School of Dance, School of Music, School of Theatre, Film & Television

Arizona Arts was well represented in the annual Tucson Weekly “Best of Tucson® 2021” announced this week; many award winners from the Arizona Arts community.

Congratulations to all award winners and runners-up in all categories and for everyone who took the time to vote. 

Check out the edition online or pick up the weekly at a newsstand near you.
Tucson Weekly Best of Tucson 2021: Legends of the West

  • Best Dance Company … School of Dance 
  • Best Music School … Fred Fox School of Music
  • Best Jazz Act … Crystal Stark (BM ‘04, Music Education) 
  • Best Visual Artist … Jessica Gonzales (BFA ’12, 2D Art) … won last three years.
  • Best Outdoor Art Installation … Joe Pagac’s Murals (BFA ’05, Visual Communications)
  • Best Gallery … DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun … founder Ted DeGrazia (MA ’45)
  • Best Tattoo Artist … Lisa Cardenas (BFA ’09, Studio Art) … six-time winner
  • Best Drag Queen … Tempest DuJour … TFTV Associate Professor Patrick Holt, six-time winner
  • Best Movie Theatre … The Loft Cinema … Jeff Yanc, Program Director (MA ’97)
Hannah Weinmaster mid-flight
Arizona Arts well represented in Tucson Weekly’s 2021 awards. School of Dance’s Hannah Weinmaster mid-flight. Image: Ed Flores.

Best Dance Company

School of Dance

The University of Arizona School of Dance is known to attract some of the most talented artists across the country as teachers and students. Their unique dancers have a range of technical skills in classical ballet, modern, and jazz, but their skills don’t stop there. To be the best dance company, your dancers need more than physical capabilities. The audience needs to feel the emotion from their chairs! UA School of Dance trains its dancers to connect with the choreography and flawlessly exude emotions to tell a story. After a hiatus due to COVID, the School of Dance is back with fall performances. Catch “Premium Blend” from Nov. 10 to Nov. 11 and Nov. 16 to Nov. 21. There will also be a student spotlight performance fittingly named “Comeback” from Dec. 1-5.

Best Music School

Fred Fox School of Music

The Fred Fox School of Music is not messing around. With plenty of performance spaces, a focus on outreach, and internationally recognized faculty members, the school sets university music students up for success. They’ve also got tons of student-performing ensembles, from the classic Arizona Symphony Orchestra to the internationally acclaimed Arizona Choir, from Mariachi Arizona to groups with names like “Harpfusion” and “Flutefinity.” They’ve even got a singer-songwriter ensemble requiring no prior experience, for those newer to music.

Best Jazz Act

Crystal Stark

Built on improvisation, there’s almost a countless number of styles and subgenres in the jazz world. But Tucson’s Crystal Stark has a voice to compliment all of them. Even if you don’t know Crystal Stark by name, you’ll probably recognize one of her many side projects, working with the Tucson Pops Orchestra, UA’s Studio Vocal Jazz Ensemble, the cover band ’80s and Gentlemen or the vocal trio Triple Threat. She’s even made it a few rounds into American Idol. A woman of multiple talents, Crystal’s powerful voice can accompany any jazz band in Tucson.

Best Visual Artist

Jessica Gonzales

You can’t explore Tucson without seeing a Gonzales original. Jessica Gonzales’ art can be seen on public and residential walls through surrealist portraits, high-contrast landscapes, and botanical whimsy. Her legendary balance of color fits with Tucson’s bright cultural heritage. Gonzales regularly paints iconic artist murals for Tucson’s own Rialto Theatre and her latest creation is an otherworldly Gila monster dragon on Amazing Discoveries (238 S. Tucson Blvd). There’s no question that Gonzales’ imaginative designs are unmatched in Tucson’s realm of visual artistry.

>> Gonzales adds her touch to Tucson’s mural explosion

Best Outdoor Art Installation

Joe Pagac’s Murals

You can’t swing a used paint bucket without hitting one of Joe Pagac’s murals around this town. (Not that we’re recommending you swing a paint bucket at one of his works.) Pagac’s works are imaginative, colorful celebrations of desert flora and fauna. Just the kind of things we’d want adorning Tucson’s buildings and walls. Our favorite has to be his flying whales on the corner of Campbell and Grant.

Best Gallery

DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun

The DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun, built by Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia himself, isn’t just a massive adobe museum exhibiting many of the prolific artist’s works. It’s also 10 acres of desert that includes DeGrazia’s original home—built back in the 1950s, when the end of Swan Road was the middle of nowhere—as well as a chapel and the “Little Gallery” where DeGrazia first exhibited his work. (The Little Gallery has hosted guest artists for decades.) The museum and grounds both offer a gorgeous insight into the vision of one of the world’s best-known artists. We’re lucky to have it.

Best Tattoo Artist

Lisa Cardenas (Haunted Hands)

She’s done it again! For the past four years, Lisa Cardenas has dominated this category. She can now add another year to her winning streak. Cardenas owns her own tattoo studio called Haunted Hands which should be noted as a bohemian hodgepodge of excellent vintage decor and mid-century furniture. HH is one of the more relaxing tattoo studios in Tucson. Cardenas’s tattoos are highly demanded so she won’t resume booking until Spring 2022. Her tattoos are based on southwestern motifs with natural elements and she skillfully incorporates modern design aesthetics.

Best Drag Queen

Tempest DuJour

Is there a bigger name (or hair) in the world of Tucson drag? A perennial winner in this category, DuJour is much more than a colorful outfit with sequins. DuJour is known across town for headlining multiple drag shows and pride events, but off-stage also teaches costume design at UA. Tempest DuJour is also a name known outside of Tucson, for her presence on THE drag show, RuPaul’s Drag Race. All these combine to make a pretty fabulous personality.

Best Movie Theater

Loft Cinema

The Loft Cinema was hit hard by the pandemic, but the can-do team persevered with creative solutions such as concession sales, streaming films and private theater rentals. (There was something magical about having an entire movie theater to yourself.) The Loft is getting back on its feet thanks to the support of the community, with regular screenings of everything from art-house films to Essential Cinema screenings to other special events, such as a weekly focus on Frankenstein films in the month of October. Best of all, the Loft Film Fest is back next month, from Nov. 10-16. We can’t wait! Haven’t you missed going to the movies?