“Still round the corner there may wait, a new road or a secret gate.” J.R.R. Tolkien
Sherpa and I were wandering the back roads of Tubac, Arizona, a small community about 50 miles south of Tucson, this past weekend. I’ve walked these roads many times. Tubac is one of my favorite visits – one of the oldest towns in Arizona and one of the largest art communities in Arizona. Tubac prides itself as being a place where history and art merge, and they have reason to be proud.
It is a historian’s paradise – the oldest Spanish Presidio in Arizona dates from 1752 and is maintained with care by a community consortium at the Tubac Presidio Park. Old Town, the original part of town, is often missed by visitors – it’s a treasure trove for architect lovers and photographers. Most of the shops and galleries are in the newer part of Tubac, near the road leading into town. Numbering in the nineties, there is always one more shop to browse or art gallery to visit. Then there’s the Tubac Center of the Arts in the heart of town, an anchor that provides art workshops, lectures, and seasonal exhibitions.
And if all that shopping and art and history isn’t enough, the mountains of the Coronado National Forest loom to the east. The Santa Cruz River, a riparian corridor, offers a ribbon of green and opportunities for birding. Scenery is awe-inspiring in all directions and an easily accessible part of the Anza National Historic Trail is just a few steps away.
In a few weeks – February 6 through the 10 – the village will celebrate the arts in a big way as the 54th Annual Tubac Festival of the Arts springs into life. Hundreds of artists from all over the United States be there. It’s a show I’ve done the past two years. When I decided against hauling all of my large art and tent set-up to Arizona this year, I knew I’d be sorry to miss the Tubac show. But next week I’ll be at the Art Festival, this time as a patron, and this year I’ll be able to see the whole show.
I spoke to a shop owner, asked her if she was ready for the arrival of the many artists and visitors. She gave me an enthusiastic yes, and explained that many of the shops did enough business during the five-day art festival to support their business and livelihood for the year. An example of how art is such an inherent part of a small community, not only as an extra but as a vital contributor.
If you are in the Tucson area, consider a visit to the Tubac Festival of the Arts, visit some of the shops and galleries, have a look around at the amazing history visible in the very seams of the community. It’s a trip well worth your time.
Bo Mackison is a photographer and owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She loves to photograph the many small communities in southern Arizona where history merges with the arts.