COLLIDING CULTURES INSPIRE RICH, DIVERSE ART
Tucson's flourishing visual-arts scene is strikingly rich and varied. Downtown, the Tucson Museum of Art, for example, sprawls through five buildings ranging from the adobe 1867 Edward Nye Fish House to the main gallery building designed in 1970s concrete Brutalist idiom. Its exhibits reflect the region's farrago of cultures- there's a great collection of bizarre and sophisticated pre-Columbian effigy figures dating from 200 b.c. to a.d. 1200, a wing for Western American art, and works of contemporary realism in the main gallery.
On the University of Arizona campus, UAMA has a substantial collection of 20th-century American and European Renaissance paintings. Look carefully at the 26-panel Retablo of Ciudad Rodrigo, painted in Spain in the 1480s, and you might spot the cannonball hole attributed to Napoleon's Iberian invasion. The museum's contemporary shows can be edgy. In collaboration with the campus's Center for Creative Photography (CCP), UAMA welcomed an artist who designed an exhibit of dolls robed in Ku Klux Klan sheets. "If it's art that's controversial just to be controversial, that doesn't interest us," says UAMA director Charles Guerin. "But if it's great art that happens to be controversial, there's no reason for us to avoid it. We're kind of protected by academic freedom."
The Center for Creative Photography was founded in 1975 by former UA president John P. Schaefer, who is a serious photographer and enthusiast of the medium. When Schaefer asked Ansel Adams if he might be interested in entrusting the university with his archives, Adams countered with a more ambitious vision, challenging Schaefer to create a repository for an entire constellation of photographic artists. The museum today holds the works of more than 50 esteemed American photographers, including Richard Avedon, W. Eugene Smith, Edward Weston - and, of course, Adams.
"There's no facility like this on any university campus in the world," says CCP director Douglas Nickel. Visitors can browse a gallery of changing exhibits and (by appointment) research the vast archives of negatives, prints, and manuscripts.