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SAAG in the News

Southern Arizona Arts Guild supports arts education
Scholarships awarded to young artists 

Southern Arizona Arts Guild presents
Picasso through a child’s eyes
Published in the May 2017 Edition of the Oro Valley Voice

By Theresa Poalucci

In his book “The Elements of Drawing” (1857), John Ruskin 
encouraged artists to try to recover what he called the “innocence of 
the eye,” to represent nature with the freshness and vitality of a child. 
In 1907, the year Pablo Picasso first visited the Trocadéro museum, 
he traded a picture with his friend and rival Henri Matisse. The latter’s 
portrait, Marguerite 1906–7, was influenced by his observations of his 
six- and seven-year-old sons’ drawings. Picasso, according to his
 biographer John Richardson was, “very curious to see how Matisse 
had exploited his children’s instinctive vision.”

Picasso was fascinated by children’s art. He felt that his father, 
a professor of drawing, had prematurely pushed him into an academic 
style. Throughout his career he sought to regain the youthful 
exuberance that was sacrificed. In 1956, during a tour of an exhibition 
of children’s art, Picasso told Herbert Read: “When I was the age of 
these children, I could draw like Raphael. It took me many years to 
learn how to draw like these children.”

The Southern Arizona Arts Guild (SAAG) in cooperation with the 
Tuscan Museum of Art (TMA) have turned the tables and have 
asked students to draw like Picasso. These works will be presented
 in a special one day show on Saturday, May 13 at the SAAG Art Gallery. Six classes will be represented; two from Thornydale Elementary; one from Rattlesnake Ridge Elementary; and three from Walter Douglas Elementary.

The seed for this art show was planted when Melissa Rogers met her neighbor Eileen Starr. Rogers, who is a jewelry artist and on the board of SAAG found she had a lot in common with Starr, a fiber artist. Besides their shared love to create, both are great communicators. Starr shared that she taught classes on art to elementary students as a docent for the TMA. Rogers, who is always looking for ways to spread the word about SAAG and its gallery had an idea ­— and the student art show was born.

“When I am in a classroom of 5th graders I always Starrt by asking them, by a show of hands, if they like to draw. Usually about 75-percent will raise their hands,” said Starr.

Starr starts her art lesson on Picasso with his early years, explaining his blue period and how his works changes as it becomes cubist and more surreal.

“Picasso was an interesting character,” laughed Starr, who said she leaves out the more sorted details of his life. “What I explain is Picasso and his relationship to the founding steps toward abstraction. How he would look at something, take it apart and then reconstruct it.”

Picasso’s Cubist works approach abstraction, although he never relinquished the objects of the real world as subject matter so was not thought of as completely abstract in his style.

The students get to see Picasso’s self-portrait and similar pieces where he depicts a face in two directions, or orientations, in the same painting. 

If you take a look Picasso’s portraits, from the time he was young to his last, at age 90, you can see the distinct progression of his art. However the artist was quoted as saying “The different styles I have been using in my art must not be seen as an evolution, or as steps towards an unknown ideal of painting. Different themes inevitably require different methods of expression. This does not imply either evolution or progress; it is a matter of following the idea one wants to express and the way in which one wants to express it.”

Certainly, the students who are asked to use a different method of expression by emulating Picasso in his later years must learn to set aside convention to express themselves. 

“In the beginning the students seem a bit apprehensive,” explained Starr, who walks around the classroom and encourages the young artists to think outside the box. “I tell them things like, if you always wanted to have green hair but your parents say no, put it in the picture. They really get into it, and by the time they are finished they seem to have a good grasp of the styles of surrealism and abstraction in art.”
Along with using arbitrary colors and placing one’s nose in an unusual spot, the students must also create a pattern in their piece, as Picasso did. It is not random drawing, but rather well thought out to meet the demands of the style they are asked to reproduce.

“I get so much satisfaction in doing this work,” explained Starr 
who visits about 20 classrooms in eight schools, four times a 
year on behalf of TMA.

“SAAG is so excited to give some of these students an opportunity 
to display their work in a gallery,” said Rogers. “Many of our 
members are art teachers themselves and they were thrilled
 with the idea of sharing student work with the public.”

Along with the gallery presentation, SAAG artists will be 
demonstrating several forms of visual art. The TMA will also have 
tables in and outside the gallery offering children’s crafts. SAAG 
will also feature several of their workshop artists who offer 
opportunities at the gallery to learn new art techniques or the 
chance to make a project.

“A show like this can help introduce more people to art, looking 
at and talking about it,” said Starr referring not only to parents but 
the general public as well. “I hope it helps to spark a conversation 
about understanding the value that art has in all of our lives.”

