247 Tucson, AZ: The Other Museum

There was another museum in town besides U of A's: the Tucson Museum of Arts (TMA). Inside, it looked like a squared-off version of New York's Guggenheim Museum. A ramp slanted down along each wall, and galleries sprouted off each landing. Here, during my visit, was Hopper's Pretty Penny, as part of a traveling show of works from the Smith College collection.

In front of the TMA stood an employee bearing a name tag that read "Jodi, Director of Member Services." She was pale-skinned, despite Tucson's annual 300 days of sunshine. She looked to be in her twenties and had dyed red hair, big green eyes, pearly white teeth, and bright red lips. Beefy arms stuck out from a lightweight chartreuse sweater buttoned to the top and thrown over a lightweight shirt embroidered with blue and green flowers.

She said she had just moved here from Indianapolis. I laughed, "They have two Hoppers there [in Indianapolis]."

"Oh that's a beautiful art museum," she gushed. "Their executive director became the executive director of the Tucson art museum."

"Did you follow him?" I asked.

"I did not," she emphasized. "But I think being a Hoosier may have helped me into my position," she laughed. "A lot of Midwesterners live here. You have that friendly, Midwestern hospitality. Then you mix that with the strong cultural base that Tucson has for the size. I mean, you're looking at really small, roughly 700,000, but you've got 13 performing arts groups here. You've got the University Art Museum and you've got the Tucson Museum of Arts. So people are out from their communities all the time. I don't think people in Tucson are as isolated as other parts of the country.

"I've lived in Chicago and Indianapolis, Louisville. I guess I felt an isolation in those cities. During the winter months, not seeing the sunshine from November to May, I think a depression sweeps over everything and leaves everything with a little bit of dust over it.
And not that there is not a lot going on, but people are so into the people they already know that you don't see a lot of venturing beyond that. I was in Louisville, Kentucky. I did not really make one solid friend there. They go to grade school and high school and college in the same community, and they just don't really leave that.

"If you talk to almost any person in here, they didn't grow up here. I've had many friends who have already left. And then I still am in contact with some people that I met when I first moved here. There's a certain type of personality that moves to Tucson. They're here because they enjoy being out with other people. And they enjoy being with nature. You won't meet a nicer group of people in one place. People give to social services. They give to the arts. It's a very giving town and a very forgiving town."

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