Designer for Hire

Say hello to lolochic

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With fabrics that float and shapes for the everywoman, Tucson fashion designer Loreto Echevarria is not only making a name for herself, she’s creating her very own style: ‘lolochic’. By Gillian Drummond.

Photo by Jackie Sterna

Loreto Echevarria’s debut at Tucson Fashion Week. Photo by Jackie Sterna

Loreto Echevarria wears her jewelry like armor. It’s a strategy she started some years ago, whenever she was feeling nervous or insecure. She incorporated big, statement pieces of jewelry into her daily look, often cuff bracelets – one on each wrist Coco Chanel style.

“The accessories ended up being a shield. Whenever I was feeling insecure or nervous I had my jewelry. It was like Wonderwoman. The cuffs helped, as if I was going to deflect some negativity or criticism,” says Loreto.

Photo by Jackie Sterna

Cuffs are part of the ‘lolochic’ look. Photo by Jackie Sterna

So it came as no surprise to her followers when cuffs were included in the designs she presented at Tucson Fashion Week last October. Her models strutted down the catwalk at the Fox Theatre with fabric cuffs on their arms, floaty silk tops and dresses, bright colors, leather shorts and pants, even a cape. It was ancient Greece and comic superheroes and rock chick and a little bit of Star Wars all rolled into one. It was Lolochic – the name she has coined for her fashion design and styling company.

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Loreto ‘Lolo’ Echevarria. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

Lolo, as Loreto is known to her family and friends, wowed at Tucson Fashion Week with a set of designs that were risk-taking. Lolo had taken a risk herself just by applying. A full-time nurse, she has dabbled in fashion since she was a child. She had long been offering styling and wardrobe consultancy to people, and making garments for a select few. Then she attended 2013 Tucson Fashion Week, a showcase of local and national talent. Inspired, Lolo decided to apply for TFW 2014.

Most fashion designers begin with an idea and a sketchbook. Lolo starts with a fabric. “I fall in love with my fabric. The fabric tells me what it wants to be,” she says. And then, draping it over a dressmaker’s dummy, she begins the process of design.

Her fabric has to not only speak to her, it has to be top-notch in terms of quality. She’s usually to be found at a branch of JoAnn’s or at SAS Fabrics, or ordering online from the likes of Mood Fabrics. She favors something “unique”, usually silks.

Her floaty fabrics and wide, often square, shapes, are designed for all body shapes and types. Says Lolo: “I think  it’s flattering on any size. I want to make something a size 2 as well as a 14, 16 or 18 could wear. It’s about being comfortable.” The leather pants that were part of her collection at Tucson Fashion Week were only leather in the leg; the rest was fabric, not unlike the style of maternity pants. “You can go up 10 or 20 pounds and still fit into them,” she says.

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Another piece of Lolo’s collection for Tucson Fashion Week. Photo by Jackie Sterna

“Lolo is transcending the traditional size market and providing real fashionable garments for all shapes. It’s exciting,” says Paula Taylor, owner of Tucson Fashion Week and a fashion consultant and author. So there was an element of irony in the fact that, backstage at Tucson Fashion Week, where models had 24″ waists, the smallest sizes of Lolo’s garments were too big.  That’s something Lolo would like to rectify if she does TFW again this year. She would love to get “regular women” to model her clothes.

When Jennie Grabel, a non-profit executive and former radio host in Tucson, found herself “in a fashion rut” several years ago, she enlisted the help of Lolo. Not only did Jennie gain styling tips, some new wardrobe staples and a more professional look, she started to enjoy dressing herself again. “Ultimately it took the anxiety and stress out of my daily life. It became fun to put my outfits together,” says Jennie, who at the time was making regular public appearances as part of her radio job.

Jennie was a spectator at Tucson Fashion Week on the night Lolo and some other local designers shared the stage with personalities from the TV show Project Runway. “I was beyond proud. Watching people live out their dream is just so inspiring. I hope TFW is just a jumping off point for her,” says Jennie, who is encouraging her friend to apply to Project Runway herself.

Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

A photo from one of Lolo’s personal styling shoots. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

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Jennie Grabel, one of Lolo’s styling clients. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

A client after being styled by Lolo. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

Lolo was set on being a fashion designer even as a small child growing up in the border town of Douglas, Arizona. Her parents discouraged it. “My parents are very supportive of everything [I do] but I think they were discouraging because it was something they didn’t understand.” She took their advice and got a nursing degree. After graduating, Lolo began taking short contracts as a traveling nurse. The jobs took her to Southern California, New York City and London. The Big Apple bit her hard. She would spend her days off at stores like Prada. She remembers spending one whole day at Tiffany’s.

Tragedy struck when her older brother was hit and killed by a car whilst riding his bicycle. She returned to Southern Arizona in 2005 to be with her family, settling in Tucson, marrying (husband Kane Flint plays in several local bands) and having a son. For a long while she was so homesick for New York and London “I couldn’t watch Sex and the City because I got depressed.” Attending the fashion design program at Tucson Design College (now the Art Institute of Tucson) went a long way to curing her, she says. And “Tucson got a hold of me.”

Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

Lolo’s shapes are designed to fit all sizes. Photo by Alaina Brownell Chapin

She is still a full-time nurse but feels the fashion world calling and plans big things for 2015: a bigger fashion collection, hopefully a return to Tucson Fashion Week, and an Etsy shop. Her next collection will feature her signature flowing fabrics, and shapes that are adaptable for all sizes. But the added twist will be sci-fi. Lolo is a huge Star Wars fan – in inspired her collection for TFW – and says that galaxy far, far away will be influencing her looks even more this year.

We may have to wait until December for the release of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, already one of the most highly anticipated movies of the year. Lolochic, you can be sure, will be unleashing its force a lot sooner.

The 3 rules for ‘lolochic’:

1. “Splurge on the basics and you can be frugal when it comes to buying accessories.”

2. “If the [size on the] label bothers you, cut it out.”

3. “You’ll never know until you try it on.”

* Find Loreto Echevarria at

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Square Feet

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We’re as nosy as the next person about the insides of people’s homes. That’s why we bring you a great property pick each issue. This month we visit the home of author Chris Gall, whose Dinotrux books will be turned into a Netflix series this year. Story and photos by Rachel Miller. 


A one-of-a-kind ‘flaming rocket’ light sculpture hangs above the bar in Chris Gall’s Joesler home.

I admit to a little apprehension in approaching the home of Chris and Ann Courtney Gall. After all, this is the house where Dinotrux came in to being, or rather DIIINNNNNOOOOTRUX (it must be said in your deepest, most resonating voice), a favorite children’s book in our home. Indeed, our copies are so well-thumbed I was embarrassed to bring them and request signatures.

Chris Gall, Dinotrux, home tour

Working vintage phones and radios add to the nostalgia

What kind of home environment nurtures the creation of such well-loved children’s books? Books that promise to explode onto the screen this year when an animated series based on the books comes to Netflix? Whimsy? A mess of dinosaurs and trucks? Art that reflects the bold, exaggerated images of the artist and author?

There are no dinosaurs or old ’50s trucks littering the Tucson home of Chris and Ann Courtney Gall, but there is whimsy. Toy Story‘s Buzz Lightyear soars through the studio and office alongside meticulously assembled model airplanes – both indicators of Chris’s interest in restoration and mechanical tinkering. There are working vintage radios and a World War II submarine phone, along with the ham radio.  And there is plenty of stunning art, including Chris’s own work.

The artwork is reminiscent of ’40s and ’50s graphics: rich and striking in color and line, particularly appropriate for a house of this era. This is Americana, but not kitsch and not frilly. This is bold and beautiful. Think vintage Park Service posters, but with a Norman Rockwell twist.

About the home: Built in 1951, the original Josias Joesler home is in Tucson’s Catalina Foothills Estates within 15 minutes of downtown. Atop a small hill with stunning mountain views, Chris and Ann have gracefully doubled the square footage over the past 24 years to 3,800 square feet. While the size of the house has doubled, the characteristic Joesler design features have been painstakingly maintained: the high ceilings, large picture windows, and use of porches.

Home Tour of Chris and Ann Gall's home

Chris at work in his studio


The master bedroom addition.

