Those who marvel at the new fence at the Casa Grande Art Museum, gaze upon the artwork at Casa Grande Municipal Airport or chat with artists during the twice-annual tours might not know the name Casa Grande Art Association.

But the organization and its small army of artists, volunteers and supporters are behind many of the events and activities that immerse area residents in a world of art.

“Everything we do is to encourage creativity and community involvement,” said area artist Cindy Patterson, Casa Grande Art Association member and its former president.

Patterson is among the association’s professional artists. She’s well-known in the Casa Grande art community for making whimsical and colorful flowers from tin cans. But it’s not just professional artists who join the CGAA.

“We have amateur and professional artists,” Patterson said. “We have some who have been artists for a long time and others who just started recently, after they retired. We encourage each other.” Supporters of the arts are also members of the association.

Throughout the year, CGAA hosts several events that bring artists together with the community. Among its annual events are:

• Artist Studio Tour, which allows the public to step inside an artist studio, see artists at work, talk with artists and purchase art. It’s held twice a year.

• Art at the Airport, a partnership with the Casa Grande Arts and Humanities Commission and the city to hang beautiful works of art at the municipal airport. Art is changed on a regular basis. As well as being an opportunity for artists to show their work, the program also aims to promote a positive awareness of the city and the airport.

• Yartsy yard tour, in which attendees visit the backyards of participating residents to see the creative and unique ways art is incorporated into landscaping.

The organization’s involvement in the community goes beyond hosting events. When the Casa Grande Art Museum needed help with a building beautification project, the artists with the Casa Grande Art Association stepped up, rallying volunteers, raising funds and hosting events aimed at raising money to give the building a facelift. “We had the building painted and installed a new AC, added new gravel, irrigation and landscaping,” said current CGAA President Leah Kiser, who paints imaginative, one-of-a-kind images. “Community-involved mosaics and murals were created and incorporated into the landscape.” The Casa Grande Art Museum is housed in a historic building on Third Street that was constructed in 1935. The building has served as the museum since 1985.

For more than two years, from 2018 to 2020, the CGAA held a fundraising campaign to update the building, using crowdsourcing and various events to get the community involved. Throughout the campaign, area artists held special monthly events, workshops and programs to raise money and encourage public support and participation. The final piece of the beautification project came in mid-2021 when stained glass embellishments were added to a new steel fence at the art museum. Designed by Kiser and later constructed by area welder and artist Stan Balka, with the help of a Central Arizona College welding class, the fence features 33 round stained glass accents made by John Rooney of Adventures in Stained Glass.

“The highlight of the year for CGAA was the fence dedication at the Casa Grande Art Museum,” Patterson said.

Kiser created a video, “The Story of The Casa Grande Art Museum Fence,” that details how the fence was created.

The video was uploaded to the CGAA YouTube page in January.

Kiser believes the future of CGAA will include more collaboration with other arts groups as well as fostering more community involvement. “CGAA’s Activities Committee plans and develops ideas for activities that benefit and enrich the artists’ experience with art. Whether organizing exciting field trips, planning educational opportunities for adults and children, or engaging interesting speakers for monthly meetings, the Activities Committee puts it all together, ensuring a varied and lively art learning culture for Casa Grande,” she said.

She envisions educational activities or seminars that help area artists and creative people earn money from their work by starting a business or participating in fairs and festivals.

The CGAA’s Holiday Art Market, which debuted three years ago during the holiday season, could be one of those events that give a needed boost to area artists, she said.

Held at the Casa Grande Art Museum, CGAA’s Holiday Art Market is a three-day event that gives area artists the opportunity to sell affordable items for gift-giving such as paintings, art prints, jewelry, metal and glass art, mixed-media and holiday ornaments, said event organizer Sandra Jaech, an artist who creates works using beads and textiles.

“A portion of all sales is donated by the artists to the Art Museum for its maintenance,” Jaech said.

The Holiday Art Market started in 2019, but the event was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19. “It plans to continue in 2022 with a concentrated schedule of the three-day weekend immediately after Thanksgiving,” Jaech said.

Some activities planned by CGAA aim to foster a sense of collaboration among its own artists. For the annual Surrender Art Exhibit, which was recently held in February, artists begin a piece of artwork in just about any medium, then “surrender” it for another artist to finish.

Through the program, a sculptor might receive a canvas started by a painter, or a fabric artist might receive a project started by a mixed-media artist.

This year, 22 local artists took part in the project, submitting a partially started piece. Artists and the art work they are tasked with finishing are selected randomly. “It has always been a fun experience,” Kiser said. After the second artist has finished the piece, the artwork is displayed for the public to see.

The annual Artist Studio Tour is another event that unites area artists while drawing in art fans and members of the public.

“The Studio Tour is a unique art experience that invites the public to studios and homes of working artists throughout Casa Grande,” Kiser said. “Each studio location includes a marketplace with additional regional artists showing and selling their work.”

The event gives the public a chance to watch art being made and talk with area artists, as well as purchase art.

This year’s spring event took place in March. Another studio tour is planned to take place in the fall.

The Casa Grande Art Association started in 2014 with a handful of artists who would meet once a month.

“I remember going to meetings when we didn’t have a regular meeting place,” said artist and former CGAA President Patterson. “We met sometimes at the Pear Tree, which isn’t there anymore, and sometimes at the BlackBox Theater.”

It’s grown to include more than 85 members, including amateur and professional artists and those who support the arts.

The group now meets every second Monday of every month at the Casa Grande Municipal Airport. Members, non-members, potential volunteers and those who want to learn more are welcome at the meetings, Patterson said. PW

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Melissa St. Aude is the Arts & Entertainment editor at PinalCentral. She can be reached at mstaude@pinalcentral.com.

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