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Artist Alec Laughlin on the historic space that inspires him, and helped give birth to a new collective of Tucson artists.
“I used to work out of the garage of my home in West University. Then I was asked to be in a couple of shows here at the Citizens Warehouse. My partner walked in here and said ‘This is going to be your space’.
“Working here, on the first floor of the warehouse, makes a huge difference to me. I tend to be a bit of a recluse socially but being in a building and having the other artists here, you can talk shop.
“My studio is enormous, with great, natural light pouring in through windows on the east and north sides. We’re next to the train tracks. They can be so loud that if you’re standing talking you have to shut up. But I think in general everyone really enjoys the rumble and the building shaking a little.
“I’m not much for things. My house is really minimalist. If I don’t use something I just get rid of it. Here, I’ve borrowed a sofa and chairs from one of the other artists. There’s a pool table that belongs to someone else. Someone else gave me two large mirrors and they provide great cross lighting. I have an easel but I don’t know why because I never use it. And there’s a small fridge with beer for the boys – the other artists.
“There’s a ball and chain on the desk – a friend who’s a collector gave it to me. It’s from a Louisiana chain gang. I joke that it’s my engagement ring.
“I work at a drafting table. I work with acrylic and charcoal on board and sometimes on canvas. Acrylic dries quickly and I can do layers upon layers. I’ve seen the sunrise a few times. When I start an art project it’s dangerous, because nothing else will get my attention. Sometimes I’ll work on a piece for two days straight. I’ve been known to take a painting and hold it in front of one of my space heaters, or put it out in the sun to make it dry faster.
“There are more than twenty artists in the warehouse, as well as BICAS. There’s actually a waiting list for space. It’s low-rent and just artistically it’s a warm atmosphere.”
Last June Alec and several other Citizens Warehouse artists formed the Citizens Artist Collective, a non-profit intent on promoting arts and calling attention to the historic building and potential redevelopment. “The more social capital we can build, the more unappealing it might be for a developer to come in turn it into condos,” says Laughlin. In February the CAC will publish a book about its members. You can pre-purchase it for $40 at www.citizensart.com
CITIZENS ARTIST COLLECTIVE
44 W 6th SREET, STE 2A
TUCSON, AZ 85705-8374
* For more on BICAS see our Issue 5 feature.