Describe your style:“There is a word…it’s not craftsman like, but…it’s Frank Lloyd Wright in home décor palate in places. We used to say everything was harvest colors…there’s a nostalgic quality to our home.”

Your fave thing about your home: “The mountain and city views, and the acreage (4 acres) around the house, as well as the building materials. We like the red brick.”

Biggest splurge: “The stained glass front door by local artist Jon Goldbaum. I took a classic Frank Lloyd Wright design and changed it up, switching the colors, and Jon Goldbaum created it for us.”

Best bargain: “The casement windows that we found at Gerson’s for my studio.”

My DIY Moment: “Building all the window frames in the new master addition.”

Favorite resources: “Restoration Hardware, local art fairs and [southern Arizona village] Tubac.”

Tucson treasures: “The one of a kind flaming rocket light sculpture over the bar we bought here in town, and the mesquite and antler coffee table at a local art show. We also have a few paintings by Phoenix artist Ed Mell.”

Take-away lesson:  Take time to do it right. Sometimes doing it right means doing it yourself. Unable to find used casement windows the right size, Chris used his welding skills to make the windows for the master addition. Added bonus: these casement windows are double-glazed.

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Are you digging these digs?

Get the look locally:

Take to local art fairs and search for locally sourced furniture for a feel that reflects the environment. Hang your own Chris Gall Giclee print from ArtsEye Gallery on Grant Road, or frame art in the form of books, bought from Kid’s Center or Yikes Toy Store. Check out Etsy store Hot Cool Vintage for sweet kitchen artifacts that fit the era of your home.

Or try these we found online (contains Amazon Affiliates):

From left to right: Steppe Bed , $1,399 from Crate & Barrel; America the Beautiful $6.91 on AmazonSafavieh Lamps $175.69 on Amazon 

* Look out for an animated series of Dinotrux, about the time when hybrid dinosaur-construction characters rules the earth, this Spring from Netflix. More here. 

Loving our Square Feet column? Take a look at our previous columns here.

Dear Tucson…

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Love Letters to Tucson logo Each issue we link up with Rachel Miller’s Love Letters to Tucson blog for a letter from a Tucson inhabitant about why they love this fair city. This month: Liane Hernandez, community life director of YWCA Tucson, is in love with the Tucson spirit, messed-up roads and all. Photos by Rachel Miller


I want to say thank you from the bottom, top and sides of my topsy-turvy heart. Your barrios, parks, messed-up roads and endless sunsets remind me to take a minute, breathe and go forth in confidence and joy.

Here, I discovered that this broken little orphan girl could be and was actually part of a long line of strong women. That my story has a contented and comfortable space to be fully expressed. That my sister is human and capable of more love than I ever believed possible.

Here, I became an adult and learned to take responsibility for myself and therefore I also witness that in fact I am my community’s keeper.

Here, I learned that I must use my voice.

Lianehernandez2 Here, in this beautiful land, I found riches of spirit and expression in the people who call me friend, sister, comadre.

Here, I met women and men that work hard, care passionately, express their truth, bear witness, laugh, cry and persevere.

Here, I learned the language of art.

Here, I found HOME.

Thank you, Tucson, for showing me that this life is so much more and that I have so much left to give.”

– Liane

Surrounded by art, Liane Hernandez shares the mission of the YWCA to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. On the West side of Tucson, the YWCA provides a venue for art that reflects its mission. Alongside the Galleria, Your Sister’s Closet supports women in need of interview and workplace-ready clothing, shoes and accessories who do not have the financial support to take this step towards independence and leadership.

* The next exhibit in the YW Galleria is Cristina Cardenas‘ Los Ojos de Mujer Artista que Emigra starting January 9th.

My Space

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Chris Willhoite gave up a career in car sales to open HiEndTight, an old-fashioned style barber shop in Tucson that’s making a name for its hot towel treatments and straight razor shaves.

As the male grooming market continues to grow and classic haircuts make a comeback, Chris shares his up-and-coming business in our 3 Story short.  Interview and photos by Gillian Drummond. Video by Ricardo Bracamonte. Model: Raymond Colon.

* Find HiEndTight at 2926 E. Broadway Boulevard, Tucson.

