Temple of Music & Art


The Temple of Music & Art during restoration

The Temple of Music and Art was built in 1927, between the construction of the Rialto Theatre (1919) and Fox Tucson Theatre (1929) in Tucson, Arizona. It was restored in 1989-90 thanks to the City of Tucson and legions of Tucsonans, and reopened with The Arizona Theatre Company as master tenant in October of 1990.

In 1988-89 I began taking frequent urban safaris to downtown Tucson to document a variety of historic structures. In 1990 I was given permission to photograph the ongoing restoration of the Temple.

While I had not visited the theatre prior to the rehabilitation, I was somewhat aware of its history, and through this project I began extensive research of the building’s story, which gave me a better understanding of what I was seeing. I chose to focus on the overall architecture and the intimate details of the building rather than on the workers at the site, so I often visited at lunchtime or at the end of the day in order to capture these images.

Even when stripped down to her bones, the Temple conveyed a sense of grace that other buildings lacked. The clean lines and sparse elegance of her design left little question that the drama in this building was to be seen on the stage. Despite the years of alternate use, the building still possessed the reserved air of a performance space that had seen some of the most lauded artists of the time on her stage.

Without access to the construction drawings, I was somewhat in the dark as to how the space was being altered for ATC’s use. I could see the new enlarged stage house going up, and the new support wing that would eventually house the greenroom, dressing rooms and other theatre areas, but I chose to focus my attention on the original structure and its original details such as the scroll at the top of the stair by the cabaret, 
the cornerstone, the auditorium columns and scalloped shell areas bordering the 

Twenty-five years later these forms still draw the eye, and their preservation is a badge of honor for the citizens of Tucson who saved this fine structure from destruction.

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