(upbeat Latin guitar) – [Tom] This week on Arizona Illustrated. The Santa Cruz runs again. – [Tim] This is a grand experiment. We actually don’t know for sure how far the water will flow. – [Tom] A portrait of poetry. – Poetry exists in its world, it is an art form amongst other art forms where presence is required. – [Tom] Chris Rush and the light years. – I was very much in
Tuscon, in the desert. It was all a very light driven existence. – [Tom] And a passion for plants. – [Mark] I like anything that’s weird. I understand why they look that way, they’re adapted to their environment. – Welcome to Arizona
Illustrated, I’m Tom McNamara. As the monsoon arrives
here in Southern Arizona, we are reminded of the power of water. The new life that it brings and what a precious resource it really is. Earlier this month in
celebration of rain and water a stretch of riverbed
in the heart of Tucson that’s been dry since the 40s was reborn. This is the Santa Cruz. (mariachi music) – So we’re standing here
at the Mission Garden. It’s a ethnobotanical
garden where we’re trying to represent very much what Tucson used to be 150 years ago. People would’ve been growing wheat, corn, beans, fruit trees. They would’ve been growing vegetables and all kinds of plants that would’ve been sustaining the community. All of course related
to the amount of water that was present in the Santa Cruz River. – The Santa Cruz River’s always been a key part of why Tucson
has had civilization here for thousands of years and even though it doesn’t look like
it today, it used to be a perennially flowing river. – This was a thriving, flourishing river with cottonwoods and
willows and surface water flowing all year long. As we move through
history, population growth the Spanish, the European
influence in the region… – [Tim] People would actually divert water out of the river in order to grow crops or do other things and that
really started changing how the river behaved
into the early 1900s. – [Jesus] And later
on, as air-conditioning came into this area the city exploded. – [Tim] People discovered how to pump from the groundwater beneath the river in order to keep building the community. – There’s a lot of factors that led to the river drying up, but groundwater pumping is a big one. That changed what was
living along the river. You know the Gila topminnow disappeared as well as many other native fish. – Visionaries have often thought about, okay wouldn’t it be great if we could have the Santa Cruz River flow again. But it wasn’t until about 2016 that Tucson Water really took a look at, okay is this now the time,
is there an opportunity here and do we have the resources in place that it could make sense. And it really did. It lined up really nicely as something that would be good for the community but it also fit in with how we approach management of our water
supplies for the future. So it’s been about a
three year conversation from idea to when we’re actually gonna dedicated the flow. (mariachi music) – Well good afternoon everybody. I want to welcome you all to this dedication ceremony
for the Santa Cruz River. This is a project that’s
been many years in the making and we’re finally here today. – This is a grand experiment. We actually don’t know for sure how far the water will flow. We have a limited pipe diameter and limited amount of water we can put in. So, we’re gonna use that and it’ll flow maybe one
mile, maybe two miles. We’ll find out over time. A lot of people might wonder about, okay how are rate payer
dollars being used to do this, and the total cost of this project is well under $1 million. To be able to recharge
this amount of water in a constructive facility would be at least three to six
times as expensive as that. When we deliver water
into the river channel most of it actually soaks in
to the groundwater beneath and when you do that over time it actually can start to rebuild the groundwater underneath it. – Adding any kind of water
regularly to the river is gonna increase diversity and probably support more plants like
willows and other vegetation that need more access to
water, aquatic wildlife, insects that a lot of them
start their life in the river and they’re a good food
source for fish and birds. – It’s a very high quality
of reclaimed water. It’s not drinking water,
but incidental contact with that water is perfectly appropriate. This is the same water that we use on our golf courses, that we use in our parks
and school grounds. And it’s actually the
same quality of water that already flows in the Santa Cruz River much further North. – [Claire] The stretch of the river from Sweetwater Wetlands area, North to Marana, I believe we’ve been releasing water into the river since the 70s. So we’ve been doing it for a long time but what’s really changed
is the quality in the water. I don’t think there was
any seeding of vegetation. It just will come on it’s own, so give it water and it will come. – A few people have asked, how would the return of the flow
effect the Mission Garden or would compliment
somehow the Mission Garden? Wildlife and the biodiversity,
whether we’re talking bats, insects, and birds,
and possibly reptiles will be connected in a bridge between the “A” Mountain, Tumamoc Hill area, The Mission Garden Oasis,
and the permanent flow, even if it’s small will
