Cheap Thrills

NIRVANA GULCH: That venerable journal of alternative existence, the Utne Reader, recently named Bisbee, an ornery little burg nestled several miles--and many, many tie-dyes south of Tucson--as one of the most livable towns in the whole U.S.A. And why not? With a rich, hardscrabble history, slightly tattered post-Bohemian present, and more wonderfully sublime saloons than you can shake a boilermaker at, the city has everything a modern spiritual wanderer could want.

Add to that a bubbling creative scene, and the picture is complete. Emphasizing the point, this week witnesses another installment of the annual Bisbee Spring Arts Celebration.

Accenting the action will be a mini studio tour featuring six artists' establishments. Included will be a glimpse into the workspace of fiber artist Gail Campbell, a Canadian transplant who creates woven vessels from tree bark. Manny and Danielle Martinez will be this year's featured clay artists. Their Raku, stoneware and porcelain pieces are considered among the best in southern Arizona.

And kids will dig the Art Chalk Contest in front of the Public Library, while for a mere $5, their adults can enjoy the Mainstreet "Paint-a-thon," spiced by antique cars and costumed models, all creating the perfect visionary backdrop.

The festival runs Saturday and Sunday, May 10 and 11. Bisbee is located about 90 minutes southeast of Tucson; take I-10 east to Benson, turning south on Highway 80. Tickets for the studio tour and the Paint-a-thon are $5, available at the Bisbee Chamber of Commerce, 7 Main St. For information, call (520) 432-5421.

HOT BLOODED: Pack your maracas and head to downtown's El Presidio Park, where melodic passion takes center stage in the seventh-annual Festival of Caribbean Music and Dance. Topping this year's roster of performers are Tucson's favorite Cuban band, Aché Pa Ti, Folklórico de Nicaragua, and Bobby Soto's Recuerdo Band. That's in addition to plenty of great chow.

Action runs from 6 to 10:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 10 and 11, at El Presidio Park, located downtown next to City Hall, Alameda Street and Church Avenue. Call 888-8816 for details.

FEMININE PENS: Mujeres Que Escriben, (Women Who Write) is a group founded in 1992 by playwright, poet and former Tucsonan Sylvania Wood to provide support, encouragement and critiques for up-and-coming Chicana writers.

Their meetings were originally held in each other's kitchens. These days the venue has changed, but the purpose remains the same--to promote a strong voice for Latin women writers. Tonight, Mujeres presents a free reading by Jessica Jaramillo, Carolina Pesqueira, Valerina Quintana, Maria del Sagario and Maria Elena Wakamatsu from 7 to 9 p.m. in Café Mixteca, 1945 S. Sixth Ave. For details, call 620-6435. TW

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