The Lew Sorensen Community Center is set to begin fall classes in pottery, fiber arts and visual arts after a successful summer program in its new digs at 2300 N. Tanque Verde Loop Road.

The community center is named after educator Lew Sorensen (1936-2005), who was involved with Tucson schools for 38 years as teacher, principal and superintendent for the Sunnyside and Catalina Foothills school districts before becoming superintendent of the Tanque Verde Unified School District in 1980, a position he held until 1995.

In difficult economic times, the new center is a creative partnership of the school district, Pima County and the Tanque Verde Antique Fair.

The district provided the facility while most of the equipment is leased from the county and revenues from the fair help maintain the program.

The center's popular arts-and-craft program was formerly run by the county, in cooperation with the school district, in the old Tanque Verde Elementary School. In 2009, facing budget cuts, the county eliminated the program. The district then took over and built the new facility, honoring a promise to support adult education in the bond issue to build Emily Gray Junior High School.

The resurrection of the program required a lot of help. People interviewed told me that Tanque Verde Governing Board Member Peter Livingston has been an especially strong proponent of the community center.

Livingston said he hopes for even more partnerships.

"TVUSD is happy to support the community because the community supports us," he said.

Superintendent Doug Price also has been supportive and has been an effective force in bringing the center to fruition.

And Karen Reifschneider, the program coordinator, has bridged the gap from the old facility to the new, as a constant driving force to expand and improve program content.

Pat and I visited the community center in early July, met Reifschneider, and got to spend time in three of the four new classrooms, talking with teachers and students.

We stopped by an intermediate wheel-pottery class taught by Linda Baker, a community center teacher of several years who sells her work at craft fairs and events. We also talked with Lori Kennedy Matheson, another longtime potter and teacher at the center.

The pottery program also includes handbuilt-pottery classes and was bolstered last month by the addition of a huge new 24-cubic-foot gas kiln provided by the school district.

Our next visit was to a tapestry weaving class taught by Ann Keuper, a renowned fiber artist who owned Desert Weavers and Spinners and teaches college courses. She was recently recruited to teach at the community center.

Our final stop was to a mixed-media drawing class taught by Larry Wollam, a longtime teacher and award-winning artist. The emphasis in this class was drawing with colored pencils. Several students have attended Wollam's classes for years.

The visual arts program includes classes in drawing with charcoal, oil painting and realism in watercolor.

Fall classes begin the last week of August and the first week of September. The program will grow to include new teachers, including renowned portrait artist Sandra Saltness Parks, who will teach oil painting, charcoal drawing, and plein air (outdoor) painting.

The program also will offer open lab time so students can work outside of class.

Register for classes

Register for fall classes at

For more information, contact Program Coordinator Karen Reifschneider at

The classes vary in price depending on the number of classes per session and the number of hours per class.

E-mail Bob Ring at or view his website,