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    The transformed Monterey Court Studio Galleries is revving up to put on their first major event – a fusion of art and music called Mercury Portal. Monterey was once a motor court motel with casitas and carports for travelers who left the railways to take to the open road when the popularity of the automobile suddenly surged in the mid 20th century.

“We just wanted to evoke the era of the motor court, which was from about the ‘30s until the late ‘60s, early ‘70s, before the interstate really started to impose,” Morrighan Clinco, event director, said.

Hotels were originally meant to accommodate railroad travelers she said, so they were situated next to railways. Those using automobiles needed places to stay when they weren’t near railroads. They needed motor hotels, and soon evolved what became known as motels.

“People used their cars as a mode of exploration, and traveling by car was as much a part of the adventure as the destination,” she said.

Now Monterey is inviting people to come explore the Mercury Portal. The two-day event features everything from music and dancing to Vaudeville variety shows and reptile demonstrations with Gila monsters and rattlesnakes.

The Court’s 11 art galleries and retail shops will be open as well as its café and bar. The café features tasty specials like ceviche, gumbo and lamb skewers. The full bar offers a selection of Arizona’s micro-brewed beers.  

If one thing’s for sure, Mercury Portal will be jam-packed with programming.

“No matter what time you come to this event, you’re going to have an incredible, unique experience with art and music and a chance to enjoy this part of Tucson culture,” Clinco said.

Visiting artist Jim Allen from New York City will be playing at the piano bar during the day. With a repertoire of 20,000 songs by memory, he will take requests and invite guests to sing along.

“He plays from the ‘20s to contemporary; he’s an expert in standards and show tunes,” Clinco said. “It’s an access to that era through the nostalgia of the music.”

There are nearly 50 collaborators working on this event that invites people to "dress to impress" in their own creative interpretation of a 1930s to 1960s Sonoran road trip. Think country kitsch meets auto-adventurism, a “vintage vision of the future.”

On Saturday evening, a dance floor will open up and DJ Camilo Lara of the Mexican Institute of Sound will take the stage, mixing fun electronic sounds and dance rhythms with a Mexican cumbia flair.

“I create my own edits,” Lara said. “For example, if I want to play some Ramones or Sex Pistols, I try to create this edit that has cumbia elements, so I try to put all kinds of different rhythms…to Mexican sounds.”

Lara is from Mexico City and his band plays sets all over the world at well-known American music festivals like Coachella and SXSW.

“Sometimes it’s way more fun [when you DJ] to have a smaller crowd and to play more crazy things and to get more wild with your selection,” Lara said, adding that he loves to play in Tucson because it’s magical and he feels so comfortable here.

Clinco said this event commends the revitalization that’s going on all around Tucson and especially on the historic Miracle Mile.

“(It’s) a celebration of a movement around historic appreciation in Tucson and finding adaptive reuse for our incredible and unique structures in this city,” she said.



11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 28; 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 29

Daytime tickets $6; Evening tickets $16 (21 and over)

Tickets are available at Bookman’s locations or at the door

Monterey Court Studio Galleries and Café

505 W. Miracle Mile

Click here for map and directions

Written by Alexandra K. Newman You are reading Take a Retro Roadtrip articles

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