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T Q&A

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Randi Dorman, president of the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) board of directors, says it took a couple of days for MOCA staff and volunteers to get used to the fact that they finally had a new home: The Tucson City Council recently approved MOCA as the new tenant for the Tucson Fire Department space at 265 S. Church Ave., after MOCA was the only group to propose moving there. Dorman calls MOCA the most dynamic museum in town, and says the new home will allow the museum to provide contemporary art in a more appropriate setting. For more info, visit the MOCA Web site.

How will you prepare for the move?

We have a whole group of architects who are on our board or are associated with the board, and we are going to walk through the building with them to create a finalized renovation plan. The fire department will move out in October or November, and we'd like to open up by January 2010.

Have the lease terms been finalized?

The initial offering is for a five-year lease, with MOCA paying for all the operating costs during the terms of that lease. We're fine starting with that. We want to provide Tucson with a world-class contemporary-art museum and reactivate that block. Right now, it's the police and fire department, and not very consumer-friendly, but we think we can bring a lot of life to that block.

And it keeps you downtown.

Part of our mission is that we are committed to the redevelopment of downtown, so when we were looking for a site, we wanted to specifically be downtown. A vibrant downtown is where ideas are exchanged and new ideas are conceived, so we think it's important to be downtown.

What does the new space mean for the future of MOCA?

We finally have a space that's worthy of the high-quality programming that we do, and now the sky's the limit. We're just going to go full speed ahead. We have amazing shows planned, and we're getting great feedback and accolades, really, from around the world.

The arts are hurting due to the economy. How is MOCA doing?

Luckily for us, we've always been extremely fiscally conservative and responsible. We've just always done so much with so little. We're tightening our belts, but we're very positive and realistic about the future. We certainly need to raise money to do all the things we'd like to do to this building. We're fairly reliant and lucky to receive support from our members and patrons.

What kind of transition is MOCA going to be experiencing?

We are used to being in transition mode. We started off small. Every year, we build and we build. We've been in several locations in the past six years, and each gets better and better. We were awarded a large grant from the Warhol Foundation, and in other people's eyes, this legitimized us even more. The building is another big stepping stone. We've never been in a mode that's not transition mode. But we embrace that; that's what you do when you're building a museum. Part of our success is that we have the most incredible and resourceful executive director (Anne-Marie Russell). She is just phenomenal. ... We also retooled our board a couple of years ago. ... Then we have an amazing dedicated and resourceful staff.

What attracted you to MOCA's board?

I just thought MOCA was the most interesting and dynamic museum in town, and I really believe in the power of contemporary art to introduce people to new ideas and help change the way they think sometimes. Tucson has many great qualities, but it does need to be introduced to new ideas often.

What does this mean for Tucson?

MOCA is an incredible resource for Tucson. It signifies that Tucson is ready to be challenged, engaged and interested, and we're just going to keep providing Tucson with informative interesting dynamic shows. I think what it really means for Tucson is that Tucson is ready to look forward. I think Tucsonans are very comfortable looking backward. We're really good at analyzing what happened, and lamenting about what happened, and not as good at planning for what needs to happen next. I think MOCA is going to be there to hold Tucson's hand and help (Tucsonans) look forward.

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