Artist Casonti McClure sees artists as pied pipers who share their exploratory desires.
She said she hopes these leaders will draw art lovers to La Encantada for the Southern Arizona Arts Guild’s community arts festival that runs year-round in the Catalina foothills.
“We invite the community to come and play with us,” she said.
“The mystique of art or artists is, ‘Oh, I can’t do that. I don’t have a creative bone in my body. We really want to dispel that theory. It’s an experience that everyone everyone should have. Everyone can create if they have the opportunity to try.
“It’s not just an art lesson, though. It is an ongoing experience.
The event is in tandem with the 20th anniversary of the Southern Arizona Arts Guild. The idea was born out of conversations between McClure, former president of SAAG, and Jill Harlow, general manager of La Encantada.
“I’m thrilled with the idea and the concept,” McClure said.
“In the spring, Jill and I were talking and thought it would be fun if SAAG could do something about La Encantada. I started thinking about this idea. I was brought up in an artistic environment. My mom was an artist and we were in the Southern Arizona Arts Guild. It’s a community. I really wanted to focus on La Encantada as a community center.
Harlow agreed, she added, seeking to create a community environment with fun activities and encouraging people to have group experiences. This is epitomized by monthly third Friday yoga meetings and the Community Arts Fest.
“We love this collaboration with the Southern Arizona Arts Guild and look forward to expanding the program to provide even more opportunities for the community to share creative ideas here at La Encantada,” said Harlow.
The event kicked off on September 17 with the making of Day of the Dead prints in the courtyard of the outdoor mall.
Upcoming themes are Mask Creations with John Staiano on October 15; card making with Lawrence Peters on November 19; ornaments for the center tree with Gillian Allard on December 17; mural on canvas with Lynn Pass on January 21; clay art with Russell Kahn on February 18; chalk art with Pass on March 18; recycling sculpture with Nancy Kozlik on April 15; solar draw with Bijou D’Arpa on May 20; costume/hat creation with a soon-to-be-appointed instructor on June 17; and Bonding Experience with McClure on July 15.
For the October 15 program, guests will design their own masks for Halloween or for decoration.
“I collect masks,” McClure said. “When I go on a trip, I like to bring masks back. Masks are a cultural thing. I got my mom’s love of masks.
“We had a 14-foot-tall wall in the Foothills mall and that whole wall was dedicated to masks from Africa, Mexico, Indonesia, all over the world.”
In November, customers will learn how to reuse cards.
“A lot of things we do are recycling projects,” McClure added. “They can go home, enjoy what they’ve done at each workshop, and create more art.”
She is particularly looking forward to the January offer.
“I saw a space downstairs and wanted to run a large canvas around it and paint on it,” she said.
“Several artists will be there to help guide people to add their part to the mural. I hope we will find a window or a space in the mall where we can leave it, so that everyone can come and visit the work.
McClure is a retired dance teacher and painter. For 48 years, her family owned the Berta Wright Gallery Shops, one of the gallery’s first shops in a mall. In this case, it was Foothills Mall.
“I taught in public schools for 16 years,” she said. “I taught contemporary dance and jazz. One of the things I loved doing was teaching choreography. I’ve always said that choreography is like three-dimensional painting. Since I retired, I paint in two dimensions.
The official SAAG 20th anniversary party will be held from 4-8 p.m. on October 30 at the Lodge on the Desert, 306 N. Alvernon.