Pop Up Spaces Downtown Scavenger Hunt Exhibit

At last, we got the space we wanted to display participants’ creative responses to the prompts on the Downtown Tucson Scavenger Hunt back in March. The resulting photos, drawings and writings will be displayed in old window display boxes on the side of the former McLellan’s department store, a beacon of classic downtown shopping for 50 years which has been vacant since the early 90s. The opening will take place inside of the currently vacant building, which is amazing in its enormity filled with layers of history. The space reminds me of: Gindler’s department store in Hallettsville, Texas, where my grandma took all the grandkids shoe-shopping once a year throughout my entire baby-to-teenhood (it shut down in the late 90’s and was remodeled into a special events venue, where we held our wedding reception in 2005 [man, that was surreal for me]); and Florian Slowtawa’s One After the Other at Arthouse in Austin. This process has been a lot of hard work and worry trying to put all these pieces together, but we made it! We thought about having a gallery exhibition, but that context seemed too far removed from the general public — people who work downtown, people who utilize services downtown, people who go barhopping and to concerts but don’t go to art galleries. We wanted this display to be in the middle of the things, literally. We wanted the Scavenger Hunt to be a statement of creative thinking by “regular” people — whatever that means (adults, kids, artistic, non-artistic, families, singles, couples) — outside of the ongoing city government and developer drama, and less so an overarching “high art” concept. That’s not to say that there won’t be future happenings that are more artist-produced and less community-driven, but our goal is to evoke positive conversation about space, businesses, history, future and shape a collaborative spirit. Hopefully Pop Up Spaces can influence the much-needed breakdown of the paracitic city-developer power structure and enable the public to demand the ability to make changes to their city as they see fit, on their own.


POP UP SPACES presents

The Downtown Scavenger Hunt Exhibit
McLellan Building in Downtown Tucson
63 E. Congress (corner of Scott and Congress)

10:30 AM – 12:30 PM

Exhibit on building exterior facing Scott Avenue will be continuously available for public viewing throughout the summer.

“It was fun. I drive through downtown all the time but have never paid attention to the great old buildings.”

“Awesome! Great activity to involve kids and families.”

–Feedback from Pop Up Spaces Downtown Scavenger Hunters

familyOn Sunday, March 1, 2009, 30 plus Southern Arizonans descended upon downtown to take part in the Downtown Scavenger Hunt. Participants were given clues to find 10 locations, each one with a short creative activity that encouraged them to engage with the current environment, reflect upon the historic record, and imagine future possibilities for the space.

The 10 locations (and their interactive activities) included:

– At 41 N. 6th Avenue, which housed Model Bakery from the 1940s to the mid 1960s, scavengers found a “kiosk” with a note that said, “This place used to be filled with the welcoming scent of baking bread. Now it’s covered in bars instead. Write a note about what you think happened and tack it to the bulletin board.”

– At 47 N. Scott, most recently the restaurant Motzi, visitors were asked, “If you could open this restaurant tomorrow, what would be on the menu?” Responses in the attached booklet included “cactus cookies,” “eggs Florentine (a breakfast joint)”, and “tasty Indian food.”


The public is invited to come see the activities from all 10 spots and the comments, drawings and photos produced, and to explore the interior of a currently empty space at the McLellan building. Printed handouts of the clues will be available for participants to find the sites on their own, and other fun, family-friendly participatory surprises are in store. Co-founders and local artists Julie Ray and Rachelle Díaz will be present answer questions about the ideas behind the Pop Up Spaces project. Visitors are encouraged to try something new downtown, whether it’s lunch at a local restaurant, or a trip to the nearby Tucson Museum of Art or Tucson Children’s Museum. You can also enter the raffle to win a basket full of wonderful goodies showcasing the eclectic mix of businesses the area has to offer.*

For those unable to attend the opening but want to try the Downtown Scavenger Hunt, the clues may be downloaded from our website here. Participants in the ongoing scavenger hunt are welcome to send digital photos and comments about their experiences to us at info@popupspaces.org. Photos of the March 1 event may be viewed online.


POP UP SPACES seeks to produce temporary, interactive, site-specific installations in empty spaces in which the visitors are not just expected to be passive viewers, but asked to be active participants. 
The goal of these art-based experiences is to enhance economic vitality and public engagement in downtown Tucson through promotion of the area’s culture, history, architecture and business community.

*Raffle prizes donated by Desert Blooms, Voices Community Stories, Fox Theatre, Dinnerware Artspace, Chris’ CafeShot in the Dark Cafe, Cup Cafe, Maynard’s Market & Kitchen, On A Roll, Rockin’ Queen, Hydra, Preen,  and more.

Exhibition space donated by John Wesley Miller. Exhibit panel printing sponsored in part by Reproductions, Inc. Special thanks to Monica Surfaro Spiegelman and photographer Roy Chamberlin.

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