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Local artisans and entrepreneurs to take over former Chicago Music Store this Saturday

CULTIVATE Tucson bridges local community, fosters city-wide collaboration

As the continued gaze of the national and international community falls upon Tucson and burgeoning arts and culinary scene, the unspoken and unintended community divides common to all towns of its ilk are slowly coming to the surface.

While community boundaries are expected and not necessarily a negative characteristic, many in the Tucson community are turning their attention to building bridges to connect people of varied economic, racial, educational and a host of other distances.

On Saturday, April 21, those bridges will become even stronger as CULTIVATE Tucson hosts its Spring 2018 Market at the former Chicago Music Store, 130 E. Congress St., from 10am until 5pm. The vacant 21,155 square-foot building will be transformed into a pop-up retail space for local independent designers, artisans, food vendors totalling approximately 40 representatives of the local entrepreneurial scene.

On the surface, the event is an opportunity to meet local businesses who work out of their homes and do not have actual storefronts. But underneath the business opportunities and networking lays and much more important motivation, said Kristin Tovar, CULTIVATE Tucson Co-founder and Operations Director.

“We want to showcase makers, designers, artists, and shops from all communities and neighborhoods in Tucson to get a full picture of all that Tucson has to offer,” she said. “We believe representing Tucson as one connected community is the best way to see our city collectively flourish for the long-term.”

CULTIVATE is an organization and collection of locally-owned businesses that work to increase exposure for the independent Tucson business community while fostering collaboration between all sectors of the city’s population. The group organizes various pop-up events throughout the year to provide a space for collaboration and notoriety, especially for those businesses -- especially artisans -- who do not have brick-and-mortar storefronts.

In many cities throughout the country, there are segmented “arts districts” and “cultural districts.” These areas are hip and popular and provide a localized space for young artists, writers, actors and other non-traditional entrepreneurs.

These artisan areas are usually grown organically, with generations of like-minded people sharing the same area. Other times, they are built through government subsidies, as a way of increasing exposure to new thoughts, ideas and eventually, business potential.

Tucson, however, lacks a general “arts district.” Much like the random county islands, undulating streets that randomly change names and a general rainbow of ethnicities representing the entire citizenry, Tucson’s artisan, foodie, cultural and other “scenes” of all types are strewn about the entire metropolis.

Bringing these segments together and highlighting their existence is part of the CULTIVATE mission, said Claire Seizovic, CULTIVATE Co-founder and Creative Director

“We’ve come to love our city even more as a result of starting CULTIVATE, and we hope the same is true for those that participate and attend as we unlock the potential of what our city has to offer, together,” she said. “We work to highlight the positive effects our markets have on the neighborhoods we pop up in, whether it’s through economic impact, awareness of local issues, or seeing the potential of these unused spaces as they come to life for a day.”

Local artisans and entrepreneurs have directly benefited from the CULTIVATE mission, said Alex Jimenez, visual artist and owner of Alexclamation Art Works. The Tucson native lives and operates in southside of Tucson, where she was born and raised.

“Most of us at Cultivate do not have brick and mortar businesses, we operate out of our homes and are located all over Tucson,” she said. “ One main factor in building your business is building a client base.  Events like Cultivate foster that client-business relationship and allow us Tucson makers to be sustained by Tucson clients. It also serves as a way to network with other makers who we may collaborate with in the future. “

The downtown area throughout the past few years has become the defacto spot for arts and cultural proliferation, however. The mix of locally-owned businesses -- including art studios, live theater houses and small live music stops -- has provided a certain gravity that has attracted a variety of people from all over the city.

This natural progression into the downtown area will not only help the city center, but foster the connections necessary to influence the arts and entrepreneurial community regardless of where they reside, said Kathleen Eriksen. Chief Executive Officer of the Downtown Tucson Partnership.

"Downtown is the perfect place for this event because there is always so much going on that other events and existing businesses will complement and add to the collaborative atmosphere,” she said.

While this collaborative spirit fostered by organizations like CULTIVATE, Jimenez is careful to keep things in perspective. As a life-long Tucsonan and well-known community figure and artist, she has had her finger on the pulse of much of the artisan community for years. Her projects literally paint a picture of life throughout his physical and metaphorical community.

While she applauds the potential, she and others will not rest on their laurels as the international spotlight burns brighter on the Old Pueblo.

“Interconnectedness amongst all sides of Tucson is a tall order.  I can tell you that the side of town I live and grew up in, the southside, is worlds apart from Tucson's eastside and downtown.  “Events like (those hosted by) CULTIVATE are great for newer, young businesses that are mobile and create products for retail. But events like CULTIVATE are limited in their reach and participation.  Naturally, the boutique pop-up market is not going to appeal to everyone nor will every type of business be able to participate.”

These sentiments are what keeps CULTIVATE motivated to continue their efforts, Tovar said. As a conduit between artisans throughout the entire Tucson community, the organization will continue to encourage people of all population segments to join in support of each other.

When communities come together, they can share experiences, resources, and even collaborate on projects that they otherwise may not have been able to on their own,” she said “In short, we see the opportunity to come together and create something more impactful than any of us could've done on our own that has far-reaching effects and promotes economic growth throughout all Tucson communities, leading to collective growth and the advancement of ideas.”

For more information about CULTIVATE Tucson’s Spring 2018 Market, including a list of vendors, please visit There will also be early-bird tickets available for $10 online and $15 at the door and give patrons the first opportunities to purchase goods from vendors, starting at 8am.

For more information about Alex Jimenez and her company, Alexclamation, please visit