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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


The CATALYST for local art community

Courtesy Kate Marquez
Kate Marquez

The Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance, or SAACA, opened a new collaborative art space for the local community on Dec. 3 in the Tucson Mall.

CATALYST is a venue dedicated to all manner of creative collaborations, from music and art to cooking and robotics. According to SAACA’s website, the space is meant to “serve as an active partner in the educational, economic and cultural life in Southern Arizona” and is “for all ages and forms of creativity to flourish.”

Kate Marquez, the executive director of SAACA, explained that the space is aimed at supporting local artists as well as promoting community engagement.

“This is an opportunity to make more impact, to do something more permanent for our artists and creative community,” Marquez said. “Creating a space to where they can teach, to where they can earn revenue and that we can build stronger, collaborative work in arts and culture here in Southern Arizona.”

Marquez said the idea of CATALYST was also partly influenced by feedback SAACA has received over the years. The non-profit organization fit in at this location due to a partnership it had with the mall for over a decade.

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According to SAACA’s website, CATALYST is considered to be SAACA’s largest community investment project yet. Occupying over 14,000 square feet, CATALYST contains several sections, each dedicated to a different creative discipline. Sections include a culinary sector accommodated by a teaching kitchen, an engineering sector with a robotics and engineering lab and an arts sector for arts and crafts. In addition, the space offers a community stage for performances and private conference rooms.

These spaces will be offered to classes and workshops, which will be taught by professionals and educators from an eclectic mix of backgrounds. The SAACA website states that CATALYST “offers classroom space for professional artists, design professionals, engineers, musicians and chefs and culinary makers to conduct workshops, lectures, or classes.”

Angela Hitt, an elementary school art teacher who recently taught a wire working class at the arts space, was able to take part in a CATALYST project before its opening. Hitt, along with her art club, helped to paint murals inside of CATALYST.

“I think it’s an amazing space where everyone … can find a place within the arts to expand their skills and connect with others in the Tucson area,” Hitt said.

The murals of the project were designed by artist Ignacio Garcia and can be found in the office spaces.  

Marquez credits SAACA’s decades of involvement within the arts community in Southern Arizona for their access to a diverse group of local creative experts that are willing to lend their knowledge.

“We’ve been engaging with thousands of musicians and visual artists, arts organizations and non-profits over the last 22 years,” Marquez said. “So engagement is definitely not difficult for us to find.”

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Additionally, Marquez said the space is intended to be available for other organizations to use as a launchpad. SAACA would support these organizations in building their own community arts programs.

SAACA, which is known for putting on art-based events, programs and annual festivals, branched away from its customary arts opportunities by opening the collaborative arts and maker space. With CATALYST presenting various innovative features, the space can be described as a “first-of-its-kind.”

“We have spent years researching maker and artist spaces and have never found another space that includes this many disciplines and this many multi-disciplinary maker spaces under one roof,” Marquez said. 

Currently located between Sears and Dillard’s on the lower level of the Tucson Mall, the space will be open year-round for events, classes and even office space rental. CATALYST is now open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m to 6 p.m.

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