Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tucson Desert Art Musem showcases Southwestern art

Tucson Desert Art Museum
The Tucson Desert Arts Museum is a relatively new museum devoted to preserving the arts of the Southwest.

The small museum has only 25,000 square feet of space, but crams a lot into it, including exhibit space, classrooms and an auditorium. It opened in 2013.

One of the highlights of the museum is its collection of Navajo and Hopi textiles all created before the 1940s. This collection is stunning, particularly since it was done before computers were commonplace. Today, many Native American weavers plan their designs on a computer. We were particularly impressed with one large wall hanging that blended the colors in the pattern in such a way the piece seemed blurry. There’s no need to clean your glasses here, since there’s nothing wrong with them; it’s just optical art.

The museum also has artifacts, including furniture and Native American weapons, on display. The Four Corners Gallery has an outstanding collection of paintings, jewelry and other handcrafts by Southwestern artists on display. Unlike the rest of the museum, everything is for sale in the Four Corners Gallery.

The Tucson Desert Art Museum is located at 7000 E. Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. It is open from 10 .m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Tucson museum honors U.S. horse soldiers

Museum of the Horse Soldier
If you thought the era of horse soldiers ended with Teddy Roosevelt’s charge    up San Juan Hill or even with World War I, you’d be wrong Horses are still be used by the U.S. Army today, as mounts for Special Forces in Afghanistan. This tidbit comes courtesy of Tucson’s Museum of the Horse Soldier.

The museum, which opened in 2013, honors horse soldiers from the Civil War through World War II. It displays original uniforms of both officers and enlisted men, their saddles and their weapons.  Implements used by the men who cared for the horses –veterinarians and farriers – also are displayed. Photographs of the men and their mounts hang prominently on the walls.

Museum of the Horse Soldier
Just insides the entryway is a statue of a horse in a stall. Other horse statues are intermingled with the uniforms in glass cases. The second floor has bronze statues, including one of Custer’s Last Stand, that are miniatures of life-size statues found elsewhere.

The Museum of the Horse Soldier is located at 6541 E. Tanque Verde Road, Tucson’ (520) 722-2706. It is handicap accessible. Admission is charged, cash only. The museum, located in the Trail Dust Town complex, is open from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. IF the museum is locked during open hours, as it was when we visited, the manager can usually be found in Trail Dust Town.  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A visit to Tucson's Jewish History Museum

Jewish History Museum
If you gravitate to off-the-beaten path tourist attractions, like we do, then visiting Tucson’s Jewish History Museum is a must.

The museum is housed in the first synagogue built in Arizona. Uneven hardwood floors attest to the age; the building was dedicated in 1910 when an estimated 3,000 Jews were living in Tucson. The museum tells the history of the Jewish population in southern Arizona. Mostly, they were merchants, bankers and miners, though some became active in local politics. Tucson elected its first Jewish mayor in 1880.

The congregation moved into a new synagogue in 1949, and the old one was sold. over the years, 11 different churches called it home. In 1994, the Jewish community bought it back just as it was about to be sold and torn down to make way for a parking lot.

The museum was ranked by USA Today as one of the best places in the United States to learn about Jewish history. In 2012, True West magazine ranked it as the fifth best western museum in the United States.

Holocaust Museum display
The day we visited, they had rearranged the interior to accommodate a special exhibit on Helene Barr, a young French Jewish woman, who like Anne Frank, kept a diary of life under Nazi rule in World War II.

Quilt made by Holocaust survivors
Next door is the Holocaust Museum dedicated to survivors who settled in southern Arizona. One wall of the hallway-like room has small portraits of these survivors, while a video of survivors talking about the Holocaust runs on a television.

The Jewish History Museum is located at 564 South Sixth Avenue in Tucson. It’s open only a few days a week, so travelers should call the museum at (520) 670-9073 to make sure it’s open. Both museums are handicap accessible.



Monday, December 8, 2014

Tohono Chul features Sonora Desert vegetation

A garden at Tohono Chul Park
Lush greenery isn’t something that is usually associated with southern Arizona, but it’s a term that comes easily to mind at the Tohono Chul botanical garden in west Tucson.

The park brings together the diversity of the Sonora Desert through vegetation, birds, butterflies, arts and education. Outdoor seating areas for classes, concerts and other programs are scattered throughout the 49-acre park. You’ll find bird sculptures sitting in trees and pottery pots arranged in fountains. And always there is the lush vegetation, from vine covered archways to meandering streams to a wide variety of cactus, including some kinds we’d not seen elsewhere in Arizona.

Most of the trails are paved, making this small corner of Tucson handicap-accessible. Benches are plentiful for visitors who just want to sit and enjoy nature, or rest their weary feet.

Wide paved trails accommodate wheelchairs
The land used to be occupied by prehistoric Native Americans. As you walk the trails, be on the lookout for a chunk of petrified wood, determined to be 750 million years old, and a large flat boulder bearing petro graphs. Ancient pottery shards have been found within the park’s boundaries.

The museum’s gift shop, which seems more like an art gallery, is located in an adobe hacienda. The idea for the park was conceived by later owners, Richard and Jean Wilson, who had been buying up snippets of land that were part of the original homestead. They decided to turn it into a park rather than let it be developed. The park was dedicated as a nature preserve in 1985.

Tohono Chul is located just off Ina Road at 7366 N. Paseo del Norte in Tucson. It is closed on major holidays but otherwise open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. There is an admission charge.

More photos of Tohono Cnul are available on my YouTube channel.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Another benefit of a sunny Arizona winter: tangerines

Tangerine tree at the RV park
It’s tangerine season now in Arizona. Of course, I did my bit to help with the harvest. One of the spaces at the RV park we’re staying at in Tucson has a tangerine tree; park managers put out a call for residents to pick as many of them as they wanted. I filled a plastic grocery bag with tangerines, and peeled one on the spot to eat on the walk back to our trailer. I’m not really a fan of tangerines, preferring the larger navel oranges, but this one was indescribably delicious, all moist and dripping juice. I’m goona go back for another bag.

Arizona grows a lot of citrus fruit, but nowhere near as much as Florida, which accounts for 63 percent of the U.S. citrus crop. Second goes to California with 34 percent, while Arizona and Texas combine for the final 3 percent. While Florida grows more oranges, California grows more lemons and tangerines. When we were staying in Yuma, the street we drove most often was lined with lemon orchards.

In researching tangerine production, I was surprised to learn citrus trees are evergreens. It was not a surprise to learn citrus fruits originated in Asia, in particular southern China. Nor was it a surprise to learn tangerines, which belong to the mandarin orange family, are named after Tangier, Morocco.







Monday, December 1, 2014

Tuscon's Tohono O'odham swap meet sells everything from A to Z

Samples of items for sale
The Tohono-O’odham swap meet is like a gigantic yard sale, a conglomeration of new and used items, ranging from construction materials to clothing to knick knacks and produce. And don’t forget the tools, antiques and just about everything else under the sun.

Buildings, booths and tables are spread over a large area. Some vendors sell from the backs of their pickups and others just lay a blanket on the ground. It can take a couple of hours or more just to walk by all the vendors; that doesn’t include any time for looking through the goods for sale.

The market is geared to Hispanics, but you’ll also find gringos buying stuff, too. Most of the signs are in Spanish. Almost all of the vendors are Hispanic, also, but most speak some English.

The swap meet was started in 1993 by the owner of nearby Chico’s Smoke Shop and his daughter. Located at 5721 S, Westover in Tucson, the swap meet is open from 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends.