Free enamel pin when you buy any two Atlas Obscura products. Shop now.

Tucson, Arizona

Gallery in the Sun

This southwestern historic site was designed and built by an artist who wanted his work to "feel at home." 

Starting in the early 1950s, artist Ettore “Ted” DeGrazia decided that he would build a complex that was in itself a devotional work to his beloved southwestern climes, but also as a place where his unique works of art and construction could find a space where they were comfortable.

DeGrazia’s family immigrated from Italy in the early 1900s. Ted would purchase 10 acres of land in the foothills of Tucson, Arizona in order to escape the growing population of downtown Tucson. Instead of simply building a new house for he and his wife, the artist set to work designing and building a Spanish mission-style complex where he could both work on his art and integrate it into the space.

Along with a group of friends, DeGrazia built the original “Mission in the Sun” using adobe bricks that they made themselves on-site. He dedicated the space to the Virgin of Guadalupe and his uniquely southwestern vision began coming to fruition. Once his naturally inspired constructions were complete, the gallery and mission were opened to the public in 1965. After completing the mission, DeGrazia built a gallery space nearby in the same style in which he could his display his steady stream of paintings among the traditional adobe style that so inspired him. Once his naturally inspired constructions were complete, the gallery and mission were opened to the public in 1965. 

Today the site remains as one of the most quintessentially southwestern locations in the American desert and is now a protected historic site, preserving not only countless of DeGrazia’s works, but also his dream of a bygone desert culture.