‘Tis the Season…

Our Fall/Winter season has never been busier, with so much going on the past few weeks but not so much time to write the news!

Here’s an activities photo summary for now – click on image for captions…there’s more coming soon:

50 years…and counting

This has been possibly one of the busiest summers and new season we can recall!

For one, we are celebrating our 50TH YEAR of  Hilltop life — from conception to reality — due to the efforts of sone art-loving community members, Patrons of the Art, Inc. (below) in 1967.  Stay tuned for more news re our special events and celebrations this and next season!

From left: Sue Capin, Mrs. Jesse Ellen, Ed Starr(architect), Joan Wisdom, Walter and Mrs. Holm  (Nogales International, 1967)

Also, our special Summer Program sponsored by the Nogales Superintendent of Schools for several years now has never looked brighter!    Program leader, teacher Jennifer Morales and her more than 100 students outdid themselves for this year’s theme “Summer Magic”, featuring fairy tale interpretations, including fanciful constructions like this one, below:

Our outreach art classes at the Boys & Girls Club, lead by member/artists VIRGINIA VOVCHUK (below), NANETTE MIRANDA, and BERNIE MEDLEY were also a success, and we plan to continue classes there starting next month.

This month, we re-opened the refreshed Gallery from the season for one of our most popular artists, LUIS PRECIADO.  Luis’ prolific style perfectly captures the spirit of the Southwest and Mexico, like this evocative painting (below), and we are proud to have him with us through October 4


After that, Luis will be hanging his collection of car paintings at our new extension gallery at the Pima (formerly Cochise) College. The College has graciously invited us to continue the effort we launched in 2015 to feature an ongoing, rotating tribute to local artists on their walls.

We are also busy preparing for our annual MEMBERS SHOW, where all Hilltop members are invited to submit up to two works of art for a month-long exhibit starting October 10 (Reception is 10/15, 1-4).  Space is filling up fast, so don’t hesitate to submit your entries.  You can upload the entry form HERE. Or contact JANICE JOHNSON AT 520-287-5515.


“See you soon on the Hill!”

March Madness

We have had a very busy month, as spring has sprung and artists are blooming! 

First of all, Faith Posey‘s exhibit Mujeres de Mexico drew rave reviews. Faith (far left, upper photo) lived among the women at Isla de Las Mujeres, Chiapas, and captured their everyday working routine in compelling and compassionate detail.  This was a special collaboration with the Consulado General de Mexico as part of International Women’s Week.  This is a don’t-miss show through March 31.

This marks the second month of our Veterans Art Classes at the Nogales VFW Hall, with high enthusiasm and good publicity from the Nogales International – see below.  A special thanks to art teachers Bernie Medley and Devin Randolph for “discovering” hidden local artists!  All County-based Veterans and their immediate families are welcomed to these free sessions.  Reservations at 520-287-5515 requested as space is limited. This program is made possible by grants from the Santa Cruz Community Foundation and United Way/SCC

This past weekend we participated in the Open Studio Tour (left) sponsored by the Tubac Center for the Arts that drew thousands of art lovers to our region.  Four of our member artists participated by  creating on site and exhibiting their past work, now hanging in the Studio area at the Hilltop. 

This coming weekend (phew!) we head to the 6th Annual Nogales Bike Classic, a popular event that attracts thousands of visitors and locals for friendly competition and fun, all for a good cause (Circles of Peace that helps domestic violence-affected families) We will have a booth and a theme-relevant coloring project for kids  to earn free art class coupons.

Read our event publicity in the Nogales International  HERE and HERE

Artsy New Year!

A very happy 2017 to all of our members and friends! 

We had an excellent 2016 with several innovative shows, record attendance (the “Our Ladies” show in December took the cake – see photos above)  and generous donations from members and foundations.  We are very appreciative of these gifts, and planning for an even better year ahead.

Right now we’re jumping head-first into our first 2017 exhibit opening this weekend:  a solo show from local artist Cristina Villasenor.  The rest of the season we have planned more solo and group shows (February, April), along with special celebrations such as International Women’s Day and Open Studio Tour (in March), leading to our Prizes of May judged show:  always a sell-out event.  Be sure to check back here and in our Facebook page (link below) plus our monthly mailers and e-mails to learn more about our exhibits.

Our outreach to the community is also looking more active than ever, with classes planned for Veterans, Alzheimer patients and other disadvantaged groups, in addition to our regular program with the Boys & Girls Club and other kids’ groups.

As we move into summer we prepare for our popular ARTVENTUROUS partnership with more than 100 school kids taking over the Gallery…and then, much too soon, readying for Fall season once again!

We look forward to seeing you in 2017!

