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TENWEST: Showcasing Downtown Tucson's Innovative Talent

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-1-49-20-pmby Eric Swedlund

After an inaugural event that drew more than 3,300 attendees, the TENWEST Festival will return to Downtown Tucson next month for a week of seminars, workshops, concerts and more. The overall goal is to create and keep great ideas in Tucson, whether those ideas come from computer programmers, entrepreneurs, artists or anyone who has a positive vision that can help improve the city, culturally or economically.

“Right now, it’s about creating a collective vision of what we can turn Tucson into, without losing the essence of what Tucson is,” says Jeremy Shockley, one of the festival’s organizers. Justin Williams, founder and CEO of Startup Tucson, created the festival as a way to recruit and retain innovative and skilled people, showcasing those involved and the possibilities present in the Old Pueblo.

“The main goal of TENWEST is to get people to stay in Tucson, so creative and talented people can be innovators. We want to make sure there are enough opportunities to fulfill the ambitions of the talented people who come through our city,” Shockley says. “The ancillary purpose is to get people who are already doing great thing to cross paths, to mingle. That cross-pollination is really important because that’s what ultimately leads to cultural movements.”

The 2016 festival will build on the progress made last year as organizers worked to refine and expand the offerings and appeal of TENWEST. Last year, the festival spanned seven days, with 18 events and 90 sessions, organized around three central areas: technology, entrepreneur and creative. Popular topics for the workshops and panels included: the Internet of things, access to business capital, the business of entertainment and essential skills for entrepreneurs.

tenwestThis year, TENWEST events and sessions will be organized under four areas, or paths arts, communities, technology and entrepreneurship. The arts path will include Film Fest Tucson, live music, mixers and workshops that connect artists, technologists and entrepreneurs. The communities path will explore the culture of Tucson and the Southwest and end the week with TEDx Tucson. The technology path will feature workshops on topics like augmented reality, 3D printing and podcasting. The entrepreneurship path features the TENWEST anchor event, IdeaFunding, now in its 20th year in Tucson.

Festival Passes are $35 for the entire week. Some individual events will require additional fees for entry. The festival organizers see enormous potential in Tucson, particularly given the culture that already encourages collaboration and support over self-centered competition, Shockley says. “What sets Tucson apart is the willingness for businesses and individuals to genuinely support each other,” Shockley says. “The community support in all facets is what really gives Tucson an advantage. In other environments, it’s not quite the same.”

Southern Arizona – in particular Downtown Tucson – is experiencing a period of economic development that’s closely aligned with fostering entrepreneurial activity and TENWEST seeks to add to that momentum, Shockley says. Events like the festival can help turn good ideas into solid businesses by bringing technological, business and creative innovators together and highlighting the positive quality of life aspects that Tucson can offer. As TENWEST grows, the festival will naturally shift to best meet the needs of its participants.

“Anybody who’s participating now is a pioneer of the festival. SXSW is 30 years old now, but it’s only been really popular for the last 10 years or so,” Shockley says. “The pioneers, the business leaders, the artists, the entrepreneurs, they will create ultimately what this will become. Participation will determine the direction TENWEST takes.”

To get the lowdown on all things TENWEST, check out their website at