The Museum of Contemporary Art in Tucson embraces the mission of inspiring new ways of thinking. Through the exhibition and interpretation of contemporary art guests are encouraged to ponder art’s place within the community and the interaction between the two.
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The museum is dedicated to showing work from artists working in Tucson, and dedicated to educating Tucson residents about the work of artists from around the world. The museum does not keep a permanent collection, but curates exhibits of loaned work and acts as host to traveling exhibits.
History: MOCA Tucson was founded in 1996 by three artists; James Graham, Julia Latane and David Wright. Their goal was to create a space where contemporary art in Tucson could be enjoyed outside of a commercial gallery space. On a limited budget, the three began curating shows in 2003 under the direction of Anne-Marie Russell, an art historian and scholar. Russell mounts exhibits purposefully devoid of the traditional explanatory text placed on the wall, and instead creates maps which visitors can carry with them through the exhibits, allowing the work to speak for itself. Additional reading and materials are available in a separate space. The museum’s original home was an old state-owned warehouse on Tucson’s Toole Avenue. Shows quickly rose in quality and began to garner worldwide attention. In 2010, the museum relocated to a renovated downtown fire station on South Church Avenue. The opening gala at the new space featured a tribute to the Tucson based painter Olivier Mosset with the “Made in Tucson/Born in Tucson/Live in Tucson" exhibit. Over 300 guests attended. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords addressed the crowd, as well as a representative from the media corporation, Cox, who committed to sponsoring the new institution and funding the build of a surrounding plaza. In 2017, Ginger Shulick Porcella was named executive director and will take on the board’s goal of doubling the museum’s budget to $1.2 million by 2020. Porcella will also be active in the role of curator.
Ongoing Programs and Education: MOCA Satellite is a traveling program that brings themes from current exhibits to the classrooms of underserved rural communities. Teaching artists facilitate creative activities that integrate with the school curriculum, including science, math and English studies. Young Fauves is a free after-school art program that takes place at the museum. Children ages 8-11 participate in a collaborative project with a local artist, which draws inspiration from the museum’s current exhibits. MOCA Minor Mutiny is a once-weekly free program for high school students. Minor Mutiny offers an unstructured lounge environment in which students can hang out, create art, or get homework help under the guidance of a local artist and mentor. Programs for adults include Yoga at MOCA, a once-weekly yoga class which meets evenings in the gallery. Free outdoor film screenings take place once monthly during warm weather months. Past movies have included Pollock, Frida and Waste Land. The MOCA Local Genius Awards have been awarded since 2009 and are celebrated with an annual gala at the museum. The awards honor local Tucson residents who have been recognized nationally or international for their visionary talents. The museum recently reopened their Artist in Residency program. Artists may apply for a room and studio space at the museum for a period of 3 weeks to 3 months. Work created during the artists’ residencies will be shown each January.
Past and Future Exhibits: Some of the most well known international artists who have shown at MOCA Tucson have included Takashi Murakami, Raymond Pettibon and Olivier Mosset. The inaugural exhibition at the new facility, “Made in Tucson/Born in Tucson/Live in Tucson” included a Part 1 and a Part 2 of artists currently working in Tucson or with connections to the area. Other past exhibits have included “Floating Muse,” a collection of videos, drawings, paintings and photographs by German and Brazilian artist Janaina Tschape, who uses the female body as her inspiration. The museum showed a mid-career survey of the work of New York artist Max Estenger with paintings and sculptures from 1991 through 2016. Estenger’s work uses a language of his creation, which aims to be systematic and free from dogma. “If You Stay Busy You Have No Time to be Unhappy” was a group exhibit that coincided with the museum’s 20th anniversary. The works of over 80 artists were included, showcasing a wide variety of media, sculpture, drawing and painting. Each artist’s work spoke to the importance of the intersection of art, life and community.
265 South Church Avenue, Tucson, AZ, 85701, Phone: 520-624-5019