The Tucson Historic Warehouse Arts District is a community of artists, innovators, makers and local business owners striving to revitalize downtown Tucson, Arizona.
The Historic Warehouse Arts District was made possible by the Tucson Pima Arts Council (TPAC), which was awarded the Our Town grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in 2011. The Our Town Grant program supports creative placemaking projects that help to transform communities into lively, beautiful, and resilient places with the arts at their core. Creative placemaking is when artists, arts organizations, and community development practitioners deliberately integrate arts and culture into community revitalization work - placing arts at the table with land-use, transportation, economic development, education, housing, infrastructure, and public safety strategies. This funding supports local efforts to enhance quality of life and opportunity for existing residents, increase creative activity, and create a distinct sense of place.
Why was this project started?
According to the National Endowment for the Arts, the warehouse district has been in limbo for many years and several of the buildings were bought over 20 years ago by the Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) in anticipation of them being demolished for a new inner city roadway. The community began to blossom in the late 1980s when the warehouses became vacant, and artists began to move in. The Tucson Historic Warehouse Arts District Master Plan states that artists first became interested in the area after the Department of Transportation acquired many warehouse properties for demolition to build a railroad-aligned state highway, but when the highway was never built, the State temporarily made the properties available to artists at very low lease rates. This district created a new home for artists that were spread out in Tucson. Although many artists have moved in and called this area their new home, it still lacked the outside presence needed to grow and sustain the community. According to the official website of the Warehouse Arts District, the main purpose of this project is to create public awareness. The Executive Director of TPAC, Roberto Bedoya, stated that the district needed to make “visible the invisible” in regards to the cultural assets within the district. The economic impact for everyone involved in the community was limited by their outside presence, therefore the places and artists involved needed to be presented outside the community. These needs led to the creation of the Historic Warehouse Arts District, and with the help of key partnerships with TPAC, NEA and other community partners, the project received funding and the necessary resources to shine light on the community.
The plan’s goal is to develop the Tucson Historic Arts Warehouse district as a center for incubation, production, and exhibition of the arts, with artists at its heart. Since receiving the Our Town grant in 2011, the TPAC hired two artists Rand Carlson and Bill Mackey to support the creation of an “awareness campaign” for the district.
In partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts, the Tucson Pima Arts Council set out to build an interactive map of the community. This new tool would act as an atlas for the Warehouse District, and "would help to encourage relationships between different groups based there, fostering the kind of social cohesion that is so important to any place. By cultivating a greater sense of belonging, the efforts could help address the pressures of gentrification in non-traditional ways by helping to revive the creative assets that have historically defined Tucson’s sense of place for centuries. When the maps were made of each artist-approved location, TPAC placed a green triangle sign at each location, which included a QR code that links to the website with more information.
Impact on Tucson
This project plays a major role in the revitalization of downtown Tucson. According to the Tucson Historic Warehouse Arts District Master Plan, the goal of the project was to develop the Tucson Historic Warehouse Arts District as a center for incubation, production and exhibition of the arts, with artists at its heart. There was a tremendous amount of city planning that went into this project, and a total of 8 recommendations for changes inside this district, which can all be found on the master plan. After the project was launched, TPAC reported a greater awareness of the district and of different artists throughout the area. The intensive data collection process required a mass amount of research, resulting in artists and gallery owners becoming more of a community, sharing information about the district’s geography, and becoming part of a shared map. It was an overall community engaging activity. This project is a great example of what can be accomplished in downtown Tucson, and the TPAC is even planning to replicate the process for the recently installed modern street car line that connects downtown 4th Avenue area to the University of Arizona.
Future of the Historic Warehouse Arts District
Tucson is warming up to the entrepreneurial startup ecosystem, and the Historic Warehouse Arts District plays an integral part in that growth. As new startups sprout up overnight, the demand for office space increases, making the Arts District an optimal location for entrepreneurs. From a graphic design firm to a robotic engineering startup, the neighborhood has already welcomed a new breed of technological artists, innovators, makers and local business owners, joining arms in the process of revitalizing downtown Tucson, Arizona.
Technology as Art
The Historic Warehouse Arts District is positioned to take advantage of the strong economic growth currently being experienced in Tucson. With its recent history of supporting innovative practices that encourage creatives to join together and bring new life to this once struggling district. The Historic Warehouse Arts District can once again "make visible the invisible". Technical entrepreneurship will play a vital role in evolving this historic Tucson area into a center of cultural and economic growth in the Southern Arizona region. The direct melding of traditional creative types and new age technical creatives in a focal point like the district will lead to new kinds of innovation and collaboration in the Tucson area.
-- Information was provided by
Our Town-Tucson - Tucson Pima Arts Council » Tucson Pima Arts Council. (n.d.). Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://www.tucsonpimaartscouncil.org/initiatives/our-town-tucson/
TPAC's National Endowment for the Arts Our Town project. (n.d.). Retrieved November 15, 2015, from http://warehouseartsdistrict.com/NEA-Our-Town-Project
Tucson Historic Arts Warehouse District Master Plan. (n.d.). Retrieved November 15, 2015, from https://www.tucsonaz.gov/files/pdsd/historic_warehouse_arts_district.pdf
Warehouse Arts District. (n.d.). Retrieved November 15, 2015, from https://www.arts.gov/exploring-our-town/warehouse-arts-district