Off the Wall

Artists bring their work to life at the public library.

Thanks to ArtsAZ founder and Tucsonan artist Ernest MacIntyre, the Tucson-Pima Public Library at 101 N. Stone Ave. is hosting a rather unusual and popular artist lecture series titled 2ndTuesdays. On the second Tuesday of each month through May, local and nationally known artists are making themselves accessible to Tucsonans, at the same time and place--free of charge. It's an up-close and personal format that librarian and series coordinator Rona Rosenberg considers an art lover's dream.

"This is a wonderful way to discuss the why and how of the artistic process," he says. "In essence, to learn about art outside the frame--from the artists themselves."

MacIntyre initially launched the series as 1stMondays in the Phoenix library system in October of 2000 with such noteworthy names as Native American sculptor/painter Fritz Scholder; it's now in its second season there with artist-turned-architect Will Bruder, designer of the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. MacIntyre has since moved to Tucson with the intent of starting a similar program here. "This isn't a typical classroom lecture," he says. "The artists are making themselves available to their audiences in a way unlikely to be found in more traditional salon settings, and they're speaking from their hearts."

Local celebrity Steven Farley, the public artist who painted the Broadway murals, appeared at the first 2ndTuesday event in Tucson this past November. After hearing him talk about his work, the audience apparently was moved to tears. "It's clear that the artists who come are excited to be here," said MacIntyre, "No one is receiving an honorarium and the artists are paying for the expenses out of their own pockets. There are some of these art events that people go to where there's champagne with the artist. Here we are at the library having cookies with them!"

Colleen Hopkins, a humanities teacher at Catalina Foothills High School, was one of the attendees at the latest 2ndTuesday event on December 11, featuring fellow teacher and conceptual artist Tucsonan Mark-Rubin Toles. Like Rosenberg and MacIntyre, she too feels that by going to the lecture and by talking with the artist one gains insight into the artist's motivation that might otherwise be left to speculation. "From connecting with the artist in that way, there's a whole new understanding of their work," said Hopkins.

Toles--outdoorsman, high school teacher, summa cum laude graduate of Yale, MFA graduate of the University of Chicago, "guerilla" artist who rendered smiles with colored duct tape on the Berlin Wall--was selected as "New Artist of Chicago" by the Terra Museum of American Art. He received a standing ovation over 10 minutes long after his 1stMondays lecture in Phoenix.

When asked how he found the time to do this and why he wanted to, Tole earnestly replied, "It's hard to imagine an artist not wanting to talk about their work if given the chance and it's fun to tell the story behind it. It's also great to have the opportunity to talk to a public where there is a range of people with different experiences. You walk away with something different each time."

Tucsonans have plenty to look forward to in 2002. San Francisco painter/musician Claribel Cone will be welcoming in the New Year on January 8, accompanied by Tempe mezzo soprano Pinna Joseph. Cone is the daughter of classical musicians and the niece of Baltimore socialite sisters Etta and Claribel Cone, owners of one of the most impressive collections of art in the world and whose list of close friends included such greats as Gertrude Stein, Picasso and Matisse.

An artist in her own right, Cone produces work as impressive as that acquired by her aunts. Her solo and group exhibitions and her collection and commissioned works have included such local and national favorites as the Tucson Museum of Art, the Etherton Gallery, the Nelson Arts Museum in Tempe, the Phoenix Art Museum, the Getty Museum in Malibu, the National Museum of Women's Art in D.C., Smith College, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. It can currently be seen in Arizona at the Victoria Boyce Galleries in Scottsdale and Tucson.

On February 12, Phoenix sculptor/fine art photographer Randy Efros will be in town to brighten the Tucson winter landscape and talk about his years with photographers Bret and Edward Weston. On March 12, the multifaceted, bicycle-riding, youngest artist to show at the Delaney Newkirk Gallery, 29-year-old Taos painter/filmmaker Jeff Cochran, arrives with the inspiration to "create an escape from television and cars."

For those with a yearning for the unpredictable, 2ndTuesdays April 9 promises to deliver with Bob Carey of Phoenix. This high-demand commercial photographer by day, bold fine-art photographer by night, who reportedly explores "deep emotional issues with the intent of stimulating viewer response of an often restless nature," held his latest show at the Galérie Callu Mérite in Paris.

May may seem like a long time off, but it's worth waiting for. It's mystery month, according to MacIntyre, who intends to get "a really big name" to close Tucson's first 2ndTuesdays season. The demand for the series has been so great, he's being encouraged to do it year 'round as well as translating the entire concept into a road show format so the artists can visit smaller towns. Whatever the venue, the series' success seems certain.