyond the tracks,
The International Arts Center has converted the Y
Into studios, rehearsal space, offices, homes.
A trio of new galleries with different conceptions --
Traditional watercolors, New York perceptions
And challenging Chicanismo exceptions --
Have spruced up old storefronts that formerly
On Sixth's streetscape were like infections.
The Southern Arizona Watercolor Society, to wit,
Mingles happily with Raices Taller
And the fine art of Robert Pearre.
Steven Farley, artist celebrated,
A new Broadway Underpass decorated
With fine tile photos of Tucsonans strolling down
The bustling streets of the once lively downtown.
Students and housewives, businessmen, doctors,
Join Lalo Guerrero, famed musician del barrio,
Forever young, in black and blanco,
On the highway mural.

Don't forget the Tucson Fox Theatre either,
Noble beacon of movies latter.
The old film house will be rejuvenated.
Its art deco glories are yet unabated
Beneath layers of dust.

The Tucson Downtown Alliance, an odd hybrid
Paid for with public and private funds, is called the BID.
Its Purple People make downtown's streets safer.
They pick up trash and perform other fine capers.
Yet a city audit showed that its books were messy.
No city dollars should pay for candy and fizzies
Said co-chairs Richard Oseran and Margo Susco, alas.
We promise reform, open meetings and books,
A sterling downtown and more tourists hooked.

Ancient Indians' dwelling place, west of the Santa Cruz,
Will likewise change, as the voters did choose
To fund the projects of Rio Nuevo.
They'll bring us fishies and a Convento,
History museums, restored pit houses,
A Visitor's Center, embroidered blouses
In fancy shops and restaurants offering tasty chops.
Perchance 'twill be Tucson's newest hot spot.

In this year, like any, we had our losses,
Artists, teachers, museum bosses.
Peter Bermingham, gentleman artist,
Of museum directors was one of the smartest.
He was conscientious, learned and grand.
He died in January but with UAMA shows all planned.
The late Barbara Kennedy, painter splendid,
Had a retrospective there of pastels and papers bended.
Dear Bruce McGrew, who died in August,
Left reams of watercolors of landscapes exalted.
As well he left teams of admiring art students
From his long UA years as professor reputed.

And so on to the next millennium
Let the art keep coming at a steady hum.
Seek a city fair and full of walkers
Its history preserved, its deserts conserved.
Let Tucson's long and adventurous life
Keep comely with bliss and only occasional strife.

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