An Artist’s Paradise

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The hustle and bustle of Downtown Tucson can be overwhelming. With over 80 restaurants and bars, numerous shops, and a variety of entertainment venues, a quiet and peaceful afternoon is hard to come by. However, tucked away in the historic Presidio District of Tucson, lies a hidden gem of the city.

Far enough away from the chiming bell of the street car, yet close enough to still feel a part of the culture of Downtown can be found The Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block. This collection of historic buildings provides visitors with a quiet venue to appreciate the rich history that is the very foundation on which this town is built.

The museum stands along the sidewalks of Main Ave. and Alameda St., encompassing the main exhibit as well as 5 historic properties, each with a history as vibrant as the paintings that hang on the gallery walls. “It is unusual for a museum,” said Nancy Jacques, a tour docent who has volunteered since 2014 at the museum, about the mutli-property layout.

With 7 galleries in the main building alone, no art lover will go disappointed. “Everyone has a certain taste,” said Megan Boss, a security guard who has worked at the museum for the past 4 years.

Currently, the main show is a modern and contemporary art gallery called Body Languages. “It is an excellent post modernism expression of figuration,” Jacques said. The gallery will be open until July, however the museum tries their best to showcase something for everyone and change is constant.

When current shows are being brought out and new shows are being brought in, the museum staggers the changes to avoid having to completely close according to Boss. The length of time that shows are displayed in the museum depends. “Sometimes they’re here for twelve weeks, sometimes 16, sometimes a year and four months,” said Jacques.

Many galleries are showcased temporarily by curators, but the museum also has an extensive permanent collection. “The permanent collection here is over 8,000 pieces,” Jacques said. These pieces were either purchased by or gifted to the museum by various art collectors and are always on display for visitors, according to Jacques.

While many visitors are art enthusiasts, many have never been to an art museum before. Looking at art is one thing but understanding the rich history and deep meaning behind the art is another. “You will find the most explicit information at the entrance of each show,” Jacques said.

Didactics, or written information about an exhibit, can be found both about each show and about each piece within the shows. These didactics are available in English and Spanish to accommodate for a variety of guests. “As a museum we are trying to reach the community at large,” said Peggy Hittner, a volunteer who has been at the museum since 2011.

Art education does not just stop at the museum doors. The museum strives to work closely with the Tucson community, particularly with local schools. “We have an incredible in school program because there are so many schools now with no art teachers,” Jacques said.

The program, which began 25 years ago according to Hittner, sends volunteers to schools throughout Tucson to teach students whose schools’ art programs have been cut. “With volunteers only, they give 13,000 units of art classes a year,” Jacques said.

Volunteers also work within the actual museum giving tours, greetting visitors and answering questions. Those who are interested in volunteering go through extensive training according to Jacques. “You have to be able to do everything,” Jacques said. The docent pool is large and strong, “I would say active docents are probably around 120,” Hittner said.

The Tucson Museum and Historic Block is closed Monday and open Tuesday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. General admission is $12 for adults, $10 for Seniors, $7 for college students and children 13-17 and free for children 12 and under, veterans and museum members.

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