Click here for more My Space videos, or subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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Stirring it up

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From community dinners and cooking classes to game dishes and health coaches, the Tucson food and drink scene just won’t sit still. We take a look at  who and what will be causing a stir in 2015. (On the cover: Proper’s Porch Tea cocktail.)

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Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

“What we’re seeing right now is this creativity that is astounding,” says Manish Shah of Tucson’s flourishing food scene. “Tucson was always pretty good with the middle of the road. I grew up here. Mexican food, steakhouses – that was pretty much it. But now – the creativity, the passion, the energy…”

And Manish should know. As owner of the Maya Tea Company he supplies a bunch of Tucson restaurants with tea. And as co-executive director of Heirloom Farmers Markets, in a roundabout way he supplies them with food too. When you have restaurants as reliant on local produce as they are in Tucson (downtown Tucson’s Proper restaurant recently launched a whole “market dinner” concept based exclusively on farmer’s market buys from the day before), it’s wise to listen to Manish.

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Manish Shah of Heirloom Farmers Markets and Maya Tea Company. Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp

Who has the attention of Manish right now? Two words: Kris Vrolijk. The chef at Proper is being so experimental, says Manish, that “I worry about him sometimes.” A case in point: Kris’s unique take on Caesar Salad, which will be on the new dinner menu next weekend. It features grilled and chilled brussels sprouts and crispy parmesan, seared on the griddle.

Proper is owned by SLO Restaurant Concepts (the SLO stands for sustainable, local, organic) which also owns Brix Restaurant and Wine Bar and Criollo Latin Kitchen in Flagstaff, AZ. It just added a butcher shop, Proper Meats and Provisions, to its Flagstaff operations and in Tucson its long-awaited butcher and sandwich shop in Tucson will open on Congress Street in May.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Proper on Congress Street. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Cody Gallacher, Proper’s assistant manager (a guy who worked his way up from a server), says consumers and diners are getting educated. “They’re realizing not all carrots are orange, you can get purple and yellow ones.” Referring to supermarket campaigns in Europe to promote ‘ugly’ fruits and vegetables, he adds: “I’m glad we’re finally getting away from that stigma that food has to be pretty or genetically modified to be good.”

Whether it’s pretty, ugly or in between, we Tucsonans do want to know where our food comes from – the more locally sourced the better. And if you sometimes feel like you’re in that “Is it local?’ sketch from Portlandia, tough. Expect the same in 2015, with farmer’s markets, natural food stores, cocktail-and-food crossovers, and more.

Community’s the thing

Community was the buzzword last year in the food and drink world, with events such as the Downtown Chef’s Table dinner, the launch late last year of Proper’s Monday night community dinners, and the opening of a permanent farmer’s market structure at Rillito Park, courtesy of Heirloom Farmers Market and Pima County. Heirloom’s Manish Shah has  big plans for the space in 2015: chef demos, community events, perhaps themed events. The market “is not just a cement patch with a roof”, says Manish, but represents a connection between local food and the community. Plus, he adds a fourth farmer’s market location this Friday, at Trail Dust Town on Tucson’s east side.

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The farmer’s market at Tucson’s Rillito Park. Photo by Jocelyn Warner-Brokamp.

Healthy eating know-how

Gluten-free. Sugar-free. Paleo. Juicing. And don’t forget all those home-grown veggies you suddenly have on your hands. There’s a massive shift towards healthier eating, but we don’t all have the skills to prepare the food. That’s where cooking classes come in. They’re on the up, and set to grow even more this year.

“So many people want to change their diets but don’t have a clue as to how to change what they are eating and how to prepare meals for themselves and their families,” says Norma Gentry, who represents a number of chefs and restaurants in Tucson.

The cooking demos Norma has been managing at Tucson’s Williams Sonoma store on Saturday afternoons have been hopping. And look out for some healthy cooking demos at Natural Grocers, opening in Tucson January 2oth at East Broadway Blvd. Chefs Sybil Parsa (January 22nd) and Haile Thomas (January 28th and February 4th) are already slated to appear.

This will be the fourth store in Arizona and the first in Tucson for Natural Grocers, an organic grocery and natural supplements chain. One of its signature touches is to provide a “health coach” to answer customers’ dietary questions.

