UArizona Exalts the Arts

A Pillar of the Arts Community

By Loni Nannini

The University of Arizona is transforming Southern Arizona into a stage and Arizona Arts is the headliner.

Created in 2019 through the Arizona Arts Master Plan in conjunction with the university’s 10-year strategic plan, Arizona Arts is the reimagined division that encompasses academic programs along with visual and performing arts experiences, events and venues at UArizona.

“The arts are the front porch of the university: Many people have their first experience with the University of Arizona through arts engagement,” said Andrew Schulz, UArizona VP for the Arts and dean of the College of Fine Arts. “We have an important role to play in making sure that the audiences and communities of Southern Arizona feel at home and comfortable on this campus.”

Arizona Arts comprises three primary components: The schools of art, dance, film & television, music and theatre at the College of Fine Arts; a diverse array of world-class experiences by Arizona Arts Live − formerly UA Presents; the Center of Creative Photography and the UArizona Museum of Art.

It operated an annual budget of over $35 million and has garnered more than $45 million in private philanthropic support over the past three years, Schulz said. Through more than 600 performances, events and experiences annually, Arizona Arts has solidified arts and culture as a foundational pillar of the university.  

“Our strategic plan is to ensure that all students, regardless of major, have meaningful experiences in the arts,” Schulz said. “We have expanded that vision beyond professional training programs for arts majors, who account for 4% of the student population.

“We want to reach 100% of students and ensure that the arts play a critical role in carrying out the land grant mission of the university to serve and partner with communities in Southern Arizona for a myriad of positive outcomes − everything from economic and social development to community engagement and belonging.”

Centennial Hall, UArizona Mall and Beyond

Arizona Arts Live, which offered nearly 100 performing and enrichment experiences last year, is central to the philosophy of advancing arts and culture on campus and in the community, said Executive Director Chad Herzog.

While spaces such as Centennial Hall and Marroney Theatre remain icons of performance art, Arizona Arts Live is also exploring less traditional venues.

Spaces range from the exterior of the Optical Sciences building to outdoors on the UArizona mall. Off-campus sites include the Tucson Botanical Gardens, Tohono Chul Park, La Estrella Bakery, Mercado San Agustin and high schools. Tumamoc Hill and regional gardens and restaurants provide more opportunities. 

“Arizona Arts Live is investing in the arts by bringing art to the people of Southern Arizona and into communities,” said Herzog. “We are accomplishing that by making connections throughout Southern Arizona.”

Arizona Arts Live is also cultivating relationships with Hotel Congress, Museum of Contemporary Art Tucson, Rialto Theatre, Children’s Museum Tucson, Galeria Mitotera, Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Broadway in Tucson and other organizations. 

“Relationships are important to us, and we know we are not in competition,” Herzog said. “We want to strategically work with partners so that we are all elevated.”

“We want to ensure that all members of our community see the university as place where they belong, as a place where they are invited and a place where there are interesting and exciting ways to experience the world through the arts,” added Schulz.

UArizona Arts District Re-envisioned

The plan for Arizona Arts to expand opportunities to understand, explore and celebrate the arts includes a re-envisioned campus Arts District. 

Upgrades to the Arts District include a $10-million, multi-phase plan to transform the School of Art with recently completed renovations of the Visual Resource Center, the Art & Visual Education classroom, studio spaces and the Sculpture wing. Other improvements include refurbishment of the Marroney Theatre, which received a new entrance, front of house and stage as well as a digital laser projector.

The Arts District is further distinguished by Centennial Hall, a cornerstone of the performing community since 1937. It has expanded relationships with other arts organizations, resulting in offering more than 300 performances, plays, musicals, concerts and UArizona events annually. The home of Broadway in Tucson/Nederlander Producing Company of America, it also welcomes six to eight nationally touring Broadway shows and affiliated special events annually.

The Stevie Eller Dance Theatre has boosted the trajectory of the top-ranked UArizona School of Dance as it celebrates its 20th anniversary, said Schulz. The dance program, built over 34 years by longtime director Jory Hancock and now led by Duane Cyrus, is ranked No. 9 overall and No. 2 among public universities, according to OnStage.

The 300-seat theatre, named one of 15 of “Arizona’s Greatest Architectural Wonders,” features a spacious stage, full-fly system and orchestra pit. Its columns are inspired by dancers in George Balanchine’s “Serenade” and its exterior wire scrims mirror movements of acrobats and dancers from the works of artists such as Eadweard Muybridge and Marcel Duchamp.

“The Stevie Eller Dance Theatre is a proof of concept in thinking about the value of venues,” said Schulz. “In and of itself, not only does it function remarkably well, but the art form is inscribed in the fabric of the building in a remarkable way.”

The Center for Creative Photography also has received international acclaim. The center houses a collection of more than eight million photos, negatives, contact sheets, albums, correspondence and other objects, and is a repository of the most recognizable names in 20th century North American photography. It holds archives for Ansel Adams, fashion photographer Richard Avedon, Wynn Bullock, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Frederick Sommer, W. Eugene Smith, Lola Álvarez Bravo, Edward Weston and Garry Winogrand. 

“The Center for Creative Photography is probably the foremost center in the United States for the academic study of photography,” said Schulz. “It is a fundamentally important research center and exhibition site for the history of photography.”

The University of Arizona Museum of Art is equally prestigious, boasting a permanent collection of more than 6,000 works including ancient- to modern-European and American paintings, sculptures, prints, antiquities and other works. It also is home to the Altarpiece from Ciudad Rodrigo, acknowledged by scholars as the finest 15th-century Castilian altarpiece in Arizona. Recently, the museum received international attention with its ongoing exhibition of “Restored: The Return of Woman-Ochre.” Willem de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre” was stolen from the museum in 1985, but recovered several years ago at an estate sale and returned. The painting was restored by the Getty Museum prior to the exhibition. 

“In some ways, Arizona Arts is leading the way in distinguishing the work we do as a university,” said Schulz. “It comes back to the arts being a gateway that provides a glimpse into the amazing intellectual and research operations at the university.”


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