Visual art is always cool, but it's literally cool in the summer—when it's exhibited in the frosty blast of a museum's AC.
And the way-coolest art that you'll be seeing this summer in two local museums is not even made yet: The University of Arizona Museum of Art and MOCA Tucson will both have artists actually making art in their galleries.
UAMA, 1031 N. Olive Road, is staging Sol LeWitt Days. The late LeWitt, a pioneering conceptual artist, left behind instructions for making his drawings. For "Wall Drawing #797," for example, he specified, in part, "The first drafter has a black marker and makes an irregular horizontal line. ... Then the second drafter tries to copy it (without touching it) using a red marker."
For a summer project, curator Lauren Rabb lined up six teams of local artists to follow LeWitt's directions and make their own wall-size versions of his art. Two crews will report for drawing duty today, Thursday, May 24, with subsequent squads arriving on June 2, 8 and 15, and July 2. Viewers can jump in and make their own miniature LeWitts. Call 621-7567 to make sure the artists are in. Opening reception is 5 to 7 p.m., Thursday; artmuseum.arizona.edu.
Likewise, MOCA Tucson, 265 S. Church Ave., has invited two multimedia Minneapolis artists to make art inside the Great Hall, the huge room that once housed fire engines. Hunter Jonakin and Jordan Vinyard haven't yet revealed which genre they'll investigate, but a peek at Jonakin's website shows the pair all strapped up in a performance piece called "Utility Harness." A text explains that when they smile, a sensor sets off motorized barbed wire that whips them on the back. Art—or whip—lovers can watch the pair make something new in Tucson during regular museum hours from June 9 to 24. Call first to make sure they're on duty. The pair will give a talk about the project at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, June 20, and the exhibition of their work will go up June 30; 624-5019; www.moca-tucson.org.
For art that's already hanging on the walls, try the Tucson Museum of Art's Arizona Centennial show, opening to the public on June 16. 100 Years 100 Ranchers: Photographs by Scott T. Baxter is a compendium of black-and-white photos of families who have ranched in Arizona since statehood or before. Baxter, who is from Phoenix, spent 10 years on the project. He discusses the work at 1 p.m., Saturday, June 16. The museum is planning a heapin' helpin' of related cowboy activities, including a screening of the cowboy movie Once Upon a Time in the West, at 6 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 9; 140 N. Main Ave.; 624-2333; www.tucsonmuseumofart.org.
Etherton Gallery, 135 S. Sixth Ave., also sticks with photography this summer, filling its gleaming white walls with A Classic Collection: Photographs From the Estate of Julian T. Baker, Jr. (1939-2011). A Southern gentleman from North Carolina, the late Baker was an indefatigable collector. This sampling of his holdings ranges from such 20th-century eminences as Harry Callahan and Frederick Sommer to biggies still at work today, including Richard Misrach and Linda Connor; free; opening 7 to 10 p.m., Saturday, June 16; 624-7370; www.ethertongallery.com.
There's still time to catch the current show at the Center for Creative Photography, 1030 N. Olive Road (the most-frigid, temperature-wise, of all Tucson art venues—those photos in the archives need to be kept chilled). Speaking in Tongues: Wallace Berman and Robert Heinecken, 1961-1976, pairs the work of two Los Angeles artists who pushed photography into the avant-garde. The center owns the Heinecken archive, and this counts as its first major Heinecken show. A companion exhibition, LA Photographies, drawn from the permanent collection, traces 100 years of photography in the City of Angels; free, through June 17; 621-7968; www.creativephotography.org.
For art in the great outdoors, visit the Kore Press art auction at 6 p.m., this Sunday, May 27, on the cool lawn at the Franklin House, 402 N. Main Ave.; 327-2127; www.korepress.org. The benefit garden party showcases works by more than 50 artists, live music by Emilie Marchand and Chris Black, and buffet by Gallery of Food.
To see a flotilla of art another evening, sail the galleries in the Central Tucson Gallery Association on the Summer Art Cruise on Saturday, June 2; free. (See the Tucson Weekly next week for a complete itinerary.)