Photo courtesy of Natural Grocers

Natural Grocers will open its first Tucson store this month. Photo courtesy of Natural Grocers

What’s for dinner?

Jared Scott, executive chef at Maynards, expects game birds – pheasant, duck, squab – to turn up on more menus in 2015 as diners move away from red meat and pork. “That [move] doesn’t leave a lot to desire but fish and chicken. The introduction of other poultry options really opens up a whole new world. Duck and pheasant are much more rich while squab and chicken are more mild. You can do drastically different things with poultry,” says Jared.

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Jared Scott. Photo courtesy of Maynards Kitchen.

In the drinks world, we’ll continue to see symbiosis  between cocktail ingredients and the kitchen, says David Clark, bartender at Hotel Congress. His inspiration for drinks, seasonal or not, lie in the pantry, the cooler, even the baker’s area of the kitchen. He might sprinkle a few Graham crackers into a cocktail for some wintery flavor, he says. Craft cocktails and the label ‘mixologist’ may still be surging in popularity but Tucson’s barkeeps are not letting it go to their heads. “You’re seeing a loss of pretentiousness,” says David. “Here in  Tucson it’s just laid back. We’re all bartenders.”

The beer sector is getting in on the new cocktail craze too. Look out for more “beer cocktails’ in 2015, says Rebecca Safford, owner of Tap & Bottle. She predicts more beers infused with coffee, citrus and chiles for unique aromas and flavors. Sour beers are on the rise as well, and to celebrate Tap & Bottle has its second annual ‘Sour Fest’ this Spring.

People to watch in hospitality this year:

* Page Repp and Rick Mclain. If you don’t know them yet, better write their names down. They’re neither chefs, bartenders nor suppliers, but their influence on Tucson’s hospitality sector is huge. Repp + Mclain, their architecture and design firm, is behind too many stylish restaurants and bars in the city to mention. Last year alone saw their name attached to R Bar, Sidecar (in which they each have ownership), the new Mexican eatery Reforma, and the basement bar at Reilly Craft Pizza. Look out for their name attached to more, as yet undisclosed, restaurant openings in 2015.


Jason Anderson. Photo courtesy of Sol Hospitality.

Jason Anderson. He’s the brains behind Nox in the Foothills and Goodness, a healthy fast casual concept that started on a busy stretch of Campbell Avenue and branched to the University area two months ago. He opened Union Public House and for a short time ran the Asian restaurant Umi Star. Jason’s company, Sol Hospitality, is one to watch. It plans to open four more branches of Goodness this year (in order: Columbia, South Carolina; Madison, Wisconsin; Phoenix; and Eugene, Oregon) and possibly one on Tucson’s east side. And the company’s long-planned restaurant on 4th Avenue will be a full-service Mexican restaurant.

Although Jason loves his home town (he was born and bred in Tucson) and seems to be on a roll, he admits he’s had his fingers burned here. “It’s very old school, very southwest, very relaxed. There’s a really traditional way of doing things in Tucson.” Too traditional, apparently, for “rad sushi” and cocktail concept Umi Star, which was in the space Goodness on Campbell Avenue now occupies. “I pushed it a little bit too far with that one,” he smiles.

* The last mention goes to Manish Shah, one to watch not only for the farmer’s markets he operates but also for his tea firm. Within the next few weeks the Maya Tea Company will open an 8,000 sq ft manufacturing facility (they made their own tea when they first started the company, then subcontracted their manufacturing.)

* Look out for a full interview with Jason Anderson in 3 Story later this month.



Pleased to Meet You

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On the eve of the very first Tucson Jazz Festival, executive director Yvonne Ervin talks custom-made boots, jazz lingo and her dream jazz band. By Joan Calcagno.

yvonne ervin

Yvonne Ervin

Early bird or night owl? “I used to be a night owl when I lived in New York, but now I’m an early bird. I get up by at least by six every morning, jump on the stationary bike. And then I get in the Jacuzzi with my Kindle and I do my email. Then I get dressed and come over to Connect Coworking, and I have a home office. I usually don’t get out of here till 7 pm. It’s a long day. And I’ve been working seven days a week. There’s no other way – you have to be [dedicated to work] to pull this thing off!”

yvonneboots Favorite accessory? “My new boots [pictured left]. Look at these! This is the Tucson Jazz Society logo [on the front in silver leather]. I had Paul Bond down in Nogales make them for me. They’re fun. I wear size 13 so it’s either sandals or custom-made boots. These are my new babies.”

