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The boost Tucson needs: Its own version of Detroit Heidelberg Project – with PHOTOS

Never mind the phantom Rio Nuevo or other Tucson projects that are all hot air and no action.

The polka dot house centerpiece of Detroit Heidelberg Project/Ryn Gargulinski

Our fair Old Pueblo would get the boost it needs with the simple installation of a wonderland similar to Detroit’s Heidelberg Project.

Rather than sad, abandoned and packed with yellow-eyed druggies, inner city vacant lots and a handful of homes burst with color, humor – and dozens of chairs, tables, shoes, doors, bottles, windows, tires, tiles and mannequin parts, Santa Claus, Tweety Birds and other stuffed animals.

OK, the installation may not be so simple, since this glorious display of art and creativity consumes two whole blocks in Detroit’s decaying McDougall-Hunt neighborhood along Heidelberg Street, southwest of Mack Avenue and Mt Elliot Street.

Some have called the funky display the “Ghetto Gugggenheim” while project literature notes this nabe is the most depressed area in the entire nation.

Yes, some fru-fru tourists are still scared to get out of their cars.

Yet the longstanding display of paintings, illustrations and debris-turned-artwork draws others from their vehicles – and around the country.

The captivating project has been in the making since 1986, kicked off by artist and  founder Tyree Guyton.

At the age of 12, during Detroit’s Nain-Rouge-inspired 1967 riots, Guyton watched his city blaze to ashes. Detroit has been decaying ever since, but Guyton’s brazen oasis is hope sprouting from charred remains.

The Heidelberg Project has become the third most visited tourist attraction in Detroit, the literature tells us, although it does not mention the top two destinations. We’ll guess the Renaissance Center and Belle Isle, or perhaps the garish downtown statue of a giant Joe Louis’s fist.

Guyton’s mom still lives in Heidelberg’s centerpiece polka dot house, first fashioned for the artist’s Grandpa Sam’s love of jelly beans.

Heidelberg Project Detroit/Ryn Gargulinski

“Tyree got the idea that people were like jellybeans – all similar, yet different – all the colors together,” Heidelberg literature says. “Well, those jellybeans inspired a dot here, a dot there, a dotty wotty house and a polka-dot street, a celebration of color, diversity and harmony.”

Yes, the project has had its dissenters. The city demolished parts of the Heidelberg Project in 1991 and again in 1999. But you can’t keep a good idea down. And no one can keep the momentum from growing.

Not only has Guyton’s project and artwork won awards, it spawned a series of programs.

The Cultural Village project aims for sustainable living in the inner city, complete with eco-friendly homes and businesses as well as urban agriculture that goes beyond weeds.

The House that Makes Sense is the project administrative center at 42 Watson Street, which doubles as an art space for kids’ activities and artists-in-residence.

Heidelberg’s Art, Community, Environment and Education program offers tours and presentations of the project for school kids as well as lessons plans now used by the Michigan Art Education Association’s 2010 conference.

Art can really change the world – or at least a few formerly rotting blocks in Detroit. And one artist really can make a difference.

The Heidelberg Project is definitely on my destination list every time I visit Michigan, where I happened to be last week. New stuff springs up all the time in this ever evolving display. The thing now has an information booth and donation bin, where I put last week’s wages (kidding).



What do you think?

Is the Heidelberg Project amazing or disgusting?

Would you welcome such a display to a decaying neighborhood near you?

Can you imagine what we could do with those abandoned downtown Tucson storefronts?

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Downtown Tucson gets new art haven, artists wanted

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.

Downtown's 35 E. Toole is slated for art haven/Ryn Gargulinski
Downtown's 35 E. Toole is slated for art haven/Ryn Gargulinski

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.

Art from Solar Culture's June 12 opening/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Art from Solar Culture's June 12 opening/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

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:

Art from Solar Culture June 12 show/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Art from Solar Culture June 12 show/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

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

Art at Solar Culture June 12 show/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Art at Solar Culture June 12 show/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

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.

Art at Solar Culture June 12 show/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Art at Solar Culture June 12 show/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

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.


One of studio-storefronts at 35 E. Toole/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Studio-storefront at 35 E. Toole/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
One of studio-storefronts for rent at 35 E. Toole/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
One of studio-storefronts for rent at 35 E. Toole/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Studio-storefront in new downtown art haven/Photo Ryn Gargulinski
Studio-storefront in new downtown art haven/Photo Ryn Gargulinski

Anyone interested in renting a storefront-studio can contact Steven Eye at 884-0874 or e-mail

Full disclosure: I am a regular community artist contributor to Eye’s shows and would rent one of the storefronts myself if I could figure out way to make it work.


