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Paradise Lost: Tucson artists try to move on after loss of studio space downtown

Paradise Lost: Tucson artists try to move on after loss of studio space downtown

With nearly two decades spent creating in their downtown Citizens Warehouse studios, painters Titus Castanza and Gavin Troy are among more than 25 Tucson artists being forced to leave their space at 44 W. Sixth St.

For the next 2½ years, construction on the Downtown Links Project adjacent to the property will make the historic building off limits to its tenants.

Castanza has been in the warehouse for a long time — so long he’s not exactly sure if it’s been 14 or 15 years. He feels his second-floor space has been vital in his life as a full-time artist.

“I would say it’s afforded me my haven,” he said. “Without this space I wouldn’t have been able to afford a space.

“I’m lucky enough to find a studio, but we (fellow Citizens refugees Nick Georgiou and Alec Laughlin) have to share it.”

The two-story, reinforced-concrete warehouse was built in 1929 for the Citizens Transfer Company. The building was enlarged in 1951, according to the city of Tucson. The company moved to a new warehouse at 601 E. 24th St. in 1985.

Castanza’s new space is more expensive and he won’t have the same kind of the autonomy he has had in the past. The added cost, coupled with not being able to teach classes in a space being used by others to supplement his income, has Castanza thinking about his future, especially if he’s eventually forced to work from home.

“I question whether I can be an artist full time anymore,” he said. “Having a studio broadcasts that idea of perceived success, a level of professionalism, that helps in so many ways.”

“How’s it going to affect my work? I don’t know,” said Castanza.

But there might be a bright side.

“Difficult times are usually helpful in making meaningful artwork, for me,” he said.

Troy has worked from a Citizens’ studio for 15 years as well.

“It’s a space that allows me to go into the creative zone. It’s been the one constant in my life that’s allowed me to get into a creative zone,” he said.

And while lately this has been the most successful period of his career, he’s trying to remain sanguine about the situation.

“Sacred space is carried inside,” he said. “This offers me an opportunity to practice that, practice not being attached, move forward.”

He has secured a studio at Sixth and Toole avenues, a little bigger than the Citizens studio and significantly more expensive. He hopes he can get moved in and “naturally start painting.”

“I don’t know how long I can stay there,” Troy said. “Take it month-by-month. A staging area for the next six months, see if I can still do this and stay there or it’s time to downsize.

“I’m thankful and trusting that this is the way things are supposed to be working right now. But there’s always the unknown. It’s exciting.”

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