Favorite faux pas? “It goes back to my early days of booking artists for the Jazz Society. I got a call from Steve Getz, Stan Getz’s son. He wanted to book Phil Woods who is a great alto player. Steve said ‘We’d like to get Phil out [to Tucson} again.’ I said ‘So what’s the bread?’ He said ‘Six bills’. That was twice what we had paid him last time, so I talked to the board. Then I called Steve and said ‘Yes, that looks good. We’ll do it” He said ‘Are you sure $6,000. isn’t too much?’ I said ‘Steve, maybe in New York a bill is a thousand dollars but here in Tucson it’s still a hundred dollars. So, no, we don’t have a deal.” In the jazz business everyone tries to out-hip the other person. It’s a whole different lingo.”

Who is your dream customer? “I run the Western Jazz Presenters Network and when we get together for drinks our favorite game is to put together the band from hell – the most difficult people to work with – and try and top each other. I’d like to think of what a dream band might be – one that’s never been done. We’ve got this really cool band for the festival – JD Souther and Billy Childs. That’s never been done. That will be fun. But I think my dream band would be DeeDee Bridgewater on vocals, who’s an absolute sweetheart, and Lewis Nash on the drums – he’s a great jazz drummer from Phoenix. I’d put Cyrus Chestnut on piano – another great player. He was here recently at UA Presents. And the bass player would be Boris Kozlov – he plays Charles Mingus’ bass.”

tji ellington band

The Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band, which will play at the Tucson Jazz Festival.

If I weren’t the Executive Director of the Jazz Festival, I would… “I would love to direct the Monterey Jazz Festival, which is another of my favorite festivals. It’s been around for 50-plus years. Beautiful setting. Just three days – not thirteen! It has many stages with big name artists and emerging artists, a youth component and an education component.”

If I could change one thing I would… “It’s awfully nerdy but I always said that when I’m queen of the universe I’m going to change the FASBE rule. It’s this really arcane Internal Revenue Service way that non-profits have to account for their income. For example, if the organization receives a pledge for a million dollars spread over five years, they have to account the full million as income in the year they received the pledge. It’s one of those things that annoy me to death because it makes accounting for income so onerous. It doesn’t really make sense.”

What would you tell someone new to jazz about the about the festival? “Whenever anyone asks me about getting into jazz I tell them that they need to go out and buy the [Miles Davis] album Kind of Blue. It’s the best-selling jazz album of all time. It was recorded in 1959 and has it has held up all these years. It has some of the greatest players that have ever lived on it, including Jimmy Cobb who is going to be performing at the Jazz Festival with the Tucson Jazz Institute Ellington Band and Joey DeFrancesco in a trio setting.”


Joe DeFrancesco will play at the Tucson Jazz Festival. Photo courtesy of Tracy Ketcher

*The 2015 Tucson Jazz Festival takes place January 16th to 28th in several downtown venues. Get all the details on the festival’s website and follow festival happenings on their Facebook page.  Find out more about Yvonne on her website.

Click  here for more in our Pleased to Meet You series.

Ground Floor

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Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: outside trends to look out for in 2015.  Plus: cool new outside looks from Boxhill (above). Photos by Darbi Davis unless otherwise noted.

Looking for a new career? Become a horticulturist.

Photo courtesy of Davis Bilingual Magnet School

Photo courtesy of Davis Bilingual Magnet School

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

There’s no arguing that getting outdoors is great for the brain and the body, but in our tech-centric world, sometimes we need a little nudge from professionals. Horticulturists are experts who combine science (think soil, insects, and lifecycles) with art (color, texture, line, form) resulting in bountiful floral bouquets, baskets of fresh edibles, or a calming environment in a wayward world. Anyone can do it, but sometimes a little concentrated knowledge can lead to success and eliminate frustration in the garden. The word on the street is that it’s the up and coming career, whether you’re an aspiring urban farmer or determined to decontaminate waterways with pollution-eating plants.

