The Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance hopes to make a big Splash! while raising some big bucks for youth arts education programs Saturday evening at La Encantada.

"It's such a refreshing idea," said SAACA communications director Chelsey Killebrew. "The event will splash colors all over the courtyard of La Encantada through culinary displays and live art with artists painting bright, vibrant pieces on canvases. There will be a lot of color going on."

SAACA has a colorful history: It started in 1997 as the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council and has evolved into a nonprofit that enlists artists, businesses, government and more than 200 volunteers to stage large-scale festivals, events and educational programs throughout Southern Arizona.

It caters to young and old alike through educational programs. Its Musical Magic for Kids offers free interactive music, dance and instrumental performances to children ages 4 through 8, while Just For Kids, a partnership with the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, provides performance tickets to hundreds of students every year.

Musical Gold in the Morning is a listening-and-learning program for children in kindergarten through fifth grade that is featured in a dozen local schools, while seniors benefit from programs such as Music For Our Veterans, a partnership between SAACA and the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System. The free concert series seeks to introduce veterans and their families to music as a form of healing art.

Other popular SAACA events include the Park Place Chalk Art Festival, the Oro Valley Festival of the Arts and the Salsa & Tequila Challenge.

"We are a nonprofit organization that is creating and promoting arts and culture in Southern Arizona through partnerships in the community," Killebrew said. There are many arts and cultural opportunities that need exposure so people can take advantage of them. We try to help with that. Extensive research shows how important the arts are in our daily lives, and SAACA really seeks to build community by reinforcing that idea."

Local artist Julie Janney can attest to the importance of art in the experiences that shape our lives. Janney will be painting in the La Encantada courtyard from 6 to 7:30 p.m. during Splash! with fellow artists Esther Rogoway, Ken Tesoriere and Sean-Paul Pluguez.

The mother of four children ranging in age from 8 to 15 and the wife of Lt. Col. Brian Janney, an EC-130 pilot at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Janney said her adult life has felt like an abstract painting, rich with moving around, starting over, handling deployments and raising children.

"From my life experiences these are words that describe the passion I bring to my painting: love, strength, sacrifice, happy, lonely, joy, overwhelmed, proud, weak, scared and blessed," she said.

Janney believes art is particularly important to children.

"I think art helps to broaden kids' thinking," she said. "It makes their brains move in many directions, and it also allows them time to de-stress. I think lots of kids do not realize how much they value art to enrich their lives."

Additionally, Janney said, art keeps our society culturally balanced.

"We are all here for something," she said. "Lots of kids are not going to be scientists; that is just not their calling." Janney's work can be seen online at and was featured at the Tucson Jewish Community Center in February.

Since she enjoys using color to express attitude and emotions through abstract painting, Janney said she is looking forward to the Splash! experience. She plans to choose a title and color palette before the event - often she takes inspiration from songs or her mood - and put perfectionism on the back burner while she paints.

"This will be something different for me - it's on the fly!," she said. "I like pushing myself to broaden my horizons as an artist. Life is so short and so precious, and you have to push yourself to try new things."

If you go

• What: Splash! to benefit the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance Youth Arts Education Programs.

• When: 6 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: La Encantada, 2905 E. Skyline Drive.

• Cost: $35 per person through Monday; $70 per person after that.

• The details: Festivities include live art and painting demonstrations by local artists followed by an auction of the abstract and modern art produced at the event; a silent auction featuring tickets to performing-arts events, restaurant gift certificates and vacation packages; a showing of fashions from La Encantada retailers and hand-painted dresses by emerging artists; colorful cocktails such as Red Raspberry Cosmos and Blue Sky Martinis; a DJ; and food tastings from local restaurants including Boca, Blanco, Busy B's Bakery, North, Ra, Saffron and Renee's Organic Oven.

• Tickets: Go to or call 797-3959, Ext. 1.

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at