What do you think?

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?


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Odd Pueblo: Snappy or crappy?

This fun Odd Pueblo feature asks the audience to rate a trend, topic or sighting of something around town: is it snappy or crappy?

The last snappy or crappy, fast food sign landscape, was dripping with greasy crappy votes. The majority of 50 percent gave it a crappy, while 13 percent voted snappy, 25 percent opted for the snap/crap option and 9 percent said they were too busy picking between extra large fries and onion rings to decide.

The latest snappy or crappy brings us another landmark, this one on East Fort Lowell Road: two big balls.

Cantera Carved Stone advertising ploy/Ryn Gargulinski
Cantera Carved Stone advertising ploy/Ryn Gargulinski

This pair of giant, concrete spheres sits outside Cantera Carved Stone, on Fort Lowell just east of North Alvernon Way.

Perhaps the marketing team read that advertising manual that said sex sells.

Overview of advertising ploy at Cantera Carved Stone/Ryn Gargulinski
Overview of advertising ploy at Cantera Carved Stone/Ryn Gargulinski

Sex is used to sell everything – from beer to horse racing, from coffee to cars, from vacuums to toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper.

And now it’s being used as a ploy to sell cold slabs of massive concrete.


Not only could such a ploy distract the already distracted Tucson drivers, but it didn’t seem to sell the spheres.

They are still there, after all.

What do you think?
Please vote snappy or crappy below.


wb-logolilWhat other clever or ridiculous advertising have you seen around town?

Will you be investing in concrete slabs anytime soon?

Please note: Ryn is out riding a train this morning for train safety story coming soon on Rynski’s Blogski. Will respond to any comments upon my return. Thanks!

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10 reasons to see Bodies: The Exhibition with PREVIEW PHOTOS

OK, I’ll admit viewing a room full of dead bodies may not initially sound to everyone like a fun-filled way to spend an afternoon.

Bodies: The Exhibition opens in Tucson May 15/courtesy photo
Bodies: The Exhibition opens in Tucson May 15/courtesy photo

But once you get past any apprehension, you will be amazed by the exhibit opening this weekend for an eight-week engagement in Tucson. I promise.

Bodies: The Exhibition opens Saturday, May 15 at the Rialto Theater, 300 E. Congress – and certainly makes for a great date, solo excursion or even a family outing. Field trip anyone?

10 reasons to go see Bodies: The Exhibition

No animals were harmed in the process. No people were harmed, either. All were dead before any finagling with them began. How many cosmetic companies can say that?

You’ll be honoring the dead. The bodies are those of people in China who died from natural causes and had no one claim them after death. Chinese law says unclaimed bodies go to medical schools for education and research. Your mere presence will be an honor to them.

You’ll see silicone rubber has uses other than cake pans and tires. Silicone rubber is the exhibit’s magic ingredient used to preserve the bodies. Bodies are first treated with chemicals to stop decay, then all the bodies’ water is replaced with acetone.

Next comes the vacuum chamber filled with liquid silicone. The vacuum chamber makes the acetone in the body turn to gas and the liquid silicone hurries to fill the voids. The silicone rubber then hardens and the body is indefinitely preserved. Don’t try this at home.

Bodies: The Exhibition opens in Tucson May 15/courtesy photo
Bodies: The Exhibition opens in Tucson May 15/courtesy photo

It’s fun for the whole family. “We feel strongly that the Exhibition can offer a rare family experience: A golden opportunity to open a child’s eyes – and, in a way no textbook ever could, to teach them about the complexities of the human body and the necessity of proper nutrition, regular activity and the importance of healthy lifestyle choices…,” the Bodies: The Exhibition website notes.

You’ll quit smoking. You’ll quit drinking. You’ll quit eating like a horse. One of the Exhibition’s goals is to point out a number of health ailments that ravage folks today. These range from obesity to cirrhosis of the liver, breast cancer to arthritis. You’ll also get a peek of what happens to your organs if smoke, drink or eat too much.

Your understanding of anatomy will expand beyond “the leg bone is connected to the hip bone.”

You will be filled with awe. Trust me on this one. I saw Our Body: The Universe Within, a related exhibit, when it came to Detroit. My parents took me, proving it works as a family outing.

It’s a playground for artists. Beyond the awesome scientific aspect of it all, such a viewing will make your creativity surge. Grab your sketchbook and go. In addition to any detailed illustrations, you could also get a poem, painting or sculpture out of it.

