Photography by TENWEST Festival

Feature Story — Fall/Winter 2018

TENWEST Festival

10 days. 100+ events. Choose your path. | By Emma Price

Tucson is a unique amalgam of diverse art, culture, natural ecosystems, and pure American grit. While every day in Tucson might see a unique cocktail of culture mixed from the wildly independent residents who call this city home, one week in particular celebrates the burgeoning future that is bubbling up in Tucson. Like the food, cocktails, music, and art, Tucson’s innovation community is a mixture of its globally minded and regionally grounded participants. They want to change the world, and change starts in their desert home.

Hosted by Startup Tucson, TENWEST Festival brings together the Tucson community with dozens of organizations and community leaders to celebrate the people, talent, and opportunity that exists for the future of Tucson. It’s the perfect opportunity to meet people who are making Tucson a better place. Workshops, discussions, performances, panels, demonstrations, and mixers take place over the course of ten days in order to nurture connections between innovators and to inspire collaboration. Startup Tucson says, “The festival has something for everyone—music, technology, art, film, food, in-depth, thoughtful content about social impact and sustainability—but the unifying message is Tucson is a fantastic place. We want to be a part of a sustainable, inclusive, and economically vibrant future.”

“TENWEST is a platform for highlighting what makes Tucson different than any other city and worth considering as a permanent home for not just your business, but also your family.” – Startup Tucson

The ten-day celebration debuted in 2015, and has only grown since then. Startup Tucson’s goal for the festival was to provide an environment where ambitious problem-solvers and creative-thinkers could come together, brainstorm and develop ideas, and cultivate a support system that goes beyond the festival. More than 1,200 thought-leaders collaborated at the first event, and participation has increased each year. In 2017, attendance throughout the week reached 5,000 and is on track to continue growing this year.

TENWEST Festival events encourage attendees to meet experts in their field and cross paths with innovators from other specialties. Festival pass holders will have access to an even greater variety of dynamic events and rich content through this year’s new festival partners. TENWEST has expanded its scope to bring in topics such as sustainability, localism, STEM, smart cities, and leadership alongside its long-standing focus areas of arts, entrepreneurship, and technology.  As part of the TENWEST Festival experience you can expect to learn and connect while enjoying world-class art, music, dance, and food.

This year, TENWEST Festival will take place October 12–21 in and around downtown Tucson. Events will include Discover Local, STEM Connect, IdeaFunding, the McGuire Social Impact Summit, FilmFest Tucson, TedX Tucson, the FUSE local music showcase, and multiple talks, workshops, pitch competitions, and opportunities to network with others excited about Tucson’s future. Startup Tucson says, “TENWEST Festival is more important than ever for our community and is a celebration of all of the things that unite us as a city. While all of our partner organizations are diverse, we all share a common goal of seeing Tucson thrive and remain the colorful, quirky, gritty, exceptional town we all love.”

Interested in participating? Visit for more information.


What started as an Instagram experiment in practicing gratitude for all Tucson has to offer has grown into an organization dedicated to creating flourishing communities. Why I Love Where I Live hosted an installation at the 2017 TENWEST Festival to showcase all the reasons to love the Tucson community and encourage locals to learn more about the place we call home.


A graduate of Startup Tucson’s Thryve Venture Development Program, Isabella’s business has grown beyond expectation. With a new Scoop Shop located in the Mercado San Agustin Annex and over 15 additional local businesses serving the natural, sustainable (and delicious!) ice cream, continued success is expected.


Vintage-inspired clothes, shoes, and accessories with a casually confident rock ’n’ roll edge are sold worldwide from a startup originally out of Tucson and now calling Bisbee home. With the support of Startup Tucson and TENWEST, ClassicRockCouture shows steady growth by inspiring more wild children of the world to embrace Southwestern chic styles. ClassicRockCouture was a highlighted vendor and speaker during TENWEST in 2017.