Community and schoolyard gardens are here to stay

Photo courtesy of Davis Bilingual Magnet School

Photo courtesy of Davis Bilingual Magnet School

Community gardens aren’t losing any momentum. Growing instead of shopping for food lingers in a state of normalcy. Schoolyard gardens like the one at Tucson’s Davis Bilingual Elementary Magnet School continue to sprout and gain support from the surrounding communities. You can’t miss the glorious new schoolyard garden at Cragin Elementary School along Tucson Boulevard, which opened with the 2014/15 school year.  The neighboring church, Northminster Presbyterian, donated plants, time, and professional skills to create this special space complete with raised beds, steel lined pathways, and lush trees. Generations connect as the students glean a bit of sun, science, tasty snacks, and wiggle room with support from neighbors!

Cragin Elementary School Garden

Cragin Elementary School Garden

Furthermore, community gardens are popping up in suburban areas such as shopping malls.  This location is easily accessible, visible, and reaches a diverse audience – quite possibly one that has yet to be exposed to the gardening movement. When overwhelmed by consumerism, glance beyond the madness towards a roofline horizon and there you will find harmony in the form of community-grown food and flowers among the commerce – simply genius. Whisper it, but we hear there’s a suburban garden planned for a chic shopping center here in Tucson.  I’ll be there, while my other half peruses the current trends in stitch patterns.

Pot culture – and we’re not talking containers

Photo by Tomas de Aquino

The inevitable trend of growing marijuana for medical purposes is not a far-off dream with 23 states plus Washington D.C. legalizing the plant for medical use – including Arizona.  As decriminalization evolves and it becomes more accepted, demand for legal supply will become necessary.  “How to Grow” books, along with all necessary supplies for successful crops, seed exchanges, cultivar connoisseurs, garden specialty shops (or at least sections within established garden centers), real estate ventures, and other business opportunities are all part of our near future.

Also look out for…

Clotheslines are making a comeback (read our clothes lines column here). Plus,  I can guarantee you’ll see more of the homies over at Flowers & Bullets. They’re being busy in yards in South Tucson, and they’ve just launched a new website. 



Plant of the Month: Agave Geminiflora or Twin Flowered Agave

Agave geminiflora Plant

Agave geminiflora Plant

Agave Geminiflora Flower

Agave Geminiflora Flower


This lovely agave is dark lime green and takes a nice range of light – full sun to full shade.  Its shape will depend on this range but either way it’s a solid 3′ x 3′.  I happened to find one flowering thanks to a tip off from a longtime local plant geek.  Check out that flower – and the stalk is not less than 18′ high!







* Find landscape designer Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.

Loving this Ground Floor column? Take a look at our previous columns here.

Road less traveled

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Arizona filmmaker Darious Britt is taking a different and controversial route to finding an audience for his first feature film.  By Herb Stratford

Photo by Darius Britt taken in Brooklyn, New York with a gopro camera as heI was walking on the street headed to the New Voices in Black Cinema film festival.

Photo of and by Darious Britt taken in Brooklyn, New York with a gopro camera as he was  heading to the New Voices in Black Cinema film festival.

Filmmaking in 2015 is dramatically different than ever before, and the filmmakers who are engaged in the craft are cut from a different cloth. With the changes in technology and distribution coming nearly every year, one has to stay nimble and adaptive as well as creative in order to find audiences for their stories. Darious Britt is a filmmaker on a mission that is timely and important, and his way of getting the film in front of audiences is quite innovative.

Darious went to high school in the Phoenix area, but grew up in Jacksonville, North Carolina and is a 2012 graduate of the University of Arizona School of Theatre, Film and Television. He came to the UA program later in life than many students, following a stint in the Air Force. His collaboration with fellow UA student Damon Mosier has led to the creation of a personal story that is eminently relatable and looks at an issue from a perspective that has not been seen before.

