Meet the Tucson Art Collective: Stew-dio Visit
By Kristine Schomaker
Last year I had the pleasure of visiting Tucson and meeting Sara Hubbs and Nazafarin Lotfi of the Stew-dio Visit art collective. I was only in Tucson for one day, but came home with an admiration of the city, art community and environment. Sara and Nazafarin welcomed me into their home for a get together and artist talk and they were gracious and patient in allowing me to interview them for Art and Cake. You can follow Stew-dio Visit on Instagram at @stewdiovisit; Nazafarin Lofti @nazafarinlotfi and Sara Hubbs @sara.e.hubbs
I believe that artists have to create their own opportunities by working together to organize shows and build community. The gallery system is changing, exhibitions are extending beyond the white walls to alternative spaces. Artists are thinking outside the box to find their place in the 21st century world of art. Stew-dio visit is a great example of artists coming together to perform, educate and communicate with impassioned works of art in these contentious times.
This is my first time in Tucson, and I am loving the vibe of the art scene here. Can you describe the art community here?
Stew-dio Visit: (Nazafarin Lotfi) There are multiple art communities in Tucson. For example, there is the University of Arizona which is its own entity. They have visiting artist talks that are open to the public and a couple of galleries on campus. There is the community of artists who have been here for a longer time and others who are engaged with craft or “southwestern” art. And there are artists moving to Tucson from bigger cities who are more involved in contemporary art. Overall, there is some interaction between these different groups.
Stew-dio Visit: (Sara Hubbs) I feel like it has this very rooted, laid-back foundation, but there’s an energy that is picking up. Physically, the arts venues are located around downtown and around the University, but not extremely concentrated. As a city, Tucson has its very own flavor, and Tucsonans are really generous. People are extremely committed to this place and I think when you connect with artists here it can go really deep. There are many artists cultivating what makes Tucson unique while connecting to the larger contemporary art world.
What sets Tucson’s art scene apart? (from other art communities you have been a part of)
Stew-dio Visit: (Sara Hubbs) I think it’s intimate in a way that is different than other places I’ve lived partially due to the size and economics of the city. When I lived in NYC it was harder logistically to make work, but it was easier to see a lot of art at galleries, museums, and events. I make it a point to get to all of the shows at MOCA Tucson, The Tucson Museum of Art, and the University and to museums and galleries in other cities like Phoenix, including The ASU Art Museum, The Heard Museum, SMOCA, and The Phoenix Art Museum. I think the cost of living affects the art scene too, it allows people to dream a little more, create work on a different scale, and make work more easily. We are also able to be involved with institutions on a more personal level.
How is your art practice/organization/gallery influenced from the energy, experience and atmosphere of Tucson?
Stew-dio Visit: (Sara Hubbs) The pace of life is different here, so I have more time to raise my daughter and make art. That stability is great on a day to day basis, but I make a point to find ways to put myself into a different energy. I’m not as confined on the making end; my work has shifted in scale for sure and I’m able to try new things.
Stew-dio Visit: (Nazafarin Lotfi) I also have more time and a more focused mind to make art. I can go on hikes, be in nature, and then go to the studio. Also, I feel more inclined to do projects outside of my individual practice such as organizing events and meeting artists. That was the reason that Sara and I started talking about putting together events which lead to Stew-dio Visit, which is an artist collective, currently with five members including Wesley Fawcett Creigh, Valerie Sipp, and Yerin Kim. Our first event was participating in Creative Capital’s Dinners Project right before the midterm election. We hosted a potluck dinner and registered with Creative Capital as a host then people could find us. That event was a success, we know we could do more to bring people together.
Has living in Tucson changed your work, concept, style?
Stew-dio Visit: (Nazafarin Lotfi) Both of us are studio artists, which means we enjoy and need the alone time in the studio. We both moved from big cities with a lot of art events. Besides the studio time, we noticed we lacked a social component to our art lives. We need to talk to people, get feedback, and be engaged in a discourse. Now it’s a balance between meeting, planning, looking for artists for studio visits, and working alone in the studio.
What are your greatest achievements as an artist or arts organizer in Tucson?
Stew-dio Visit: (Sara Hubbs) Creating Stew-dio Visit was big for us, it looks like artists are excited about what we do. We are still building a program and figuring out how we want to expand but it feels alive and needed. I love the generative feeling our projects have, it feels good to create opportunities for connection through art.
What are you planning for the future as an artist or arts organizer in Tucson?
Stew-dio Visit: (Nazafarin Lotfi) We are looking into creating a physical exhibition space in the future and collaborating with other artist-run spaces in the region. Artists here need more opportunities to show their work. We will increase our online presence and expand our programming to feature more regional artists through studio visits and interviews.
Is there anything else you would like to tell us about the Tucson arts community?
Stew-dio Visit: (Sara Hubbs) There is an artist-run space we are very excited about, The American Institute of Thoughts and Feelings, they opened in 2018 and are curating locally and nationally.