Daniel Buckley Governor’s Arts Award acceptance speech

Daniel Buckley gives his acceptance speech at the 2014 Governor's Arts Awards.

Daniel Buckley gives his acceptance speech at the 2014 Governor’s Arts Awards.

On March 25, 2014, Daniel Buckley of Tucson received the artist prize at the 33rd annual Arizona Governor’s Arts Awards at the Mesa Arts Center Ikeda Theatre in Mesa, Arizona. Click here for Tucson Weekly article.


Here is a transcript of Buckley’s acceptance speech: (Click photos to see larger)


“Thank you very much. I’m honored and humbled to receive this award, particularly given the stature of my fellow nominees, every one of whom deserves to be standing where I am.


Ruben Hernandez

Ruben Hernandez

I’d also like to acknowledge a great friend and advocate of the arts in the Latino community who left us a few months back, Ruben Hernandez. His impact on all of our state is immeasurable. And I’d like to acknowledge my co-producer in the Cine Plaza at the Fox documentary series, Ralph Gonzalez, who died two weeks ago. He was a great man and this award is for him.


Daniel Buckley at Meteor Crater, Arizona, ca. 1973

Daniel Buckley at Meteor Crater, Arizona, ca. 1973

I came to Tucson in 1971 to study the geology of the moon. But what I discovered in Arizona was a world so different from my boyhood home in the Hudson Valley of New York State. We stopped going to the moon my sophomore year of college and I had to figure out what I wanted to do with my life.


I am still a recovering geologist at heart and never tire of seeing, photographing and filming the fantastic landscapes and people of this place I have called home for 43 years. The people of Arizona, particularly Native American and Mexican populations, have patiently and generously shared with me the stories of their culture and history in my 23 years with the Tucson Citizen, in my documentary making since the paper closed in 2009, and in the work in documenting the recent Arizona Centennial that I was able to do for the ArizonaExperience.org virtual museum.


Daniel Buckley "It's a Dry Heat" from West

Daniel Buckley “It’s a Dry Heat” from West

I started my arts career in the early 1980s as a composer. Haven’t heard my music? No worries. When I die they’ll probably play some. Death is a career move for composers. And when they do play it you can say, “It’s so sad he’s gone,” which is Arts Speak for, “What the hell was that?”


I became a composer a little differently than most. I was long out of college when I realized that I wanted to write music. But I still remembered how notation worked from my choir and band experiences in public school. More importantly I realized that what stood between me and becoming a composer was me. I continue to work on music every day in the unlikely hope of eventually writing something people might want to hear while I was still alive. And in the meantime, I do it for my own amazement.


Daniel Buckley interviews Paul Bear for the "Tucson's Heart and Soul: El Casino Ballroom" documentary.

Photo by Ron Medvescek/Arizona Daily Star.

With similar lack of qualification and considerable audacity I moved on from composing to become a performance artist, arts and culture writer, photographer and film maker. Presently I’m producing and directing a film called The Mariachi Miracle which explores how mariachi and folklórico programs for youth are changing Tucson socially, politically, economically and with respect to education.


Gates Pass at Sundown

Gates Pass at Sundown

On a much different front, I’m involved in shooting large scale panoramic photographs of places where houses and roads remain at least out of frame. You can still find places like this in Arizona, and when I see them from horizon to horizon I can’t help but think how lucky I am that I ended up here rather than on the moon. Oddly they connect me to the wonder I felt when I first saw panoramic images from the lunar surface during the Apollo program. Unlike the moon, which has some shelf life, Arizona’s deserts and wilderness areas may not be like this forever, so I am trying to capture in photographs their pristine beauty wherever possible, to show future generations what used to exist just down the street.


A future mariachi is born at El Casino Ballroom.

A future mariachi is born at El Casino Ballroom.

The arts are the heart and soul of our state. Their importance in our education system is key to the brain development that fosters the creativity, mathematical skills and the scientific curiosity that will lead to tomorrow’s great discoveries and high paying jobs in our state. Education is the single most important investment our state can make, and arts education is vital to the success of education as a whole.


I am the product of public schools with good arts and science programs, and of an affordable and eminently capable Arizona college and university system. All of us need to make sure that Arizona gives future generations the advantages that have helped all of us in this room to find meaning in our lives and prosper in our communities.


Ralph Gonzalez

Ralph Gonzalez

Artists reflect the world around them – both the things they love and those they don’t. But art is always about trying to make the world a better place. And so I use my art to celebrate our land, our multicultural heritage and our history to focus on the things that bring all Arizonans together. There is far more we have in common than that which divides us.


Being an artist is generally a good gig. Every day brings new on-the-job training. You get to work with the insane. The pay is sporadic and frequently negligible. It’s a dream gig.


But artists get to do things other folks rarely have the opportunity to. We change our communities. Sometimes we even make them better. And we get to approximate our dreams often enough to make us want to keep a hand in it.


Daniel Buckley

Daniel Buckley

I am proud to call myself an Arizona artist, and even prouder to be recognized as such. I look forward to exploring more of Arizona and its people and letting those inspirational experiences guide my work.


"Signals," from the series "Este Es Mi Ciudad."

“Signals,” from the series “Este Es Mi Ciudad.”

Thank you very much. “

~ by Daniel Buckley on March 27, 2014.

3 Responses to “Daniel Buckley Governor’s Arts Award acceptance speech”

  1. Dan you old sodbuster congrats on the award! As the artist Louise Nevelson said when asked about her late in life success “If you stick around long enough they have to pay attention to you.” You gave a good speech. Nice rhythm. I can sort of dance to it. I give it a nine.
    Who knew we would live this long? I must say the 80’s in Tucson do not seem that long ago. Good times. So this is old age? I thought it was a myth. But truthfully we are turning into myths and soon enough people will talk of us as if we were never here.
    Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily life is but a dream.
    Take care my friend.

  2. I was so happy to see that he received this recognition. His acceptance speech is filled with the dignity and sincerity that characterizes all his work. As another artist, a musician, I can appreciate how he articulates our unpredictable but “passionate pursuit.” My congratulations go out to him and to the people who aptly chose him to receive the award.

  3. Dan, Congratulations! What a moving speech.

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