Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Another Arizona Historical Society Fiasco?

The Tucson Weekly reported a complex rent dispute between the Community Storytelling Arts and Arts Marketplace and El Centro Cultural de las Americas. The dispute involves space in the historic C.O. Brown house.  In addition to rent, the dispute appears to include selling liquor without a license.

A particularly curious part of the story is that the house is actually owned by the Arizona Historical Society, a taxpayer funded state agency. The house was given to the AHS on the condition that it be used to preserve culture and arts in Tucson. Apparently, the AHS has leased the building to El Cento for $1 per year for the last 20 years. In a reported quote by an “AHS representative” the article appears to say that the AHS has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on the building.

The details are very sketchy, but obvious questions appear:

Assuming the AHS is actually, as reported, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on a building and then leasing it for $1 per year to another entity that rents it out, why are they doing that?  Why are Arizona tax dollars being used to subsidize whatever is being done here?  What section of the Arizona Revised Statutes gives the AHS the authority to do this?

Why is liquor being served on state owned property? This looks like the same pattern associated with the Marley Center Museum and the 5C Arizona Centennial Museum. Something that is supposedly intended for the preservation of history and education ends up becoming a taxpayer subsidized cocktail lounge for a privileged few.  What section of the ARS gives the AHS the authority to serve liquor on state owned property?

The practice certainly cannot be justified based on fundraising. If that is the intent, it is failing miserably. The AHS is far from self-supporting, and appears to have no sincere interest in becoming so.

Imminent Eviction?
A historic downtown building sits at the center of a rent dispute
Mari Herrears
Tucson Weekly, April 14, 2010


  1. I read the article in the "Tucson Weekly" It mentioned a Mr. Mike Weber. Weber was a former director of the Arizona Historical Society. And he has afor profit history consulting firm. Whats his connection on this? Wasn't he connected somehow to a one source exhibits firm from back east that was doing wotk for the AHS. This gets slimier and slimier!

  2. FYI...Arts Marketplace has never sold liquor on the premises. They have had wine available for their own private functions, and at gallery openings. The allegation was made my Raul Silva, El Centro's Board President. Silva also owns a cleaning company and has a cleaning contract with El Centro.

    Conflict of interest?