It will open your mind. The display gives rise to plenty of pondering on topics like immortality, the human being as a machine, creation, nature, life, death, kneecap connections and other big questions like “Does my pancreas really look like that?”

You’ll have plenty of conversation topics for months to come. No more awkward silences during first dates, family gatherings or on the phone with anyone. You can instead talk up a storm describing the fascinating exhibit you had the pleasure of viewing. Just don’t discuss too many details over dinner.

Tickets and more info online at

[tnislideshow] [tnipoll]


What do you think?

Is this exhibition fascinating or grotesque?

Will you be attending? Why or why not?

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Tucsonans get naked for peace

More than a dozen women got naked Mother’s Day morning and laid on a hill in Himmel Park to promote peace.

Code Pink members formed a naked peace sign at Himmel Park on May 9/submitted photo
Code Pink members formed a naked peace sign at Himmel Park on May 9/submitted photo

How does that work?

Well, the women were from Code Pink, a grassroots peace and social justice movement with the goal of ending the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as deterring future conflicts. And where does the nudity fit in?

“Naked peace is better than naked aggression,” participant Jhan Kold said in a news release.

“It’s a funny thing when a society allows members to be without food, homes, adequate medical care, but not their clothes. We are celebrating life and offering a potent symbol as an alternative to war. Make love, make art, make gardens…not war!”

Perhaps appropriately, Hippie Hill was the location for the demonstration, which began at 6 a.m. at the park, on North Tucson Boulevard just south of Speedway.

“Fourteen women formed the peace sign, one woman photographed it, three men took up perimeter guard duty to fend off unwelcome interest, and two more women showed up late and missed the event,” said Mary DeCamp, one of the original founders of Code Pink Tucson.

Code Pink members at Himmel Park May 9/submitted photo
Code Pink members at Himmel Park May 9/submitted photo

“The lack of dignified jobs in the private sector allows military recruiters to lure our children into training that’s intended to put them at risk and to injure others. No mother should stand for such exploitation and endangerment of the most valuable of her resources.

“What Raytheon and Davis-Monthan do every day offends me more deeply than a bunch of ladies disrobing in the early morning light on Mother’s Day to call attention to the need for a better path,” DeCamp said.

Makes sense to me.

It’s also quite refreshing that Code Pink members are, well, peaceful.

This is a far cry from another organization, which likes to throw paint at fur coats but will remain unnamed. Those particular group members often get naked and proceed to yell and scream until they get the attention they think they deserve just for being naked.

Good going, Code Pink! We are also happy to report there was neither any yelling nor screaming – and no one threw paint on any fur.

Code Pink, founded in 2002 by four women, is largely comprised of women, but men are also welcome. Learn more or join a local chapter at Code Pink, Women for Peace, at

Please note: Photos edited to comply with editorial guidelines regarding nude demonstrations.

UPDATE: Responses from Mary DeCamp to questions I sent her:

Do cops ever come around and bother you – any local arrests?

Not during the time I’ve been active.

You mentioned “unwanted interest” from onlookers – are people lewd and crude or do they understand the statement the group is making?

You know how hypersexualized our society is, at the same time being incredibly repressive. We don’t want to offend folks, we want to wake them up. We wanted to honor the unique female energy that leads to birthing, nurturing, and healing, not to leering, jeering, or judging.

Do you feel Sunday’s demonstration was successful? Why or why not?

Incredibly successful. It’s not even a day later and we’ve been covered on your blog (so supportively, too) and the right-wing radio morning show (104.1 fm) is covering it, too. The message is so sensible. The urgency is so pressing. The opportunity is so great. If people just knew they could speak up – how easy it is to call for a change and to be heard – they would do it.

The co-incidence of this action and the flash mob doing the Macarana in Park Mall is telling – we are ready for a different way of communicating and you have helped us bridge the gap and reach community members. How do you get more successful than that? (well, you do – the sense of community that sprung out of such intimate sharing among a group of tender-hearted humans is the ultimate and we had that, as well!).

Other Code Pink Tucson events include a Peace Ribbon Tour, a Valentine’s Day Mailing Party and an International Women’s Day Diamondback Bridge in March.

The group also holds an ongoing Really, Really Free Market, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the third Saturday of every month east of the tennis courts at Himmel Park. Folks are encouraged to “Bring something to share: useful items, a vegetarian snack, music or poetry, skills (haircuts, painting, knitting, etc.), or just your smile. Take home what you need or want.”



What do you think?

Would you get naked for a good cause?

Is ending the war in Iraq and Afghanistan a good cause?