If you go: The Southern Arizona Arts Guild Gallery is located 
at 7119 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704. It is behind Whole 
Foods and can be reached by taking the walkway next to Sauce. 
On Saturday, May 13 the gallery will be open from 10 am to 
6 pm for both the special show of student work, as well as free 
arts and crafts for the kids, and art demonstrations for adults. 
The event is free to the public. For more information visit

Art by Adriana, a student at Thornydale Elementary in Mrs Scalpone’s class
Art by Allegra de Spain, at Thornydale Elementary in Mr. Scott’s class.
Art by Litzy Guerrero, at Thornydale Elementary in Mr. Scott’s class.
Art by Issik Fisher, at Thornydale Elementary in Mrs. Scalpone’s class.
Art by Emily Larson, at Rattlesnake Ridge Elementary in Mrs. Stewart’s class
To the right is a self-portrait Pablo Picasso did of himself in 1938 when he was 56 years old. Picasso did a number of self-portraits and if you see them all at once there is a striking difference in the styles. 
Southern Arizona Arts Guild presents
New art installation at The Overlook

Every three months, the Southern Arizona Arts Guild (SAAG) rotates an art show at The Overlook at the Oro Valley Community Center. Diners are not only treated to great views out the large widows of the restaurant, but they also can view an array of art from 23 local SAAG artists.

At a recent reception, three winners of the show were chosen, along with an honorable mention. Judge Linda Ahern, owner of the Toscana Studio & Gallery said the following about her choices:

First Place Winner: Marty Plevel: “Indigenous Skylight”
“I chose this piece for First Place for several reason. The first of which is that this painting has powerful wall presence, mostly because of its dynamic composition and very unique perspective,” said Ahern. “Secondly, great skill has been used to achieve believability of this very unusual angle. Thirdly, it harkens on the abstract, which we see in every day life. The subtleties of whites, grays and blues are so lovely and easy on the eye, whilst the bold and dramatic lines create a wonderful dichotomy.

Second Place Winner: Diana Roth “Hannah At The Beach”
“This piece not only shows a technical proficiency, but evokes a feeling of being at the beach with a soft breeze. To create an emotion is one of the greatest challenges of figurative art and this artist has done this successfully,” said Ahern. “The composition is very effective by cropping in close to the face, accurately letting the top of the child’s hat flow of f the page. This creates an intimacy with this little girl.

Third Place Winner: Nikki Dillbeck “Barrio”
The first thing that drew my attention was that this piece has great impact and wall presence. Its composition is bold and commanding from a distance. As one approaches, there are nuances that draw the viewer in,” said Ahern. “It appeals to the eye in that it resemble something from reality, southwest building, however the artist has taken the liberty to stretch reality while keeping the important elements of art in tact. The strategic use of delicate small turquois lines throughout the composition, brings the viewer in further, and softens the bold contrasts. An excellent abstract!

Honorable Mention: Jason Goldstein “Honolulu On My Mind”
This piece made me stop and ponder this image,” said Ahern. “The photography quality is excellent first of all, and his choice of subject matter is provoking. The marriage of the two images is well done design leaving some edges u defined and others the area of focus. The presentation was clean, crisp and professional.

All the paintings, glass art, metal art and masks in the exhibit are for sale, and are very reasonably priced. Each piece has a label with the name of the artist and their phone number so interested viewers can contact the artist directly about making a purchase.

“We are so pleased to work with The Overlook staff and provide the space with art,” said Camille Sensale, committee chair for the show. “I want to thank the City of Oro Valle and The Overlook for the opportunity to display the work of these talented artists.

For more information on SAAG, visit them online at 

"Indigenous Skylight" by 
Marty Plevel.
"Barrio" by Nikki Dillbeck.
"Indigenous Skylight" by 
Marty Plevel.
Author Mary A. Havens
Opens her heart to tell her story

By Theresa Poalucci

We all have our stories. Some are tougher than others. Such was the case for author Mary A. Havens, who has suffered more than a fair share of domestic violence, sexual abuse and painful family secrets. 
Havens is a survivor. She has now written a cathartic book in which she shares what she has learned — asking the question “why do we keep secrets for so long?’

Havens made the decision to tell her story after she left her abusive husband who had also sexually abused her girls. She also waited until her mother had passed away.

The would-be author had to find the right ghostwriter to help her through the emotional journey of retelling her story. She found the perfect partner in Lynn Wiese Sneyd, who Havens credits for keeping the large cast of complex characters in her life (and therefore her book) straight. “The Shadows in My Heart” published September 25, 2017. 

“So far the reviews have been astounding,” said Havens. She will appear at her first book fair, the Tucson Festival of Books, on Saturday, March 10 from 12 pm to 2 pm in the Indie Author Pavilions. Before that she will be selling copies and autographing them at the Southern Arizona Arts Guild Gallery on Friday, March 2 from 5 pm to 7 pm at 7119 N Oracle, Tucson, 85704.

Havens has always been a bit of a writer keeping a journal and notes about the big events in her life. Interestingly when she decided to write the book, she found that all her emails contributed to the paper trail of facts. 

Havens has always been a storyteller, and when she talked to friends about the trials and tribulations they would inevitably tell her “you should write a book.”

“I had to isolate from the family, to start the book,” Havens said. “I went to St. George, Utah first, because someone told me it was beautiful.”

Havens ended up traveling, around the country as she considered what she would share. 
“We had a group of beta readers who said the book lacked emotion. That’s when I realized I had to open my heart and my hurt, and then it all came together,” she shared.

