We had the good fortune of connecting with Tucson InkWorks and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Tucson, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
TucsonInkWorks (formerly named Inktober Tucson) is run by a group of five artists, Adela Antoinette (@adelaantoinette / @cactioasis), Cody Winiecki, Christine Bellemare (@christineinthedesert), David Moore (@artintheblueroom), and Melissa Yee(@theboneforest). Originating in Tucson, AZ, TucsonInkWorks initially started as a volunteer-only group of college artists who had a passion for charitable causes but an inability to simply make a large donation, so by selling small drawings we were able to generate the donations we were otherwise incapable of giving. It also gave us opportunities to be a platform to other local artists who might not normally do gallery shows or present their work to the community. We also wanted to connect with artists from school, to network with artists in the community, and felt it was a great way to bring artists together in general! In this process, we learned about the organization ArtWorks UA and decided to partner with them. ArtWorks is an outreach program housed in the Sonoran Center for Excellence in Disabilities at the University of Arizona, Department of Family & Community Medicine. ArtWorks promotes community and mutual learning through creative and expressive arts interactions between adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities and University of Arizona students. Together, they create a safe space for expression, connection, and growth for the artists, students, and community.

Each year, TucsonInkWorks runs an art challenge during the month of October by creating an art prompt list for the 31 days, urging participants to create an illustration using ink each day during that month. At the end of the month-long challenge, we host a benefit art show. In November, this year due to generous donations we were able to expand it through to the month of December. This art show allows artists from our community to showcase their work in a gallery setting (during our 2021 Benefit Art Show, we were lucky to partner with &Gallery to host our event!), and all art sale proceeds are donated 100% to ArtWorks UA. In the end, it’s a great chance of exposure for the artists as well as donating money to a great cause!

Our group was founded in 2017 by Adela Antoinette (@adelaantoinette / @cactioasis) and Cody Winiecki, who at the time, were recent graduates of the University of Arizona’s Visual Communications (Illustration + Design) program. They saw many artists online participating in the world-wide art challenge “Inktober” on social media and wanted to form a Tucson group with other former classmates and local artists to all participate in the art challenge together. Since then, the group has grown to include two other art school classmates from the same program, Christine Bellemare (@christineinthedesert) and Melissa Yee (@theboneforest), as well as David Moore (@artintheblueroom), a professor at University of Arizona! Our experience in the Visual Communications program at the U of A gave us all a great foundation to let our artistic talents grow, and the camaraderie we formed while in the program together made our choice to collaborate an easy one! We all love art, artistic expression, and sharing our knowledge and experiences with the desert community as well as other artists online. We love that our own art prompts encourage reflection and creativity and we try to make sure that many of the prompts relate to Tucson, the southwest, and the desert. Sometimes we throw in some spooky themes as we approach Halloween! In terms of our group, as the years progress and life circumstances change, the levels of involvement have shifted within our group. In the beginning we were all living in Tucson so it was easier to divide up tasks leading up to the art show, but now our group is split and some of the founding members are scattered across the U.S. This has left much of the “boots on the ground” work to Melissa and David, who still live in Tucson. Due to this shift in group dynamics, we are always looking for local volunteers to help us make things happen! (To our readers out there, if volunteering for our cause sounds like something you may be interested in, please reach out at tucsoninkworks@gmail.com!)

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
The five members of TucsonInkWorks are all artists in their own right. Many of us went to art school together, and have since started our own artistic careers after graduating from university. Though we may branch off in different artistic avenues, at our core we are all artists who love collaborating with each other in this way. Participating in our October ink challenge, along with the community we have grown, has been really wonderful and humbling overall. Getting to touch the lives of others in this way, as well as donating to a great cause via ArtWorks UA, is something we can all be proud of.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Tucson is a great melting pot, a hidden gem in the desert! We would first start our day grabbing breakfast at Snooze on Grant Rd., then swing by the Tucson Botanical Gardens for a post-breakfast leisurely walk through their lush gardens. Afterwards, we would have to head over to 4th Ave. and tour all of the great shops, such as Antigone Books, Pop Cycle, Generation Cool, Tiny Town Gallery & Surplus, and &Gallery. Later on, we’d stop by Bison Witches Bar & Deli for lunch, and swing by Desert Dream Ice Creamery for dessert. To follow up, we’d end the night by grabbing dinner at Istanbul, a great Turkish restaurant on Speedway Blvd., and end with a movie at The Loft Cinema. In the following days of this week-long excursion, a few more notable places of interest would be the University of Arizona (including their awesome art museum!), Tucson Museum of Modern Art, La Encantada Shopping Center, Tohono Chul, and hiking in Sabino Canyon, Picacho Peak or Mt. Lemmon if time permits! This adventure would have a nice balance of art, culture, and nature.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
We would like to first recognize our TucsonInkWorks board members Adela Antoinette (@adelaantoinette / @cactioasis), Cody Winiecki, Christine Bellemare (@christineinthedesert), David Moore (@artintheblueroom), and Melissa Yee(@theboneforest) – without all of you, our group would not exist! Thank you for all of the hard work, dedication, and passion you all have put into making our cause a reality.

Another shout-out goes to ArtWorks UA! Over the years, we have fostered a great partnership between our two groups, and we would like to thank the folks at ArtWorks for all that they do for our community, the arts, and helping those in need.

Linktree: https://linktr.ee/TucsonInkWorks

Image Credits
Artwork featured in the first photo are by artists who participated in our 2021 Benefit Art Show at &Gallery in Tucson, AZ. You can find their Instagrams at: @inktuce, @theboneforest, @adelaantoinette, @christineinthedesert, @jojoseames, @redbearart, @sarah_in_tucson, @lesliekooy. The Skull illustration is by artist Cody Winiecki. The Cholla Blossoms illustration is by Adela Antoinette (@adelaantoinette / @cactioasis).

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