definitely increase the biodiversity in the entire area. – Unless you live in the dessert you just don’t appreciate rain and rivers the way Tucsonan’s do. And releasing the water
into the Santa Cruz today on el Dia de San Juan, when Tucsonan’s are good and ready for
the monsoon to start is especially appropriate. Only Tucsonan’s could understand why, on one of the hottest days of the year, we go outside of our own free will, celebrate our city, and
fervently hope for rain. (clapping) (mariachi music) (singing in foreign language) – It is a very important
symbolic gesture I would say. Personally, I can compare to what we’re doing here at the Mission Garden. There’s no way we can
bring everything back the way things used to be, you know when Tucson was a little town. But yet, it brings us the concept of why we’re here, understanding the origins of Tucson makes
us understand this region. It makes us conserve and makes
us appreciate what we have. When you see the water
flowing in the Santa Cruz and you can go and touch it and you can go and put
your feet in the water you are touching history. – Really we focus so much on what we’ve lost along the river and our river is still there. It’s still very much alive. It’s probably really different from what it used to be in the past, but it’s still part of our heritage. It’s the reason we can call Tucson home. – In this story, poetry
and photography are joined. The Center for Creative
Photography celebrates the bicentennial of
Walt Whitman’s birthday with a portraiture
project by a photographer B.A. Van Sise expressing his
life long love of poetry. – It was not difficult
to convince 86 poets to come on crazy adventures with a total and exaggeratedly dressed
stranger into the woods, and into the ocean, and to
this thing and that thing. Because it’s about experience
and it’s about presence. (upbeat orchestra music) – He is a very talented photographer and the fact that he set upon this with such diligence, the
National Portrait Gallery has taken one of these additions. But you’re taken in. – As a photographer we
live in another medium that people are very fond of saying is becoming less and less relevant and is boring and less important. And anyone can do it. Poetry exists in it’s world the same way that photography exists in it’s own. It is an art form amongst other art forms where presence is required. You want to go and
photograph Richard Siken in the dessert of New Mexico,
you need Richard Siken to come to the dessert in Mexico and actually hold a newspaper on fire and be present with you. If you are a poet, you
also need to be present in way that other writer’s don’t. – These photographs have
movement and texture. Some of them are wild. We’ve taken the didactic
material next to the photograph. And it’s not just tombstone information. It’s a connection to the photograph so you have the poem, and the photograph, and the story, and the
poet, and you’re looking at the image and it’s a perfect melding of the two mediums. – I love the connection
between the art forms. It’s especially exciting
here at the U of A because of the Center
for Creative Photography because of the Poetry Center. We have these two really prominent and exciting cultural institutions. (melodic piano) – The fundamental building
block of a poem is the image. And what I love about the image and what I love about what
poetry teaches us about the image and also what
photography teaches us about it, is that it’s both invested
deeply in stillness, and also in movement and
there’s great tension between those two things. It’s a moment that’s trapped in time, and it’s a moment that is somewhat outside of time at the same time. – I started as a hobbyist
when I was in high school. I was in high school photography club like everybody else I think. I got my first job
working as a photographer for the, then fledgling, New York Sonnet. It’s now defunct, that’s not my fault. So I started professionally when I was 18 which was a while ago. In 2015, I think, I got pretty sick and had to have a bunch of surgeries. I had a very long recovery period. It was terrible, it was
psychologically terrible, it was physically terrible. I was in a lot of pain. And I was sitting around
saying, I need something to do. I need a project. And I had always been a poetry lover. When I was in high school
I used to, not sneak in, but I would go in early in the day and I would write out
poems on the blackboard in the English classrooms. I’d basically inflict
poetry onto the various, totally uncaring, high
school masses of Long Island. There’s a difference between when you’re doing stuff sort of as
a receptive journalist versus when you’re trying
to create something. It’s more of an artistic endeavor. – In an effort to get people to look into each other’s eyes more and
also to appease the mutes, the government has decided
to allot each person exactly 167 words per day. – I just always was a poetry lover and I realized, well
you know after 15 years of journalism I’ve gotten good at tracking people down. Might be interesting to
do some portraits of poets and see kind of how that goes. (dramatic piano) – There’s sort of this classical idea of this guy wearing a tweed jacket with pockets and he’s white and he’s male. And he’s sitting and doing this in front of a row of books. I did not want to do that. The very first one I
did, I put Gregory Pardlo in a boat in the middle
