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Solar Culture brings music, art to all ages in Tucson

By Ian Caruth
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
April 6, 2000
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

Steven Eye, founder and proprietor of Solar Culture, 31 E. Toole Ave., wants to give the Tucson community a chance to view the innovative and colorful attitude he said is indicative of the people and the times.

"We're trying to bring culture to the people," Eye said from the gallery space. "This culture - it's a culture of the youthful mind - (is) a mind that enjoys creativity and stimulation."

Solar Culture is both an art gallery and small concert venue that has attracted many national-touring musicians and artists.

Recently, there have been a series of highly successful concerts at Solar Culture, including shows by Mark Eitzel, Papas Fritas and Two Dollar Guitar. Concerts at Solar Culture are open to all ages, and it is a smoke-free venue.

Most of the recent shows have featured artists on independent labels, though Eye is quick to assure that he does not want to restrict the music to any particular genre.

"This is culture that is not mainstream, not commercial - cutting edge stuff. We're trying to encourage people to come here that tour all over the world. All the big cities get to see these people, and we (in Tucson) get overlooked a lot," Eye said.

For more than 10 years, Eye has been bringing alternative culture to Tucson. Active as a visual artist for all of his 15 years in Tucson, Eye has been a fixture of the local music scene since the late 1980s.

"I've been in this building for 13 years," he said. "We've been doing it on and off here (since that time). Ten years ago, we had all sorts of famous bands here; Fugazi, NOFX, all sorts of people played here."

Eye added that he has brought acts to other venues as well.

"Then we got the DPC (Downtown Performance Center) building - now it's called the Matt Bevel Institute. For four and a half years, we did 800 shows there. Green Day, Offspring, everyone coming up in the world played there. That closed down in 1995," he said.

Eye still promotes shows in various Tucson venues, including his own gallery and the Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress St.

Though the recent concerts have received attention at Solar Culture, the space is also home to a visual art gallery and several studios. Eye says he welcomes contributions to the gallery from local artists, whether unknown or previously successful.

"Three times a year, we do community invitationals," he said. "It's free to show and we don't take commission off anything that sells, which is an unheard-of situation in the art world. There's no jury. Everyone (who submits) is accepted and gets to display at least one piece."

Eye said he hopes his gallery would continue to draw people who desire to find meaning through art and music.

"It's the kind of thing that attracts people that are stimulated in their minds, people that are more intellectual, searching for something that's not in the mainstream culture, not part of the mediocrity of the mainstream culture," he said. "We're trying to bring culture that helps people remember who they are- creative spirits."

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