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 El 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 tranquil venue to appreciate the rich history that is the very foundation on which this town is built.
The Tucson Museum of Art was first established in the year 1924, under the name Tucson Fine Arts Association and was located on Franklin Street. However, in 1975 the museum moved to its current located on North Main Avenue and changed its name to what we know today. The museum also took on five more properties, all of which have historical significance and interesting stories to tell. These five properties include: La Case Cordova, Romero House, Edward Nye Fish House, Stevens/Duffield House and the J. Knox Corbett House.
My personal favorite out of the five is the Edward Nye Fish House. The story behind this building is fascinating and paints a really interesting picture into what life in old Tucson was like. The house was built and owned in 1868 by Edward Nye Fish. Fish was originally from Massachusetts, however he and 20 of his friends sailed a boat all the way to San Francisco in 1849. After becoming wealthy from his time in California, Fish and his family moved to Tucson. Fish bought the property that is now managed by the museum. The house was decorated quite revolutionary for the time, with many pieces within the home coming from Europe. The house also had wood floors, something that not many had done at this time. The Fish house quickly became the center of the social scene within Tucson. Today, the Fish house is home to an art exhibit showcasing Western Art.
While the Fish House’s history is grand, each of these five historic buildings have their own interesting backgrounds. The museum has done a fantastic job of staying true to the integrity of each of these buildings and trying to educate the public on the stories behind the buildings. Each of the buildings showcase art of their own. Whether showcasing an exhibition or collection, the buildings and their histories are still at the center.
Perhaps the most notable part of the museum, is the yellow sculpture outside of one of the side entrances to the museum. It almost acts as known landmark to locals and an intriguing piece to those who are just visiting Tucson. As you walk past the sculpture and into the main building of the museum, you enter the main gallery area. Some of the galleries and exhibits are a part of the museum’s extensive permanent collection, however most are showcased temporarily by curators. The current exhibitions include: Desert Dweller, Dress Matters: Clothing as Metaphor, American Art, Art of the American West, Contemporary Art, Folk Art of the Americas, Latin American Art and Modern Art.
While many who visit the museum are art enthusiasts, the museum does a great job of catering to first time visitors or visitors who may not have an extensive background. 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. These allow visitors to not only understand the history behind the art, but also appreciate what the intended meaning behind the art is. Of course, visitors are encouraged to come to their own conclusions about the meaning as well.
The museum does not just provide the Tucson community with great exhibits and interesting history. The museum also works hard to provide art education to the community as well. The museum works closely with local school districts to provide students whose schools do not offer art classes, a chance to learn about art and make some pieces of their own. This program has been something the museum has done for the past 25 years and has provided thousands of units of art classes to local students, all with the help of volunteers.
Clearly, the Tucson Museum of Art has made a lasting impact on the Tucson community. Not only does It work to preserve the rich history of old Tucson, it also works to showcase amazing art to the community as well. The museum will forever be engrained in the heart of Tucson.
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.
Link to Museum Website: https://tucsonmuseumofart.org
Link to Museum Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/TucsonMuseumofArt/
Link to Reviews of Museum: https://www.yelp.com/biz/tucson-museum-of-art-tucson