Sunday, November 23, 2014

Rural Arizona's Amerind Museum showcases Native American artifacts

Amerind Museum
It’s easy to whiz by the Amerind Museum as you drive from Tucson to Willcox, Arizona, in Interstate 10. But those who detour off the freeway can spend a few pleasant hours learning more about the Indians of the Americas as well as see some pretty cool Western art.
The Amerind Museum and Gallery lies on a serene 1,600 acres in Texas Canyon, so named because so many of the early settlers were from Texas. It’s located a mile or so off Exit 318, Dragoon Road, of the freeway. Turn left down a gravel road, past a small cemetery where early settlers are buried, and you’ll eventually reach a collection of buildings, two of which house the museum and art gallery. You’ll also see horse stables since the museum founder also raised prized horses.
The Amerind Museum houses the Native American artifacts collected by William Shirley Fulton. His collection is said to be one of the finest private collections in the world.
From Alaska to South America
A large room on the ground floor is devoted to artifacts used by Native Americans from the north of Alaska to the tip of South American. Another room is devoted to the history of Texas Canyon and its settlers.
Rooms on the second floor house artifacts, such as baby backboards, and weavings of the Arizona tribes. The collection of rugs and other wall hangings is impressive.
This is a serious, traditional museum, with almost everything lodged in glass cases. What is unfortunate about the objects’ presentations is that descriptions are set in type that is difficult to read because of its size. A majority of the museum visitors are senior citizens, and several commented they didn’t know what they were looking at because they couldn’t read the descriptions.
Art gallery contains Western works
Museum admission includes the Fulton-Hayden Art Gallery with works by well-known Western artists, including Frederic Remington. A small section of a room on the second floor contains William Fulton’s study, which was transplanted from his home in Connecticut.
The art gallery is wheel-chair accessible, but only the entrance to the museum is wheel-chair accessible. The gallery has a tiny elevator to take wheelchairs to the second floor.
The museum is closed on Mondays and major holidays.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Tucson parade honors the dead

All Souls Procession
If you’re in Tucson in early November, the All Souls Procession is something you won’t want to miss. It seems more like a Halloween party than an event to honor the dead as thousands of people march a couple of miles through downtown Tucson.

"The 26th All Souls Procession will take 
place on November 7-8 in 2015."
The procession is the finale of two days of activities on Friday and Sunday. Other activities include a Procession of Little Angels and a a family-oriented  Night of the Living Festival with bands, rides, food and games.

The event is similar to Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead. It was started in 1990 by a local artist, Susan Johnson, who was grieving the loss of her father. It has grown exponentially since that time.

People, even those not marching in the parade, wear costumes. Face painters do a land-office business on both parade participants and spectators. White faces with eyes staring out of black circles are common, but each painted face is unique.

  At the parades start, a man with a loudspeaker stands behind a large white banner belting out a hell, fire and brimstone sermon, beseeching people to repent their sins before it is too late.

Parade participants
A cacophony of sounds fills the air, as bagpipers compete with drum and mariachi bands.

Sidewalk standing space is at a premium, as spectators spill out into the street. An estimated 100,000 people watched this year’s procession, which ended with burning a large urn filled with messages to loved ones who have passed.

Arizona's Ted DeGrazia: a multi-talented artist

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun
Ted DeGrazia was a multi-talented artist who is best known for bringing the native cultures of the Sonora Desert to life. Besides working in oils, he also was a sculptor, worked in ceramics, designed his own adobe house in rural Tucson, did the landscaping for it, and created wind chimes using such diverse materials as horseshoes. He also turned aluminum and tin cans into whimsical flowers that today adorn posts at the gallery he built next to his house.

DeGrazia also was a talented trumpeter, paying his way through college by playing in a band. He also composed music, some of which can be heard playing in the gift shop at his gallery.

He also was a prolific artist. The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun has three collections of his paintings that are rotated throughout the year. These are in addition to the paintings he sold or burned. Yes, burned. As a protest against an Arizona inheritance tax on art, he burned 100 of his paintings that had a combined value of $250,000. This was in 1976.

Whimsical can art
DeGrazia was born in 1909 in an Arizona mining camp where his father worked. His Italian immigrant parents named him Ettore; the nickname Ted was bestowed upon him by a teacher. He spent a few years living in Italy as a child, but returned to Arizona with his family when the mining camp reopened.

He studied art at the University of Arizona and did an internship with the famed Mexican artist, Diego Rivera.

His paintings are simplistic, perhaps because he used a palette knife, instead of a brush, to paint in oils. Children are featured prominently; some are playful while others seem ethereal, even religious tones. One unique feature common to his paintings is they have no background, other than perhaps a few swirls of muted color. A video showing the artist at work says he did this on purpose, because he wanted the viewer to create his own background.

DeGrazia died in 1982. His Gallery in the Sun is located in the Tucson foothills at 6300 N. Swan Road. It is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, but is closed major holidays. Admission is free.e also turned alumin

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tucson museum is a small, small world

A miniature village in the floor
It’s a small world.

If you don’t believe it, you need to visit the Mini-Time Machine Museum of Miniatures in Tucson. It’s a wonderland filled with miniature homes, furnishings, people, animals, etc., all designed to tempt your imagination,

The Array of miniatures is impressive, from houses to castles to a floating market in Thailand. Videos located throughout the museum offer information on everything from the history of miniatures to how to make mini silver tea sets.

Some of the miniatures have movable parts, such as trains going around a track. Some even have people waltzing on the balcony, such as the Wick House, made in the 1880s, that is typical of a Swiss house in the early 1800s. The multi-story house features workers on the bottom floor, soldiers enjoying a beer on the second floor and waltzers on the third floor, all moving at the same time.  The figures in the house are not moving today, but a video shows the mechanical figures in motion. The video shows a complicated system of pulleys, axles, wires, etc., that make the figures move.

A room in a miniature home
The museum has more than 275 houses, each completely furnished for the time period it is supposed to represent. They may look like doll houses, but no little girl would be allowed to play with them. These valuable houses are exquisitely done, and provide a most interesting peak into the past. And don’t forget the Enchanted Realm which displays miniature exhibits representing both fiction and folklore.

The miniature museum is located at 4455 East Camp Lowell Drive in Tucson. It is closed Mondays and major holidays.