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Tubac Festival of the Arts 2012-Catching Up On Show Reports

I wish I could say that I've been so busy filling orders from the Jan and Feb shows that I had no time to report on this show till now but although I've been busy it hasn't been as a result of the aforementioned purpose! ;-P I had this show on my radar for a number of years but wasn't able to get to it till this year, just missed the deadline last year.  I should be learning to listen to my spirit guides more carefully for a reason! Years ago (20) I would spend two weeks with a friend as an escape from Denver, in Tucson, between holidays and really enjoyed the mild weather (60-70 or so) thinking I was heading for something similar I chose to go to Tubac, AZ thinking that February should be almost tropical as compared to Denver (it is!). The weather topped out around 60 at least one day and I remember some good gusts of wind that sent dust swirling around and made some artists nervous. Our neighbors recounted the horror that they had experienced the week before in Palm Springs and it made them a little nervous to say the least. (http://www.artfairinsiders.com/profiles/blogs/there-but-for-the-gra...). We set our chairs out in the middle of the wide road to catch whatever sun we could over the next several days.

Tubac is located 40 miles south of Tucson and about a half hour north of the border and Nogales, AZ/MX. A little bit of history...The area is believed to have been inhabited approximately 11,000 years ago by mammoth hunters, since 300-1500 A.D. by the Hohokam, followed by the Pima and native O'odham, who "greeted" the Spanish in the 1600's. It was under Mexican control by 1821 and came under possession of the United States in 1853 as part of the Gadsden Purchase. In the meantime it boomed and busted under various mining interests. Arizona became a state in 1812, homesteaders were kicked out. In 1948, artist Dale Nichols arrived establishing the Artists School. The first Tubac Festival of the Arts took place in 1960, with the Tubac Center of the Arts opening in 1972.

The show is organized by the Chamber of Commerce ( A link to the show website: http://www.tubacaz.com/festival.asp) and is likewise manned by volunteers of the chamber. Check in is easy at the chamber building, you're given a map, additional materials and sent on your way. Depending on your location at the show there are either very wide streets for set up or narrow ones. After all this was a colonial town with all the charm of one and the historic streets of one. We were on the main street into town which meant lots of space to set up. In fact there was a large empty area behind our booth that we could just leave our van in as we setup and there was plenty of space for others as well. The show sets up Tuesday afternoon before the official beginning of the show ( Gotta like those day before setups!). And so, on Wednesday, the show began. Being as it was a Wed. crowds were light, or so we thought, Thursday was busy as it was reported that 9-11 tour buses had unloaded eager tourists in the parking lot. Friday was like Wed. with Sat and Sunday being not much better (or does my memory serve me correctly?) The age demographic was generally the "Snow-Bird" retiree who may have come down from Green Valley or even Tucson. Some other visitors came from as far as Phoenix (2.5 hours away). Maybe I'm being too critical but when the 5 foot tall popcorn bags, dogs and baby strollers come out in force it seems to go along with a strolling crowd that doesn't buy much and so it was in Tubac for 5 days. Other reports that I read later (of course) suggested that the 5 day ritual should be shortened by at least 2 days, if only I had known then...We had some sales (never judge a client by the way they look!) and the promise of others " I'd like to buy three of them but I need to measure that space", what else is new? We saw some large pieces walk out as well as the usual yard ornaments. Our neighbor the jeweler sold smaller pieces, earrings and small necklaces, etc. the cowboy leather wallet and belt guy sold at a fairly regular pace while the gold glass guy across the way didn't seem too busy, was it because his booth seemed sort of isolated in the corner there?

Logistics; Load-in, depending on where you were located was either easy or a little chaotic. If you were at one of the entry points it was easier. Some of the streets were narrow and there wasn't much space to park and unload.  Some areas of the show did have a lot of congestion built into the way booths and streets were setup. Some artists may have gotten overlooked on some of the smaller side-streets. Load-out was pretty much the same. We were packed up and out by 7 which is typical for us.

Amenities: Don't expect them, no water, no snacks, limited booth sitters as the chamber volunteers were spread thin. The show had lots of nice food vendors (and popcorn). Several vendors served variations on a Greek menu, gyro's, hummus, etc.  Nearby restaurants were $$. Parking, expect to pay $6 daily in one of several lots scattered around the town. The walk to the lots was not to bad. Porta potties aplenty seemed to be kept clean although I found the secret bathroom around the corner that was deluxe!

Reflections: I would probably not do this show again unless I move to Tucson anytime soon. It is too far to drive, the return was too little and the expense too much. Another reason I may not do this show is that years ago I swore off of doing shows that had any hint of dust and other blowing stuff. It gets into, onto and all around my framed 2-D pieces and I don't like the clean-up afterwards!


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Comment by Annette Piper on March 26, 2012 at 3:26pm

Thanks for the review Brian - I agree, 5 days sounds too long, the community loses all sense of urgency (instead of "got to get there and see what they've got before they go" it becomes "oh we'll go tomorrow" and you know tomorrow never comes!) and you end up twidling your thumbs waiting for the rush.  The tour buses sound like a bonus though!

Comment by Daryl Cohen & Kevin Frosch on March 26, 2012 at 11:28am

I did this show the eyar before, and did well. Weather was great and we live in Tucson. Could not do it this year because the theirrequirment that you pay the entire, I think hefty, fee in advance, up front. So I just skipped it. I am glad I did from your experience there. Thank you.

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on March 26, 2012 at 1:52am

Thanks Brian.  Yes, dust can be a real bear on art work.

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