Downtown deal aims to acquire artist space - Tucson News Now

Downtown deal aims to acquire artist space

By Bud Foster - email

"We got empty lots. We got falling down buildings," says Susan Gamble, President of the Warehouse Arts Management Organization.

But WAMO is working to change that.

There are about 30 old, dilapidated warehouses in downtown Tucson which are owned by the Arizona State Transportation Department.

Local artists would like to have those buildings to house their studios.

They proposed a deal.

The city and state would swap some land in exchange for the warehouses. The city would then deed the warehouses over to the artists.

The artists would then start to work.

"If we take on all the expense of doing rehab, the work of it, the advertising, it's really a good deal for them (Tucson) because we do a public service and a public good," says Gamble.

Gamble, who owns the Santa Theresa Tile Works, has spent many years downtown. She has seen arts projects come and go without success. But this one has a chance she believes.

"You never know when they're going to come to the door and kick you out," says Daniela Diamente, Education Coordinator for BIKUS, a non-profit bike shop and artists studio.

She leases one of the buildings owned by the state.

"We don't have control over these buildings. We never have." she says.

"So the beauty and danger of what's been created, is that we've been given this opportunity from ADOT to start something. We started it and now, they could take it away unless we take in on," she adds.

The state has agreed in concept with the plan but that's as far as they will go right now. Negotiations are ongoing.

The city will not confirm what will happen to the buildings once it takes possession, if it does.

So, it's a risk but one which could reap rich rewards.

"If you want this type of people that come, and better paying jobs, you have to have that creative atmosphere, the culture, that they want to participate it," says Gamble.

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