Eye of the StormJan 03, 2017 12:01AM ● By Dale Bruder
Ascension Temple at 2016 Burning Man
A deteriorated downtown, vacated by commerce, abandoned by political will, ripe for artists to take over. Reads like a tag line for an ‘80s the-kids-are-all-right movie. It happened right here in the Old Pueblo in the days when the zeitgeist was devoted to urbanizing the valley from mountain range to mountain range. Left alone except when the music got too loud or the crowds spilled into the neighborhoods to be corralled by police, a crew led by auteur Steven Eye staged raves in empty warehouses around the railroad tracks.
Eye’s mission of uniting creative people around the heart flame of inherent vitality began here. Bookended by his first and second Saturn Return, the Philadelphia transplant applied his art to attract warrior goddess fuel to the heart flame in his new home, the Sonoran Desert. “I came to a land where connecting with the earth, listening and communicating with the spirits that still roam here was available,” Eye recalls. “First I began making warrior goddess mask art to call the spiritual energy to the heart flame.”
The combination of urban art spaces and sojourns into desert environs was the furnace and campfire of Eye’s creative path. “Artists needed a center to unite and gather their forces,” he says. A gallery space was established in an old produce warehouse on Toole Avenue. “The space is where people were safe enough to come out of their inner world—a place to unite and inspire, bringing in culture and ideas.”
Eventually what came to be called Solar Culture, the gallery sponsors non-juried art openings. “The gallery walls are open without judgment, uniting all humans who want to share their art from the heart,” enthuses Eye. Hundreds of artists continue to hang their art in the space, all priced and available. “Hanging art in the gallery enriches the artist life deeply,” Eye says, acknowledging the inherent vitality that fuels the heart flame.
Pushed and pulled by the powers of regulatory government, Eye pressed on until the movement he fostered began to meld. The Fenton family of real estate cooperated with Eye to extend the artistic foot print to include 80 different studio spaces around the railroad tracks. “Something happens to an artist when they acquire a studio,” Eye enthuses in his steady, monotone way of speaking. “They become accountable for their talents, their gifts.”
Eye’s newest artist space, courtesy of the Fentons, is the Hive, a surplus office building on the City’s Eastside, far from the spaces around the railroad tracks. “The beauty of the Hive is in creating a stable place where a deeper, stronger community can prosper,” Eye explains. “I want to break the old story of artists moving into an area, making it cool, then being squeezed out by gentrification.” The changes commerce has made from brick and mortar to digital, start-up offices to shared spaces, has put pressure to re-imagine office properties. “The Hive is far away from the smell of diesel, the shake and rattle of freight trains speeding by,” Eye says, standing in the courtyard of Persimmon Trees and stone benches, ripe for becoming a sculpture garden.
Over 30 years, the general length of the planet Saturn’s orbit to conjunct with the point on an astrological birth chart, marks three phases of a human lifetime. At the first Return, one establishes and manifests in the world; coinciding with Eye beginning dedicating his life to creating an artist community, giving birth to his progeny of music and art spaces.
At his second Return, Eye’s dedication is turning to creating a Burning Man Culture in Tucson. Beginning with annual trips to the Burning Man celebration and influenced by a sojourn to Eastern Europe, Eye’s mission builds on a foundational rock.
Experiencing the byzantine architecture of Prague, Czechoslovakia opened Eye to a new artistic direction. “Doorways, walls, roof cornices filled with sculptures portraying fantastic images,” he recalls. Upon returning to his studio, Eye evolved his art from goddess masks to crypt-like, three-dimensional interactive and immersive spaces.
Participating in the Burning Man events and working in the new artistic direction shifted Eye to a new perspective on artistic participation. “My music concerts and art has had an audience, a viewer. Now I’m moving to DJ-ing, where people dance and heal instead of watch,” he says. Eye is breaking the fifth wall, creating engagement between and among the artists and the observers. The proof-viable of his stand came during the recent All Souls event. Eye setup his Burning Man Ascension Temple at the stage where the event does the culminating ceremony. The outpouring of messages scrawled on the walls with chalk proved to be overwhelming to behold.
According to Eye, the Burning Man culture he is bringing to Tucson is people uniting to create community, to make something amazing and gifting it without name or ego. His auteur direction is moving through the fifth wall to where users create content, contribute support to the community, without bartering or exchange.
The social-cultural movement is in its infancy, exactly where it should be for one entering their third phase of Saturn’s cycle. The next 30 years are legacy years—new seasons of artistic growth. Eye’s heart flame burning inherent vitality uniting creative people, providing space for artists to have spaces to establish themselves on a committed path, making his immersive art continues.
Dale Bruder is a freelance writer interested in creative people, social and cultural movements and applications of ancient esoteric knowledge. Connect at 520-331-1956 or