Arizona independent venues band together to create new apparel to raise funds

Sixteen of Arizona’s independent music venues teamed up to release new apparel designed to celebrate and benefit these local spaces, all of which have been unable to host regular concerts for nearly a year. The “I <3 AZ” shirt features all 16 venues' names printed together on the back. 

Celebrity Theatre, The Rebel Lounge, The Rialto Theatre, Crescent Ballroom. and more concert spaces across the state came together to release apparel benefiting the beloved venues that have been unable to put on full-scale events since the outset of the coronavirus pandemic in early 2020. 

Many of these businesses will soon approach one full year without any income, and those that have found a way to create a new source of revenue have not been able to generate earnings that come close to their pre-pandemic operations. 

“No business is designed to go a year without revenue, especially ones with high overhead like music venues,” says Stephen Chilton, the owner of The Rebel Lounge and Vice President of the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). “There is hope right now with the vaccine starting to be administered and the passage of the Save Our Stages Act, but venues are still looking at another 6 months to a year before mass gatherings at scale can return.” 

While waiting for concerts to safely return, 16 venues from Phoenix, Tempe, Tucson, and Flagstaff worked together to produce a celebratory t-shirt to raise funds for the closed venues and the National Independent Venue Association’s Emergency Relief Fund: 

"The way that venues in Arizona have come together to advocate for live music and look out for each other this past year, that's been a really incredible thing to be part of,” says Lara Ruggles, Production Manager at 191 Toole in Tucson. “Nobody wanted COVID to happen, and it's been such a rough year for anyone who works in live music or comedy, but one of the silver linings is that all of these independent venues who used to be on their own, or in competition with each other, are part of a more tightly-knit community now. We have each other's backs."

The “I <3 AZ’s Independent Venues” collaborative apparel is available for pre-order now on a t-shirt, hoodie, tank top, and koozie. The proceeds from this merchandise will directly benefit these Arizona venues, and a portion of proceeds will benefit the National Independent Venue Association.

This shirt was designed by local artist Sage Aune, a local graphic designer and illustrator born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona. Her favorite pastime before the pandemic was attending shows at local music venues, so this project was a dream come true. You can find her work on Instagram @sagepizza or shop her artwork on

The venues worked with local company Hello Merch, a full-service independent merchandise company created in 2008 by Sam Means, on the product line.

Visit to find more information on these products and the venues associated.

Photo courtesy of Joe Eats World

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