Tubac Arts

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Feb 152015
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Tuba Arts Festival
Tubac, a small town in southern Arizona known for its artist community, hosts the annual Festival of the Arts


Tubac, a small town along the Santa Cruz River in southern Arizona with a population of a little over 1,000 people and a history dating back 300 years, describes itself as a destination for the arts. Every year in early February, it hosts the Tubac Festival of the Arts. The 56th Annual Festival in 2015 became my opportunity to visit the town and the festival.

As we followed vehicles into town, it became apparent what a popular festival this is. Several streets, where the festival is located, are closed to vehicular traffic. Numerous areas around these streets are designated as parking lots. Police and volunteers directed us past a number of full lots. We began to think we would have to walk quite a distance to the festival, but as we looped around the streets we wound up in Parking Lot C, with festival tents visible just across the street.

Tubac Festival of the Arts

Art festival tents line the streets; horse-drawn trolley rides available for free

Tents, showcasing the works of close to 200 artisans from near and far, lined the blocked-off streets. Volunteers at the parking lot handed us a map. The list of participating artists on the reverse side of the map showed artists’ home locations, which included Arizona, Utah, Nevada, California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut, North Dakota, Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri and Wisconsin. This was clearly not just a local festival.

The types of works were as varied as the locations of the artists. Glass work, oil painting, metal work, clothing, quilts, pottery, food products, jewelry and more.

Tubac Art Festival wares

Displays of a small sampling of the artworks


Tubac art

More wares

There was more to see beyond the tents. The opening of an artist school in Tubac in the 1940s began the evolution of the artist colony in Tubac. Today, there are over 80 shops and galleries.

Tubac Artist Row

Artist Row, a collection of art studios and artists


Tubac Olive Oil Company

Oils sourced from around the world are available for sampling and sale at Tubac Olive Oil Company


Yuma Untamed Confections

A window in the shop of Untamed Confections allows visitors to view the work in the kitchen

Artisan chocolate, hand-crafted in small batches, can be found at Untamed Confections. They use organic, fair-trade Peruvian chocolate. The only sweetener is honey. We bought a chiltepin pepper dark chocolate bar, after tasting a sample. I had never heard of chiltepin peppers before. I was told it is a small pepper, almost like a berry, which grows wild in the Sonoran desert. On a scale rating peppers by heat it falls somewhere in the middle, hotter than jalapeno. The heat hits you instantly and quickly fades. It is used sparingly in the chocolate bar. The heat in the bar is subtle and the chocolate is rich and creamy. The shop also makes caramels.

Flying Leap Vineyards, a southern Arizona winery with four locations, had a festival tent selling Arizona Rub products. The tent was located in front of what will soon become a new location in Tubac. 

Future site Flying Leap Tubac

Doorway into courtyard of future Flying Leap location in Tubac.
In the courtyard: an example of Hohokam pit house and wa:to site (ramada shelter made from saguaro ribs and Ocotilla branches)


Tubac building

One of the many interesting buildings in Tubac

Tubac has a history that extends well past its birth as an artist colony, The Tubac area is believed to have been inhabited for over 11,000 years. The Spanish Colonial Era began when Jesuit missionary Father Kino entered the Santa Cruz Valley in 1691. By 1731, Tubac was a mission farm and ranch. The Spanish established a fort at Tubac in 1752 and it became the first European settlement in Arizona. That history and heritage are evident as one walks through the town.

Tubac architecture

Sampling of Tubac architecture


Tubac house

House in Tubac


Tubac St Ann's Church

Current Saint Ann’s church, built in 1930, stands on foundations laid in 1767

I enjoyed my short visit to Tubac and its Festival of the Arts. I would like to return to Tubac at a non-festival time and explore its history and shops in a more leisurely, lingering manner. 

Tubac is located about 40 minutes south of Tucson, approximately twenty miles north of the Mexican border. As soon as you get south of Tucson, highway signs marking the distance to upcoming towns change from miles to kilometres. Returning north to Tucson, there is a border check point just north of Tubac. There was a fair bit of traffic coming from the Festival and it took us about 10 minutes to get through the stop. The patrol officer took one look at us and our Manitoba licence plate and waved us through.

Entrance to the Tubac Festival of the Arts is free, but there is a charge for parking. In 2015, that charge was $8. Tubac has several restaurants. There are several bed and breakfasts, hotels and RV parks. All book up early for the festival.

Tubac Festival of the Arts


Have you been to Tubac or the Tubac Festival of the Arts?


Festival of the Arts in Tubac, Arizona

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  33 Responses to “Tubac Arts”

  1. I’ve never heard of Tubac so I especially enjoyed this tour! I’ll remember it if I get back to that area..looks wonderful!

  2. Hi Donna, what a cute town and cool architecture. The Tubac Festival looks like lots of fun. 🙂

  3. Tubac looks like a great place to visit. Hope we get there some day!

  4. Wow, I’ll have to remember to put this on my must visit spots whenever I get a chance to go back to Arizona, wonderful post.

  5. I visited Tubac and had the most amazing Navajo taco from a stand outside that church. The arts festival looks like a worthy reason to return.

  6. Though I have never heard of Tubac before, I am sure it will be a wonderful place to visit. The photos and your descriptions testifies this. Thanks for sharing this.

  7. I never heard of Tubac but it sounds like a great place to visit, especially during the Arts Festival. You certainly aren’t one of those snowbirds who lets the grass grow under your feet. Thanks for sharing all your explorations~

  8. Thanks for the introduction to Tubac which looks like a fascinating little town with a lot of interesting history. I would love to attend the festival, browse through the art and try some of the chiltepin pepper chocolate.

  9. What a great find! We were in Tucson in 2006 and loved it, but didn’t hear anything of Tubac. What a shame – it looks just like the kind of town we would like to visit. Thanks for all the info.

  10. I’d never heard of Tubac before this. I think my brother will eventually retire to Arizona and this might be a good destination to put on the list. Love these kinds of open air art festivals!

  11. We were in Tubac’s Iluminaria Nights in December. But that does not sound as big. Just south of the town is the Mission de Tucumcacori. Did you go there?

    • We did not go to Mission de Tucumcacori. It was (is) on my list if we had stayed longer, but we were only there for part of the day. We did tour the Presidio State Park. I really enjoyed the museum there.

  12. I am not familiar with Tubac, thank you for the introduction. Loved the architecture!

  13. I have never heard of Tubac, but I positively love what I’ve read about it in your post. A town with 1,000 people and 80 shops and galleries sounds just delightful. Thanks for the introduction! Carry on Donna!

  14. What a gorgeous sky in your pictures. Certainly looks like you had a beautiful day for your visit to Tubac.

    • We did have a beautiful day. I hate to say this, but it was almost too hot and sunny. Walking around the booths outdoors in the afternoon might have been less tiring on a slightly cooler day.

  15. Though I’ve visited Tucson several times, I’ve never heard of Tubac. I’ll keep it in mind for a sidetrip, especially when the Festival is happening.

  16. I haven’t been to Tubac yet, but my cousin in Phoenix is a big fan of the place and visits often. From what she tells me and what I’m reading here, I really should get there next trip to Arizona. I love art festivals, so it would be fun to see it then.

  17. That’s a lot of activity for such a small town. I’d love to see that chocolate being made!

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