How did you become interested in working for Tohono Chul Park?
I was a grad student at the UA studying art history and museums. I was looking for a job in the local museum world, and I was lucky enough to be looking at the time there was an opening here at Tohono Chul. And I got the job. Now, I handle about half the exhibits here at the park.
Tell me about the teapot exhibit.
At first glance, you would think that the teapot exhibit wouldn't have anything to do with the mission of Tohono Chul Park. The park is concerned with teaching people about the desert, and the exhibit program aims to do that as well. However, we take a little broader view of teaching people, and it has to do with the cultural expression in (an) art form of the people who live here. It's a fact that the majority of the people who discover Tohono Chul Park do it because they come to the tearooms for breakfast or lunch or afternoon tea, and it is only after that experience that they discover the rest of the park beyond the tearooms. We thought it would be fun to do an exhibit of teapots made by local artists. So all of the teapots are made by 24 different artists who are from the Tucson or Phoenix areas. Each one is unique to that artist's style of work.
What is the most interesting piece of work you've seen since you've been here?
I did a needlework exhibit with the Mexican-American community. And that exhibit featured all different kinds of traditional needlework that Mexican-American women were preserving in their own families. We had crocheting work; we had quilts; and we had a type of drawn thread work. It was another very rewarding exhibit.
Tell me about the exhibit you won the award for.
Three years ago, we did an exhibit called Please Touch, and the idea behind that exhibit was that all the artwork would be completely touchable, and this was marketed to people in the community who had visual disabilities or who were blind, but it wasn't aimed only at people with those disabilities. The idea was that everybody would have a fuller experience of art if they were able to touch it as well. We had the labels made in Braille as well as in large print, so that it would be as accessible as possible. Then, two summers ago, I repeated this exhibit with a second exhibit called Please Touch, Too!, and (with) that one, we expanded the accessibility options even further by creating an audio-description tour for the exhibit.
Will you expand even more on the Please Touch exhibit?
People have asked us to continue or to do it again, and yes, definitely, I'm sure we'll do it again in a few years. We can't do it every year.
We deal with folk artists; we deal with Native American expression artists; and there are so many different topics and themes that we have to work with. We like to have something different over the course of a year or two.
What purpose does preserving art serve?
I think that art is, in a very philosophical way, an expression of the soul, and it's an expression of the spirit of the artists, and it also speaks to the spirit and the soul of the viewer. Art enables people to make a connection in a different manner than when they are talking. It's a way of relating through images and through beauty.
Are you an artist?
I am an artist myself. I'm not where I want to be as an artist, but I do create art myself. I make quilts, and I also am an amateur photographer.
What do you mean when you say you are not where you want to be?
I feel like, for a number of years, that my own art making was on the back burner, and I've not totally ever stopped, but I haven't had the opportunity to put as much time and effort as I wanted into it. I'm at a point in my life where I am returning to my art making. I'm so inspired by the art here, and that's the really rewarding part of my job.