Tubac Arts

February 15, 2015
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Festival of the Arts in Tubac, Arizona
Tubac, a small town in southern Arizona known for its artist community, hosts an 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.

Tents, showcasing the works of close to 200 artisans from near and far, lined streets blocked off to vehicular traffic. 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.

Horse-drawn wagon at Tubac Festival of the Arts
Horse-drawn wagons and trolleys offered free rides

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.

Sample of the type of art and artisan products at the Tubac Festival of the Arts
Paintings on display beside a tent at the Tubac Festival of Arts with a brick studio in the background

There was a large and diverse collection of arts and crafts in the Festival itself, but there was still more to be found within Tubac shops. 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.

Adobe buildings at Artist Row in Tubac, Arizona
Artist Row, a collection of art studios
Adobe shops connected by landscaped walkway in Tubac
More shops

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.

Hohokam pit house
Example of a Hohokam pit house in the Flying Leap courtyard
Ramada shelter of saguaro ribs and Ocotillo branches
Hohokam wa:to site (ramada shelter made from saguaro ribs and Ocotillo branches) in Flying Leap courtyard
Simple white brick church
Current Saint Ann’s church, built in 1930, stands on foundations laid in 1767
Church interior
Interior of St. Ann’s church

More of Tubac’s history can be explored at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, located within the town centre. I took time away from exploring art to explore history there and wrote about that experience in the History Lives at Tubac Presidio post.

Tubac has an interesting and colourful collection of buildings and is very pleasant to walk through.

Adobe building with red-brick covered veranda area
Brick building with old wood timbers
Adobe inn at Tubac

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. There are several bed and breakfasts, hotels and RV parks. All book up early for the festival.

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Tubac, a small colourful town in southern Arizona known for its artist community, hosts an annual Festival of the Arts. More arts and crafts found in shops in this town filled with history. #Arizona #history #Tubac #art #festival

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  • Reply
    jacquie
    February 15, 2015 at 12:49 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 15, 2015 at 1:31 pm

      The town is certainly worth a visit.

  • Reply
    Susan cooper
    February 15, 2015 at 6:20 pm

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

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 19, 2015 at 6:58 pm

      The town is cute – very cool architecture.

  • Reply
    santafetraveler
    February 16, 2015 at 1:06 am

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

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 16, 2015 at 11:16 am

      Tubac obviously doesn’t have as large an arts community as Santa Fe, but the town has a nice vibe.

  • Reply
    Noel Morata
    February 16, 2015 at 1:48 am

    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.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 16, 2015 at 11:16 am

      Thanks Noel. It’s in interesting little town.

  • Reply
    Charles McCool
    February 16, 2015 at 7:28 am

    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.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 16, 2015 at 11:19 am

      I didn’t see a taco stand in front of the church when I was there. Navajo tacos are great – I only learned about them a couple of years ago.

  • Reply
    TUHIN
    February 16, 2015 at 9:18 am

    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.

  • Reply
    Irene S. Levine
    February 16, 2015 at 9:41 am

    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~

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 16, 2015 at 11:20 am

      Irene – I like to explore, where ever I am.

  • Reply
    Anita Oliver
    February 16, 2015 at 10:36 am

    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.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 16, 2015 at 11:21 am

      It is a fun time. The chocolate store is a permanent shop in Tubac, so you can visit it even outside of festival time.

  • Reply
    Yasha Langford
    February 16, 2015 at 4:22 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 17, 2015 at 11:03 am

      It is a nice little town. If you’re ever back in the Tucson area, it’s the drive.

  • Reply
    Betsy Wuebker
    February 16, 2015 at 7:19 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 17, 2015 at 11:04 am

      There are a lot of open art festivals in Arizona, at least in the greater Phoenix area. The backdrop of the town of Tubac makes this one a little unique.

  • Reply
    carol colborn
    February 16, 2015 at 8:44 pm

    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?

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 17, 2015 at 11:05 am

      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.

  • Reply
    SuzanneS
    February 16, 2015 at 10:24 pm

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

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 17, 2015 at 11:05 am

      Yes, I like this type of architecture too.

  • Reply
    artpartnersbunbury.com
    February 17, 2015 at 7:19 am

    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!

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 17, 2015 at 11:06 am

      It is such fun to discover and explore places like this.

  • Reply
    The GypsyNesters
    February 17, 2015 at 10:43 am

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

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 17, 2015 at 11:07 am

      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.

  • Reply
    Carole Terwilliger Meyers
    February 17, 2015 at 8:23 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 19, 2015 at 6:59 pm

      I think it is worth a side trip from Tucson.

  • Reply
    Cathy Sweeney
    February 19, 2015 at 2:33 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      Donna Janke
      February 19, 2015 at 7:00 pm

      You should try and add it to your itinerary if you get a chance. I love art festivals too – there are a lot in the Phoenix area.

  • Reply
    Karen Warren
    February 20, 2015 at 4:38 am

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

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