of a body of water. Make it look like something different and make them sort of
reflective of the work. It became immediately obvious to me that I wanted to do something
that would illuminate the work and the people that
are so often overlooked. So this just kind of got
built out from there. And as word got out to the point where I would start reaching out to folks, and I would give them
whatever my crazy idea was, and say “Oh but, so-and-so’s idea “was a little crazier, we can do better.” – When we think about who writes poems or who poems are available
to, where do they come from, how do they come into the world, and this is a show explores that in a really profound way. And what you see when
you spend a lot of time looking at it, is that poets are very much like the rest of us. – [A.B.] We really did in fact put a horse into a restaurant
for Joy Harjo’s photograph. The horse was a champion. The only person actually in danger was poor Brendan Constantine
over on the wall there. We actually did get a
Van de Graff generator, and we actually did electrocute him, and me, and my superintendent who’s a 55 year old man from Albania, who’s a very tough guy. And he walked in and he’s used to my shine after 10 years, but he walks in he sees this whole scene
where there’s this man he’s never seen, and there’s people, and a Van de Graff generator shooting lighting over the room. And he walks in and goes “Oh!” He starts purposefully shocking himself just for the thrill of it. Man should’ve been a poet. (gentle music) – There’s a number of images that exist there that are very closely tied to the way that I have experienced my own life and we’re chosen for that. There are few images that are here on the wall where I picked it because it reminded me of an old love. There were certainly people who were here, where it was very meaningful
for me to meet them. There are quite a lot of poets here who’s work I don’t enjoy. Once I started getting into it, I decided really that the crux of it was that I want it to be a census. There is this renaissance
in poetry right now. There’s a lot going on. We’re in a very strange
cultural movement right now where the, what I consider,
the important values of poetry and the idea
of expression of empathy and that kind of thing
are very very important. – This show feels like a giant welcome mat to me in some ways. It’s beautiful, it’s evocative, it’s wild, but it also is a way in and I hope people will see it that way when
they come experience it. – Often times I think people come into galleries,
and they may be put off, or they don’t understand
the subject matter. And this is a real effort on our part to not only collaborate
with our colleagues on campus but invite the
public in to be curious. – [B.A.] There is sort of the history and the institution of this place. The two exhibitions
that were up before me, were Richard Avedon and Ansel Adams. That is a meaningful thing. I can’t begin to express how deeply in the literal sense of the word how humbling it is. – Award winning Tucson artist and designer Chris Rush has released his
new memoir, “The Light Years”. It is a tender and sometimes harrowing coming of age journey woven together with youthful experimentation, drugs, sexuality, and adventure. – I was a kid incredibly in love with my life, in love with nature, in love with my sister. (upbeat organ music) In love with God. There was plenty to love. I was a total bouncing love bunny. I also had a lot of things go wrong. It never occurred to me to be defeated. I was a kid! Okay that’s a good one, who am I? Hmm, my name is Chris Rush,
you want that kind of answer? I’ve been a painter here for decades and about 10 years ago I realized that somehow I was writing a book. I bounced back and forth
between here and New Jersey. I spent a long period
of time as a backpacker in the Catalina’s and that was my code word for homeless. I survived by selling weed, I shopped at the food co-op,
I was a skinny vegetarian. But up in the mountains
something happened. I thought I was Jesus in the desert. I was fasting, I was trying to
figure out the old questions. This is one of my
favorite Narc photographs. This is a US Agent who
has busted a cactus. It’s a peyote cactus and
it needed to be taken in. And they always, the Narcs
always photograph pot with guns even though there usually were no guns involved,
they had to make sure we understood the dangers. When I look at these photos I’ve collected I can say it really did look like that. This is exactly what was happening. And I look back on the picture and say, we really were weird, and happy, strange. I wrote this book, or I started the book saying to myself, well someone else has written this book. It’s obvious. I wasn’t alone during those wild years. Someone else certainly has
gotten to it before me. And I realized that no one did. There’s a lot of reasons for that. You know, being a queer
kid from New Jersey born in 1956 who really liked drugs, your survival chances are a little shaky. My father was wearing flowered ties and drinking J and B. He didn’t want to miss
out, he was still young. He was probably in his mid 40s when his children started to freak out, and I think it’s all really interesting. You know there’s a lot
you simply can’t explain. Why that outfit? I don’t know. I don’t know at all. Oh God. When I first came out here, was in 1971. I had been on a truly harrowing