Poster courtesy of Darious Britt

Poster courtesy of Darious Britt

As writer, director and actor in his short film Seafood Tester, Darious examined the difficult relationship he has with his mother, who suffers from schizophrenia. The 10-minute film screened at the annual I Dream in Widescreen University of Arizona student film showcase in May of 2012. It since led to the feature film Unsound, which is a much more in-depth look at the issues family members have when dealing with the established system of care. The film is a brutally honest examination of the stress, strains and obstacles that are encountered in cases like Darious’s mother. In addition to Darious, local artist/actress To-ree-nee Wolf delivers a nuanced portrayal of a woman struggling with a disease and pushing her caregivers away as hard as she can.

What makes Unsound a compelling watch for audiences is both the honesty of the portrayal as well as its sophisticated presentation, from the cinematography to the editing and writing. This is a mature, well-thought-out depiction of a family in crisis like we have not seen before.

Photo by Damon Mosier

A scene from Unsound. Photo by Damon Mosier

But how will this film find an audience? Darious is not naïve. He realized right away that this story will resonate best with both people dealing with the issue at hand, as well as caregivers who have not had their story told before on screen. But he also believes that the film has ”mainstream appeal”, based on the feedback he’s received from screenings. He said he was told that the film “perfectly illustrated the world that many live with.”

Most recently the film screened at Tucson’s Loft Cinema and was warmly received. But the task of marketing it was difficult given the limited resources Darious was able to contribute. After a run at 13 different film festivals, where the film was given awards three times and “loved by audiences”, Darious is now wrestling with a unique distribution model to continue to tell the story.

Photo by Damon Mosier

A scene from Unsound. Photo by Damon Mosier

Photo by Damon Mosier

A scene from Unsound. Photo by Damon Mosier

It’s often said that making a film is less than half the battle, as films need an audience. While there are certainly more ways than ever to discover content, this exploding universe of options often results in a great deal of white noise and interesting, compelling films being lost in the shuffle. A film like Unsound is best seen by audiences who are primed for it – that is, they are aware of it and word of mouth has prepared them for the experience. According to Darious, he is exploring “the on-line, free download to build audience, and then to do targeted screenings in places where the political and economic climate has impacted those most at risk, in cities like Chicago, and in states like North Carolina and California.” This would be followed by a targeted fundraising campaign that offered “additional content and materials once the viewers have been engaged” says Darious.

This is, of course, a leap of faith on his part as there is no guarantee that it will enable him to pay off the debt he shouldered almost exclusively in producing Unsound (he used credit cards and his own funds.) It is an innovative and interesting experiment in turning crowd-source funding on its ear. Normally when a project is funded by small donors, on websites like Kickstarter, the onus is on the project initiator to find the lion’s share of donors via their own network, lest the project get lost in the buzz of tens of thousands of other worthy ideas. Darious’s notion of utilizing word of mouth to build awareness and audience may take longer to recoup his investment, but his model also will potentially find a more appreciative audience.

Photo by Damon Mosier

To-ree-nee Wolf (left) and Darious Britt star in Unsound. Photo by Damon Mosier

His aim of creating a “highly sharable” experience that brings an honest, well-liked film to audiences who are primed to appreciate and like the film and hope for the best is obviously a gamble. But for the right film and audience it might be successful. Darious is a savvy marketer as well, and his YouTube channel, where he chronicled the film festival experience, has more than 9,000 followers.

He sees the importance of “building a brand” as a huge part of the job for filmmakers, not just creating work and expecting audiences to find it. He’s a passionate believer in his job to “find an audience,” and that the real craft of successful filmmakers is not only to tell a story but to have it seen by audiences. Darious says there is “no reason to charge for content until there is a perceived value to the content.” He sees this as a long-term marketing plan, as opposed to the short term – a way to “stay prolific and deliver content to build an audience over time.”

Photo by Damon Mosier

Darious on the set of Unsound. Photo by Damon Mosier

Darious’s plans for the future are still in development, as they say. He’s working on a few concepts and loglines to pitch to funders now that a few doors have been opened thanks to the reception of Unsound. Like any good filmmaker, he’s keeping specifics under wraps until he’s ready. But you can bet he’ll continue to impress audiences with both his storytelling ability and his innovative way of getting the finished project in front of an audience as he moves forward in 2015.

* To see the trailer for Unsound and for more information on Darious’ projects check out his YouTube channel D4Darious.

* Herb Stratford is a Tucson-based film critic and writer.