Spring is the ideal time to journey to southern Arizona during your vacation. Due to higher elevations, temperatures are perfect and a profusion of wildflowers pave your path to several artful excursions.
Two destinations—Tucson and Tubac—provide a full flavor of Arizona’s history, culture and surprisingly, artistic pride. A plethora of art galleries, art studios and antique shops are clustered just a few hours away from Phoenix. For art and antiques lovers this is a “must do” day trip while visiting the Phoenix area.
Just two hours south of Phoenix is Tucson—Arizona’s second largest city, embraced by majestic mountains on all four sides: The dramatic canyons of the Santa Catalinas (crowned by the over- 9000 foot Mt. Lemmon), the Rincons, twin peaks of the Santa Ritas and the Tucson Mountains. Orange Grove Road (off I-10 East) brings visitors straight into El Cortijo Art Annex, nestled in the foothills of the Catalinas—a small Spanish-style cluster of boutiques featuring some of Tucson’s most prominent galleries. Western painting fans shouldn’t miss El Presidio Gallery and Settler’s West displaying works by some of the finest regional artists. Contemporary art buffs will enjoy Wilde Meyer Gallery showcasing mostly vivid contemporary paintings by local and national artists.
Hop back in the car and head south on Campbell Avenue to Etherton Gallery at Joesler Village with a longstanding reputation as one of the best galleries in the state. Owner Terry Etherton has built his loyal clientele over twenty years by offering nationally renowned vintage and contemporary photographs including images of American Indians by the famed Edward Curtis.
Located further south on Campbell is a well-kept secret: University of Arizona’s Creative Center for Photography, one of the world’s great photography museums and research centers. One last “must-see” Tucson destination is just off Broadway and Park Avenue: The Lost Bario—an enclave of antiques and accessories importers who have re-inhabited the old brick warehouses of the Southern Pacific rail line. Oh, what charm!
Situated nearly 3 hours from Phoenix, Tubac, the oldest non-Indian settlement in Arizona, began its incarnation as an arts colony when nationally-known artist Dale Nichols established an art school in 1948. Today, Tubac offers pottery, batiks, paintings, jewelry and more in over 100 galleries and boutiques. On a day’s visit to this quaint and unpretentious town, about a dozen local or visiting artists can be seen painting at easels outdoors inspired by the magical desert landscape and light.