The following column is the opinion and analysis of the writer.

In addition to Independence Day, July Fourth marked another significant though individual moment from 1995, the passing of “Joy of Painting” artist and Air Force veteran Bob Ross. He was 52 years old. Now almost 25 years later, Ross remains a pop culture sensation, with millions subscribed to his YouTube channel, and streaming access available on Netflix and Hulu.

We can reflect on what makes Ross’ lessons last. Is it the way he calms us down, alongside his friend, Peapod the squirrel, and his Zen reflections on mistakes being part of the painting? Or is it the meditative creation of happy-little-trees in this age of stress and distraction? Maybe it is our own curiosity about taking a personal risk and getting our creative voice out on paper.

To be sure, many of us simply watch the show and daydream what it would be like to paint, joyfully, alongside Bob. But what if we took the plunge and actually tried something new?

We can all make art. Indeed, as The Drawing Studio founder Andy Rush likes to say, art is our birthright as human beings. As with Ross, The Drawing Studio is committed to ensuring that joyful visual art is available to everyone — regardless of experience or innate ability. We believe that regular creative practice is the hallmark of a healthy person and a healthy society — where imagination and vulnerability are encouraged, and where we learn to empathize with each other and see the world anew.

People have been expressing their stories, passions, and griefs to each other through art since time immemorial. Nothing seems more ancient than the practice of picking up a charred piece of wood (we call it charcoal!) and making your own mark. Formal art classes can certainly seem intimidating though, especially to those of us who haven’t picked up a paintbrush since high school.

That is why as a nonprofit, The Drawing Studio is working to expand Tucson art opportunities for more people, regardless of previous experience or ability to pay. We provide scholarships for low-income youth to attend immersive summer camps; free adult classes in 24 branch Pima County libraries around town; subsidized and one-time “Try-It” courses to allow you to experiment with oil, watercolor, or other media you’re not familiar with; and regular art outreach to partners such as the Arizona State Veterans Home, senior living facilities and Tucson nonprofits.

It’s easy to start your personal art journey – take the plunge for the first time or re-commit yourself to an art practice. Learn new ways to engage with the world around you. We are always on the lookout for new members, instructors, community partners and sponsors. We look forward to making our mark with you soon.

Em Martin Brott is the executive director of The Drawing Studio, whose mission is to inspire people of all ages and backgrounds to embrace art practice as a pathway to personal growth and healthy community. She is a 2019 fellow with the Tucson Public Voices Fellowship through the OpEd Project. Reach her at