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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Powhaus produces art for fun’s sake

    Lisa Beth Earle/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

The members and friends of Powhaus Productions. The group meets to plan for Tucson events, revise their set productions and conduct
screen tests of their performers.
    Lisa Beth Earle
    Lisa Beth Earle/ Arizona Daily Wildcat The members and friends of Powhaus Productions. The group meets to plan for Tucson events, revise their set productions and conduct screen tests of their performers.

    Rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well in Tucson — just take a look at Powhaus Productions, whose slogan boasts “”art for fun’s sake.”” 

    Powhaus Productions is an expanding group of local artists who host over-the-top rock ‘n’ roll dance parties complete with live music, lightshows, decorations and an outrageously costumed dance troupe called “”The Maximalists.”” They then videotape them for an ongoing online television show art project.

    Powhaus Productions’ main concern is to let anything and everything happen.

    “”I don’t want it to be like all the other clubs, where if you get a little too nuts a bouncer comes up to you. As long as everyone’s in a good vibe and no one’s getting hurt, I want it to be permissive, I want people to come in like half-naked. I want it to be like ‘60s Warhol, anything-goes Studio 54,”” said Jared “”Kitty Katt”” McKinley, the group’s founder.

    Named after an early 1900s German art school and 1970s band, the group is all about taking creativity and wildness to the next level, McKinley said.

    Tucson artists Dallas “”Desert Diamond”” Reece and Clif Taylor host Powhaus with McKinley and will be hosting “”POP!,”” the group’s newest dance party at the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St., on Friday at 10:30 p.m. This will accompany the upcoming Andy Warhol exhibit opening at the Tucson Museum of Art and is preceded by a concert put on by the Rialto Theatre featuring the band Under Velvetground.

    “”We put a little bit of artwork into nightlife,”” Reece said. “”As far as Tucson goes, I’ve developed a kind of stardom that I really like.””

    The Powhaus’s rise to arguably the kings of the local rock ‘n’ roll dance scene, was a lengthy and complicated adventure.



    Looking at 1960s videos of The Who, McKinley’s inspiration was to bring a rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic back to dance.

    “”You had all these ‘60s hipsters and they were dancing, they looked great. They were dressed up and they were cool, you know? And I thought, why isn’t this happening anymore? It’s got to happen,”” McKinley said.

    He began by throwing parties, mainly at galleries. By January, Rialto event booker Curtis McCrary had invited McKinley to try his parties on the Rialto stage.

    McKinley and Nadine Roselle Ruiz-Carlson, his wife and co-producer of Powhaus, had doubts about the stage.

    “”We thought he was crazy,”” Roselle Ruiz-Carlson said.

    But after a great deal of planning, the Rialto turned out to be the perfect venue, McKinley said.

    Powhaus’s first Rialto production,  “”Clusterf**ck,”” on Jan. 2 turned out to be a surprising success.

    “”We wanted it to be a hodge-podge of rock ‘n’ roll subculture,”” McKinley said. About 500 people attended the premiere. Powhaus Productions had tapped into something locals were looking for.

    The next show, “”The Glitter Ball,”” held Jan. 29, was a success, with more than 1,000 attendees, McKinley said.

    An homage to all things glam rock, the show included a “”glittering station,”” a bathtub filled with glitter — just in case you wanted a little more sparkle — and a procession of motorized scooters driving through the stage amid costumed dancers flailing to rock ‘n’ roll tracks.

    The show created quite a buzz in Tucson, leading to a lot of anticipation for their “”POP!”” show.

    Warhol’s aesthetic is a direct inspiration for Powhaus Productions itself, McKinley said. “”We sort of are like the Factory,”” he said. “”Our group of people, we’re a bunch of freaks and we like to throw parties.””

    Opening up Tucson to all

    Powhaus Productions see their projects as not only fun parties, but also as ways for people to express themselves and to include more people in the local art scene.

    “”I think a lot of us are very creative people who have been stuck in something like the grind,”” Roselle Ruiz-Carlson said.

    Roselle Ruiz-Carlson said people of Powhaus have very different day jobs. She works at Bookmans Entertainment Exchange when she’s not editing, shooting or planning video projects for Powhaus. 

    The UA brought many Powhaus members to Tucson where they fell in love with the local art scene, McKinley said.

    McKinley studied botany, ecology, creative writing and Greek classics and Roselle Ruiz-Carlson studied Spanish and plant science.

    “”I draw, I sew, I do cartoon characters. Everything I did in school I finally get a chance to use,”” said Reece, who graduated last May with a degree in interdisciplinary studies, focusing on studio art, creative writing and Japanese.

    Reece said Powhaus is bringing back something different and fun for everyone.

    “”This is something like a lost genre … It’s nice to bring it back in our own weird, funky, desert way,”” Reece said.

    “”People at the U of A often don’t see that when you get into that U of A world; the school is like an island,”” McKinley said. “”You hang out with other students, and then there’s this huge art scene. There’s a lot of famous people who live here too, and no one really knows.””

    Powhaus Productions is working to bridge that gap.

    “”It’s just been two separate worlds,”” McKinley said.

    “”The Glitter Ball”” created a vibe where frat boys could be seen dancing with drag queens, McKinley said.

    “”Imagine (a drag queen) pretty much naked and sparkly, and he’s getting down with frat boys! I was just like, ‘Nowhere else. He would usually get beat up by these guys,'”” he said.

    “”Yeah, we don’t want to exclude anyone. We encourage people to dress up and get wild, but you don’t have to dress up, you don’t have to dance — just come,”” Roselle Ruiz-Carlson added.

    Regardless of who comes, they’re pretty much guaranteed to have a wild night. Besides the “”POP!”” show, Powhaus plans to have an ‘80s underground Leigh Bowery dance party and is helping the Tucson Museum of Art host First Fridays in March. They are creating a Web site and a television show on, projects the group hopes to complete by the end of the month.

    McKinley and his fellow Powhaus artists have a zest for life that has rubbed off on Tucson in a short time. But their work is a direct reflection of their desire to get the most out of every experience.

    “”I think the whole point of art in general and what we’re doing as well, is that we want life to be more than just about eating, shitting and sleeping, you know?”” McKinley said. “”Otherwise, why do you fuckin’ bother?””

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