A concept design for the 14,000-square-foot CATALYST cultural center in the Tucson Mall, set to open in the summer of 2019.

The Tucson Mall will soon be home to a 14,000-square-foot arts and cultural maker space and performance center after the Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance opens its CATALYST space this summer.

Construction at the center began earlier this year on a retail space which previously housed  Gap and Gap Kids. CATALYST will house over 30 creative disciplines under one roof, and will be a first-of-its-kind addition to Southern Arizona.

The project development is supported as a signature Arts and Business Partnership between SAACA and longtime partner Brookfield Properties (Formerly GGP) at Tucson Mall, with designed in partnership with the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture at Taliesin, Dean Chris Lasch, a partner with the New York and Tucson-based firm Aranda/Lasch. 


The space will consist of multi-disciplinary maker spaces, flex education rooms, collaborative co-working spaces for creatives and performance and art exhibition spaces.

“CATALYST is meant to be the place we start to envision new ideas, and opportunities for collaboration with artists and organizations throughout the entire Tucson Mall property rooted in arts, culture and innovation”, said Kate Marquez, executive director of SAACA, in a release. “Through learning and collaboration experiences CATALYST will become a sustainable community space driven by the diversity of arts and culture which exists throughout all of the communities we serve.” 

According to SAACA, there are four dedicated “Teaching and Learning” maker spaces: the Culinary Education Kitchen, the Robotics and Engineering Lab, the Arts and Crafts Studio and the Music, Film and Digital Media Production Studio.

“When visioning a space that could function as a community arts center, the most important element of the conversation was that we needed it to be adaptable, innovative, accessible and inspiring” Marquez said. “For years, SAACA has focused on centering arts and culture as an integral part of community development practices – whether it be through innovative business and arts partnerships, experimental arts and healthcare programs, advocacy and opportunities for artists of all disciplines, or through our education arts based learning, building a stronger case and opportunity for creativity and art to thrive has been our motivation.”

SAACA announced the new site April 11, with a list of sample programming:

  • Collaboration X – Programming and classes that blend disciplines and people of all backgrounds, skill levels and training to create new programming and products designed with innovation and collaboration at its core.
  • Culinary Classes & Cooking Instruction – Programming designed to support education and interactive learning around nutrition, heritage foods, agricultural assets, and culinary education.
  • Performing Arts – Concerts, Dance Classes & Instruction, Music Recording, Film Production, Writers Circle, Theatre Workshops
  • STEAM Learning – Classes which blend Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points. 
  • Creative Aging – Programming designed and dedicated to fostering an understanding of the vital relationship between creative expression and healthy aging.
  • Digital Arts & Gaming – Hosted programs for e-sports, digital media design, and more.
  • Create Studio / Made in Tucson – Hands on learning and instruction sessions in arts, music, design, technology and crafts, including jewelry, pottery, glass blowing, painting, and crafting instruction.
  • Inter-generational Learning – Programming designed where people of all ages can learn together, gain skills, values and knowledge from each other.
  • Entrepreneurship and Business Incubator Programs - Supporting and launching artist-led businesses in Southern Arizona communities. Programming to include arts and creative business skill training, and access to professional networks, as well as collaborative community work space.
  • New Works Project – Bringing together artists and makers to innovate new forms of visual and performing arts productions, works of art and programs.
  • Equity Arts – Innovative multi-disciplinary arts and culture-based programs and projects, designed to support education, awareness and create direct engagement with underserved and underrepresented populations, people and communities. Programs designed to promote collaborative art making by combining community activism and personal expression and storytelling.
  • Cultural Heritage and Traditional Arts – Programs and classes designed to present cultural and traditional arts masters and celebrate Southern Arizona heritage.
  • Arts Heal – Programs designed to heal with creativity through music, visual arts, dance, drama, creative writing, craft-making and other creative pursuits in a non-clinical setting to promote health and well-being and improve quality of life.
  • Recycled Arts – Community programs which support the use of recycled materials to create new works of art. 

CATALYST will include “over 25 unique mural and dimensional mixed media art installations, as well as furniture and technologies created by local artists and makers.”


 “With all the arts under one roof, SAACA will be able to sustain an innovative environment of creativity, where students, teachers and people of all ages can come together to learn from each other and find a home for all of their artistic pursuits,” Marquez said.

Admission to the front-end art exhibitions will remain free of charge, as well as multiple free arts learning arts sessions and performances weekly with the support of local business and individual partners. Education, performances and classes will range from $5 to $125, depending on the discipline and level of artistic and advanced instruction. In addition to programming and events housed in CATALYST, SAACA will also partner with local artists and organizations to create new arts-based exhibitions, events and experiences throughout the entire mall property. 

SAACA plans on developing several advisory councils, including a teen leadership group, senior advisory committee, and artists steering committee.

More information can be found online at