road trip to get here. By the time I got to Tucson, I had just gotten out of the hospital. I had had some problems hitch-hiking. I was a mess but I got here, and I still had a wallet full of money. And I was here to score weed. I was 15. In spite of all the ups and downs, of being a drug dealer, trying to fall in and out of love a hundred times, I found ultimately that I
kept thinking of Tucson. I kept thinking of the light here. I kept thinking of something I saw here that was truer than anything
else I’ve ever seen. I was originally thinking
of great distance, and I was thinking of UFO’s and the cities of the universe, but then I thought I was very much in Tucson, in the desert, it was all a very light driven existence. It was incredibly sunny and unreal. And then, I also thought,
and I was a backpacker. Everything I owned was on my back. And I was traveling very light. I had learned as a painter that the image must transact, it must satisfy, it must have an effect. And the artist has his bag of tricks. I have bright colors, and
contrast, and shapely forms, and I have subjects I know that intrigue. And as the writer, it was the same thing. I had to write in a
colorful, bold, fashion because it’s what I
require to be interested. Once I became a true, autonomous adult and moved far away from my family, I did consider my past but
for very different reasons because I was sickened and enraged. Some of it got into my art, but mostly I annoyed my friends and
was really bad company. By the time I started to write, it was a very different relationship because I was not writing out of a sense of anger or revenge. I had no scores to settle. I can see clearly all the things that had happened and was looking at them because they were
fascinating and peculiar. And even when my villains
came back around, I rather loved them. Two hitch hikers, probably Germany. That was very much, that was Me that’s what it looked like. Mom and Dad. I wonder if he took drugs? The hippies really did predict the future. And I was one of the experimental babies who was given LSD at 12. You know, and I was told
it was a brain vitamin. Perhaps it was. – You’re probably
familiar with the Saguaro, Cholla, and Mesquite but what about Euphorbia abdelkuri,
Welwitschia mirabilis, and of course Adenium. These are but a few of the rare plants nurtured by botanist Mark Dimmitt. (upbeat instrumental music) – How do I describe my property? I don’t call it a landscape because a landscape architect would freak out at what they do when they come here. They don’t see any sense of design. I put the plant where I
think it will grow the best. I’m a plant collector is what I am. There are a lot of people like me who would call ourselves plant freaks. And I like to say that there’s no 12 step program to help
us out of this addiction. I moved to Tucson in 1979 with
a moving van full of plants. Today, my inventory is out of date, but I would estimate that I have about eight to 10 thousand plants in pots. And probably a similar
number in the ground. I call this my berry cage
because I grew mostly various kinds of berries in here. I grow only thorn-less
varieties of berries because I’m tired of
shedding blood for my fruit. I give the extras to friends that’s the best thing I can do with them. I have three greenhouse areas full of tropical plants that
need climate control. Some people like flashy,
flowering tropicals. I like anything that’s weird. I understand why they look that way. They’re adapted to their environment. To me that enriches my experience of enjoying the plants. This is a cactus from the Amazon. This is a hybrid that I really love because it’s almost always in flower so it puts on a great show
whenever anybody comes to visit. My primary passion for the last 40 years has been hybridizing Adeniums. By the time I figured out what it was, I was just obsessed with it because it had beautiful flowers and it
had a beautiful twisted stem on a fat base. It had everything I like in a weird plant. And I’m one of the people who helped to introduce them, to
popularize them in this country. And according to my friends in Asia my first hybrid has triggered
the interest there too. So I’m kind of the grandfather
of Adenium horticulture. A lot of people call them desert roses, but I don’t like that name. So just remember Adenium,
it’s only three syllables. Easy to learn. When you make a hybrid,
you’re making something that does not occur in nature. So you’re the first one
to see a new life form. So it’s a lot of tedious work in between seeing two plants you’d like to cross, and seeing the results a few years later. Patience and real dedication is necessary to do a collection like this. Very few people want to do that. Most people have other
things to do in their lives. And I do too but plants are number one. I’m very happy to be out
here for days at time without seeing or talking
to another human being. And not that I don’t have friends, I have a fair number of friends. They’re almost all plant related friends. And we get together and
mostly talk about plants and a few other things at times. (laughs) People think I’ve sacrificed
my life for plants. Yeah, it’s true. Basically I don’t do anything else. I need to be surrounded by beauty. – Thank you for joining us
here on Arizona Illustrated. I’m Tom McNamara, see you next week. (soft melodic music)