WAMO Walk will wow you with pretty light Saturday

October 1, 2014

The WAMO Walk hosted by the Warehouse Arts District is designed to bring you closer to Tucson's art community ... and their art.

The WAMO Walk hosted by the Warehouse Arts District is designed to bring you closer to Tucson’s art community … and their art.

by Brad Poole

Art enthusiasts will have a chance to check out the Toole Avenue arts district Saturday during the WAMO Walk, a collaboration among numerous galleries, studios and other spaces Downtown that will offer open studios, free live music and a beer garden, among other things.

“We had heard from the people along Toole Avenue that there was a need to let the community know that there is a lot of art down there,” said Marvin Shaver, chair of the events committee and treasurer for the sponsoring Warehouse Arts Management Organization.

And a lot of art it is, indeed. As many as 50 studios will welcome the public for the walk, which will stretch along Toole from Sixth Avenue to Stone and including Maker House and a few studios on Sixth Street. Solar Culture and Exploded View galleries will have showings, too.

The courtyard at Borderlands Brewing Co. will be the beer garden for WAMO Walk on Saturday.

The courtyard at Borderlands Brewing Co. will be the beer garden for WAMO Walk on Saturday.

There will be a light sculpture garden at the center of the action – a parking lot at 174 E. Toole – and food trucks will be on hand to feed the masses. The parking lot will also have stage for music and several projection screens.

“The focus this year is beamers,” Shaver said.

Beamers are projection artists who use light to delight – sometimes video, sometimes just geometric designs or other visual goodies – and their work will be illuminating numerous buildings and indoor and outdoor screens along the WAMO Walk.

The Warehouse Arts District is a cornerstone of the Tucson art scene. Centered on a row of Toole Avenue warehouses dating to the early 20th century, the area almost fell to the wrecking ball. Barraza-Aviation Highway, which runs from Alvernon Way on the Southeast Side to Broadway near Downtown, is still planned to extend past Downtown to Interstate 10.

The original plan would have eliminated what many consider a large part of Tucson’s soul, so a years-along political battle ensued, one that the warehouse district eventually won. The plan to tear down the quirky spaces for a highway was shelved.

The Warehouse Arts District surrounding Toole Ave. is home to some of Tucson's best public art.

The Warehouse Arts District surrounding Toole Ave. is home to some of Tucson’s best public art.

The area has since seen a Renaissance as numerous studios and galleries popped up and Borderlands Brewery, a popular hotspot that is hosting a beer garden during the WAMO Walk, moved in. Now the area is formally known as the Tucson Historic Warehouse Arts District.

In 2003-04, city leaders and the art community worked together to solidify the future of the area with the Warehouse Arts District Master Plan, which includes formal abandonment of the Aviation Highway alignment that would have ripped through the warehouses and a goal to improve walkability, bikeability and public awareness.

The plan also suggested an “art centered” management group. Enter WAMO, which was created in 2004 to help promote and preserve the area. The WAMO board is comprised of artists and neighborhood representatives.

WAMO Walk is free. The fun is from 5-10 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 4, centered on 174 E. Toole Ave. For more information see the WAMO website.

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