Havens expressed that the years she spent in an abusive marriage with a pedophile and sexual predator were a time in her life when she felt utterly trapped. Never quite knowing the truth, but always suspicious ­­– when the truth finally came out her family went to a family incest treatment program.
“My girls decided to forgive their dad,” she said, stating that she continued to be caught in a bad relationship. Turning to her family did not help. Her own mother believed her husband over her, and even bailed him out of jail. 

“I was angry, and one day I wrote a letter to Oprah about my ordeal,” said Havens. “Eventually my two daughters, husband and I were on the show, three times!” 
Now in retrospect, Havens has learned from her traumas. Her tough story leads to some sage advice.

Her insights include:

• Take it one day at a time. It is all you can do. Even after the period of abuse is over, you still need to take every day one day at a time. You may never get an apology. In most cases, the only thing the abuser is ever sorry for, is getting caught. The only way to accept it is to embrace it, and then let it go.

• Find joy in sharing. You may find joy and purpose in your dark struggle when you share what comes into your heart. Sharing your story for the very first time will no doubt bring you to tears. Be brave. Know in your heart, that you are helping other frightened souls begin healing from something that was NOT their fault.

• Plan for your tomorrow but live in your today. Rehashing past events keeps you at their mercy and prevents you from enjoying all of life’s beauty. Turn your mind, power your body, and walk away from anything dark. Choose to look into a moonlit sky with shining stars. Be grateful and thankful for the opportunities in your special life. Look at what and where you are now, step forward and utilize the fantastic opportunity to affect someone else’s life in a positive way.

• Reserve the right to crash at any time. Embrace the crash when it comes. Know that you will crash and accept that you are perfectly normal when it happens. Sadness and grief are a part of life. They may at times be unexplainable. But when it happens, know that you still have some grieving left... and welcome it into your heart.

• Acknowledge the fear that still grips your heart. If it happens when you see red flags, and leaves you weak and feeling lonely, embrace it. Let your acknowledgment help you determine and guide your next steps. Let peace come over you once you realize your path forward.

• Realize there is no such thing as normal. The journey we are on now is the adventure of life. Life is not a perfectly flat road. It is often a windy steep, gravelly, difficult trail, filled with ruts and potholes. There are days when you will just want to crawl back into bed and hide. But, you will eventually get out of bed and hit the streets again. You will encounter many wonderful places and people along your journey. All you see and meet offer you an opportunity to learn something new, accept the wisdom of others, help yourself and in turn, help others.

• Accept that no matter what you face, there is always a choice. Sometimes you need to be selfish. Sometimes you must decide to sacrifice time and presence and devote your energies to people and efforts beyond family and friends. You can love your children and grandchildren beyond measure... But in order to help them you may need to step up to the plate and speak to prevent silence and secrets of sexual abuse from destroying everyone involved. Be selfish and tell everyone you can to find the help they need, to get past the hurt, shame, guilt and embarrassment that is not yours. Get the person who violated you to own and take responsibility for their actions. Do not shield them any longer because if you do they maintain power and control over your life. Take back your life and fight; allow your heart to be healed.

“Still the hardest thing for me is self-forgiveness, even though I know I did my very best under all circumstances,” Havens concluded.

“The Shadows in my Heart,” is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indie Books. You can visit her website at, visit her on Facebook at or use (havens_mary)

By Theresa Poalucci

The Southern Arizona Arts Guild (SAAG), recently presented funding for scholarships for two budding young artist at the Toscana Studio and Gallery Summer Camp. The recipients are Lily Evaschuk, a third grade student at Copper Creek Elementary and Ember Brown, a third grade student at Harrelson.
Linda Ahearn, the owner of the Gallery as well as a professional artist and instructor, finds that her summer art camps have become increasingly important as art education continues to decline in public schools.

“When I see kids engaged in making art they use a whole different side of their brain,” said Ahearn. “We offer a very open environment with our classes and the creativity starts the minute our young students walk through the door.

After school art sessions at Toscana are 2-1/2 hours long so students really get to immerse themselves in their projects.

Toscana hosts upwards of 100 students during the summer, and some 30 students in their after-school program. 

“We get many of our students coming back after they graduate for internships,” said Ahearn, who stressed the importance of being creative and especially learning the skills of observation.

“We spend a lot of time observing the shapes, lights, and colors that surround us. Then we explore what these artists want to say about what they have seen,” she continued. Ahearn is also sure that students learn the disciplines associated with the creation of fine art, whether it be drawing, painting or sculpting.
“We are pleased to present scholarship funding to two local young artists,” said Diane Loving, the founder of SAAG and their scholarship chair. “Many of our own artists have shown at Toscana Gallery and Linda is a true friend to SAAG and a brilliant teacher.”

“I am forever inspired by the kids we see at our summer camps,” concluded Ahearn. “They allow me to be silly, to let go, to laugh ­— they energize me. I get home from teaching and I can’t wait to get to work in my own studio.”

For more information visit To learn more about SAAG, visit
Linda Ahern with summer students at Toscana Gallery.