Tucson Giving

Tucson Giving: Local arts group brings a splash of creativity

2014-06-17T00:00:00Z 2014-06-17T10:10:49Z Tucson Giving: Local arts group brings a splash of creativityBy Loni Nannini Special to the Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

It’s triple-digit time in Tucson and if you are looking to add a refreshing and fun splash of color to your daily dose of sunshine, the Southern Arizona Arts & Cultural Alliance, aka SAACA, suggests that you jump into its Splash summer charity event.

The fundraiser is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at La Encantada, 2905 E. Skyline Drive.

“Splash will feature bright, vibrant colors in clothing, food, cocktails, music, a silent auction and art. Everything will just be a kaleidoscope of color,” said SAACA Development Director Liz Stern.

In its third year, the event is presented by SAACA and is a collaboration between retailers at La Encantada, more than 15 local restaurants, nonprofits such as the Humane Society of Southern Arizona and Habitat for Humanity Tucson, and local artists and volunteers.

The purpose is twofold: To raise funds for SAACA’s newly-expanded Creative Arts Therapy for Veterans program, a partnership with the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System; and to provide Tucsonans with an opportunity for relaxed, nontraditional exposure to the arts.

“It is so important to keep the arts alive and celebrate the arts in as many different creative capacities as possible in the community, whether through the culinary arts, fashion arts, visual arts or music,” Stern said. “For many people, it is less intimidating to go to La Encantada for Splash than to go to a fine art gallery or gala. We are trying to provide a comfortable environment in which people can interact with the arts and come to know and appreciate them.”

Stern said that SAACA’s arts-accessible philosophy is perpetuated by popular annual events such as the Park Place Chalk Art Festival, Oro Valley Festival of the Arts and the upcoming Salsa and Tequila Challenge.

The nonprofit, which started in 1997 as the Greater Oro Valley Arts Council, now enlists artists, businesses, government agencies and more than 200 volunteers to stage large-scale festivals, events and educational programs in communities throughout Southern Arizona.

It also has launched programming such as Chalk Art Festivals, culinary festivals and other events in Phoenix and Tempe.

SAACA’s programs dedicated to arts education opportunities for students remain centered in Tucson, and include Musical Magic for Kids, which offers free interactive music, dance and instrumental performances to children ages four through eight.

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 grade five that is featured in a dozen local schools.

These programs — along with the veterans project, which is expanding into local nursing homes and assisted living facilities — and SAACA’s user-friendly community events are particularly vital since Arizona ranks “dead-last in state funding for the arts,” according to Stern.

SAACA intern Kailey Vitt agreed that the importance of art education can’t be overstated.

“Art has been around since the beginning of time, and it must continue. It is the only constant throughout history and it is so important that kids be exposed, even if it is not their favorite subject or their forte,” said Vitt, 21, a senior at the UA College of Fine Arts who is studying Two Dimensional Painting.

Vitt, who is working with fellow intern Lisa Riggs on a mural that will offer an interactive painting opportunity for Splash attendees, emphasized that art has chronicled public reaction throughout history.

“The way that the public reacts to art says a lot about how they are reacting to social and political changes of the time … art culture is a great way to see how people are feeling about the way that their lives are changing,” she said.

She is excited that the lush, tropical jungle-themed mural, which “channels a little Frida Kahlo” and is being drawn on doors donated by the Habitat for Humanity HabiStore, will provide an opportunity for Tucsonans to express themselves through rich colors.

Similar to a “paint by number” piece, guests will use a color palette of vibrant jewel tones — bright yellows, magentas, teals and deep greens — to paint designated areas and bring the mural to life.

“I think it will be enjoyable to see how guests react to this kind of experience. Some people may have lots of experience and some may have never picked up a paintbrush before in their lives, so it will be interesting to see how everyone comes together,” Vitt said.

“I have been working with a brush in my hand since elementary school, so it is so cool to be able to share that with others who may never have had that experience.”

Contact freelance writer Loni Nannini at ninch2@comcast.net

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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