Too many of Tucson’s cool buildings go the way of the bulldozer – but not the one nestled next to downtown’s Solar Culture gallery.
The building at 35 E. Toole Ave. is instead becoming an artists’ haven, with studio-storefronts lined with windows ready for a delightful, disarming – or creepy – array of art.
Let’s up the description to an artists’ heaven, as studio-storefront monthly rents start at $150.
We can barely buy a good pair of shoes for that much anymore.
For Solar Culture owner Steven Eye, this move to expand the downtown art scene is only natural. This Philadelphia transplant landed in Tucson in 1985 and was bent on fulfilling the mission to “make ecstatic energy available to the people.”
He’s got that mission down to a science, as anyone who has been to Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole, can attest.
Now open daily from noon to midnight, Solar Culture’s 3,000 square-foot Art Deco building has been around since the turn of the century – and showcasing community art and music in one form or another since Eye moved to Old Pueblo 25 years ago.
Eye definitely has an eye for what works – and bringing the community together through art, music and all things creative.
But don’t take it from me – take a gander at his past ventures:
1978: Steven Eye and “group of us kids” take over abandoned lot in downtown Philadelphia for skateboarding. Build ramps they “would ride with wild reckless abandon.” Realized they had to skate to music to “create a weightless flying feeling pushing your mind and beyond all previous known limitations.”
Eye’s skateboarding group discovers – and fall in love with – punk rock. Need more, more, more of it.
1982: Eye and pals form BungaBooshEye and start bringing all-age punk shows to Philly at a place they called Love Hall. Bands included Meat Puppets, Husker Du, Scream, Misfits and more.
1981 to 1983: Eye busy documenting Philly punk shows on video tape.
1985: Discontent with “all the urban squalor surrounding me in Philly” Eye moves to Tucson “to try to develop a deeper relationship with this earth.”
1987: Eye rents old produce warehouse at 31 E. Toole from Arizona Department of Transportation
1988: Warehouse has first art opening under name of Hellrad Club. Name soon changed to Dodajk International (aka internal nation of the wild).
1988 to 1991: Dodajk International holds more than 70 art and music openings, including Crashworship, Helios Creed, Tragic Mulatto and more. Events had to be stopped due to “continual threats and harassment from the police about the people who were attending our shows, and no support from the city officials.”
1991: Eye vows never to do shows in Tucson again.
1991: Eye re-inspired by Tucson community, rents another building from state at 530 N. Stone Ave. which becomes Downtown Performance Center (DPC).
1991 to 1995: DPC hosts more than 800 shows, including Green Day, Blind melon, Bad Brains, Rancid, Feast Upon Cactus Thorns and more.
Aug. 1995: DPC closes due to “continual police harassment, and the West University Neighborhood Association’s full-scale assault on us for having some of the troubled youth that came to our shows roaming through the neighborhood that surrounded the DPC building.” Note: DPC building is now the Matt Bevel Institute.
1995: Eye vows never to do shows in Tucson again.
1995 to early 1999: Eye becomes re-inspired, holds art shows at 31 E. Toole building, renamed it Datura Studios and Gallery.
Spring 1999: Building reborn as Solar Culture.
Oct. 1999: Solar Culture’s first art opening and music event.
“Now the music has been flowing freely like never before, as bands regularly come to town from all over the world.”
Summer 2001: Eye joins forces with Club Congress at Congress Hotel and starts 21-and-over bar shows by Oct. 2001. Turns over concert connections to Club Congress Feb. 2003.
June 2010: New art haven in the works at 35 E. Toole Ave., adjacent to Solar Culture. Studio-storefronts for rent – art haven opening estimated in August.
Anyone interested in renting a storefront-studio can contact Steven Eye at 884-0874 or e-mail email@example.com
How often do you go downtown events?
Have you been attending the 2nd Saturdays Downtown now that they are re-established?
Have you ever been to Solar Culture?
Who is your favorite Tucson artist?