Most of the theater companies shut down for the summer—or devote the hot months to teaching the dramatic arts to the next generation. But the thespians in several troupes strut upon the stage year-round.
The indefatigable Live Theatre Workshop, 5317 E. Speedway Blvd., opens Mary Chase's classic play Harvey on June 7. You'll remember this one from the movie with Jimmy Stewart. The 1945 Pulitzer Prize winner is about a lovable oddball whose best friend just happens to be a 6-foot-tall rabbit; through July 14; 327-4242; www.livetheatreworkshop.org.
Theresa Rebeck created this spring's TV showbiz soap-opera Smash, and she's also written for NYPD Blue and Law and Order: Criminal Intent. She's a playwright too, and on July 19, LTW opens her thriller Mauritius. Set in the presumably tame world of stamp-collecting, the play is stylish entertainment. It runs through Aug. 18.
And what says summer in the Old Pueblo more than a goofball production at Gaslight Theatre? You can sip iced drinks (and eat) while you watch a melodrama about heroes and knaves. Opening June 7, Back to the Past is a riff on the Michael J. Fox movie Back to the Future, recast as a musical with live music. You already know the story: a time-traveling car zips back to the 1950s; 7010 E. Broadway Blvd.; 886-9428; www.thegaslighttheatre.com.
Invisible Theatre switches from drama to hot music in the dog days of summer. Sizzling Summer Sounds is a cabaret series of eight shows running off and on for four weeks, opening with Crazy ... About Patsy Cline, with Liz McMahon (June 13 and 14), and closing with Steve Ross' Puttin' on the Ritz (July 6 and 8). Shows are at the Arizona Inn, 2200 E. Elm St. For tickets, call IT at 882-9721; www.invisibletheatre.com.
For music under the stars, check out Arizona Symphonic Winds, conducted by László Veres, on Saturday evenings in Udall Park, 7200 E. Tanque Verde Road. The free concerts offer light classical music at 7 p.m. on the next three Saturdays: May 26 (with guests Las Tubas de Tucson), June 2 and June 9; www.azsymwinds.org.
The multiplex might be ice-cold, but Cinema La Placita, 110 S. Church Ave., is more fun. Cinema La Placita screens classic movies outdoors in one of Tucson's oldest plazas. (Don't miss the historic gazebo.) You can sit on a provided chair or bring your own, and feast on all the popcorn you can eat. A Streetcar Named Desire is on for today, May 24; 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is May 31; 7:30 p.m., Thursdays through October; www.cinemalaplacita.com.
Don't miss a truly arty movie at everybody's favorite theater, the Loft Cinema, 3233 E. Speedway Blvd. The Tucson Museum of Art co-sponsors Gerhard Richter Painting, a documentary that captures the renowned German artist at work in his studio; 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, May 30; 795-7777; www.loftcinema.com.
Meet Me Downtown 5K Night Run/Walk isn't all art, but it's all fun. The first leg in the new Gabe Zimmerman Triple Crown (run in memory of the late Gabrielle Giffords aide and benefiting charities he held dear), the 5k starts at the Children's Museum Tucson, 200 S. Sixth Ave., at 7 p.m., Saturday, June 2. After the race, Elemental Artistry performs a fire show; Cinema La Placita screens The Muppets; and LeeAnne Savage rocks out; azroadrunners.org.
If you want the monsoons to cool off this burg—and who doesn't?—don't miss the El Día de San Juan Festival. San Juan is John the Baptist, the saint associated with water. His feast day, June 24, marked the traditional start of the rains in the Old Pueblo. But the early Tucsonenses had to play water games to get el santo to bring on the storms. The modern fiesta is held at Tucson's birthplace, on the west bank of the bone-dry Santa Cruz River. The free fun runs from 5 to 10 p.m., Sunday, June 24, at the Mercado San Agustin, 100 S. Avenida del Convento. The saint will be invoked in a blessing and procession, followed by games, music, food and a Mexican charreada (rodeo). Look for some splashing, and pray for rain; 791-4040.