Mission accomplished

This past weekend we participated  in the Tumacacori Mission’s annual Fiesta, an Arizona State Parks-sponsored event with more than 50 vendors and around 4,000 visitors from all over the country and Canada!

Our large booth in the “Discovery Center” area of the multi-acre event was abuzz with “creativity”, as a constant flow of children (and their young-at-heart parents!) sat down to color images, make Holiday ornaments, sand wood cutting boards for gifts, as well as watch professional artists at work. 

We also had a limited number of handcrafted pieces  for sale and handed out coupons for several free art classes at the Hilltop on Saturdays.

A very special thanks to Board members Janice Johnson, Anne Jehle, Alex Jones, George Thomson and Curtis Kraushaar, plus members Virginia Vovchuk and others, for lending their valuable time and creativity in leading these activities. 

Art supplies, materials and related expenses were covered thanks to grants from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona and United Way.

We are fortunate to have such great support to be able to participate in this fun, popular event, and look forward to doing it again next year!

VOX KINO packs the Gallery

As part of our “Fall for Art!” campaign, this Sunday we had the pleasure of hosting the Santa Cruz’s Foundation for the Performing Arts’ (SCFPA) VOX KINO, a choral and instrumental group playing traditional and regional-relevant songs.

It was standing-room-only in the main gallery, and everyone enjoyed tea and some Mexican sweets afterward.   Board members Janice Johnson and Anne Jehle even dressed in traditional Mexican style for the event!


This program was made possible by the Voices & Visions Festival hosted by Cochise College, via a grant from Arizona Humanities.

To listen to an excerpt from VOX KINO’s “Kyrie”, click on video image below:

Scholarships for art students

On Thursday, Cochise College art students Juan Gonzales and Karina Sierra-Velasquez  received checks for $750 each from Hilltop president Derwent Suthers to help fund their art educations (last photo above)

The two recipients were selected among more than a dozen art students by Cochise Art Department head Tonya Borgeson (far left on last photo) for enthusiasm and excellence in their art studies. “We’re very excited to be able to offer these two dedicated students a way for them to continue to pursue their art education.” she noted.

Only 40% of local schools today offer arts education. The Hilltop is proud to be able to support students in our County who are committed to building their art careers.

Hilltop members Virginia Vovchuk, Pam Wedemeyer and George Thomson are also currently exhibiting at Cochise, what we now call the “Hilltop extension gallery”. 

We are very grateful to the College and for member donations, plus grants that make this collaboration possible.


Emerging Arts Festival a success

(updated 11/7)

The Hilltop teamed up with the Little Gallery (also known as the 639 Grand Gallery) at the Quality Hotel Americana in Nogales (photo above left and bottom right) to help bring the first Emerging Arts Festival to our community.

This Festival — themed Visiones Nuevas, or New Visions — on November 5 is the brainchild of local artist and instructor Nanette Miranda (photo above, left) who wants to encourage up-and-coming artists to show and sell their work.  With more than 18 artists signed up and showing their ware inside the little gallery and spilling outside, the event was deemed a success for it’s first year.

“I have seen some amazing art in our community,” says Nanette, a long-time Hilltop member who opened her own gallery last year, “However, many of these young artists are shy about showing and selling their work, or have the right venue in which to do so.  We wanted to create a supportive and friendly environment to welcome them into the art world.”  She added that she plans to expand the event next year.

The Festival  had a fair-style set up with tables where artists can display their work. 

Displaying artists could also select up to two works from their display to show at the Hilltop Gallery during November, thereby expanding their visibility.  Cash prizes will be awarded to the top artworks selected by members of the Gallery Board of Directors on November 13.

Talented Members

Our 45th Annual Members’ Show launched this Sunday, with over 35 pieces from members far and wide.  This show is always popular as it introduces new members to our collections as well as allow existing and long-time supporters (plus fellow artists) to learn “what’s new” from each other.

Janice Johnson, who curated and hung this show, noted:  “We were excited to see many last-minute entries by young artists who have never exhibited anywhere before.  We encourage these and will work very hard to promote our new talent.”

On that note, stay tuned for our November events that feature more emerging artists and a special multi-cultural collaboration with local Cochise College and Quality Inn Americana

Why arts education is our priority

“Art does not solve problems, but makes us aware of their existence”

” …Arts education, on the other hand, does solve problems. Years of research show that it’s closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.

Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork. A 2005 report by the Rand Corporation about the visual arts argues that the intrinsic pleasures and stimulation of the art experience do more than sweeten an individual’s life — according to the report, they “can connect people more deeply to the world and open them to new ways of seeing,” creating the foundation to forge social bonds and community cohesion.”

(above excerpted from http://www.edutopia.org )

The selection above underscore our commitment to furthering arts education in an under-served community where stringent cutbacks means only 40% of schools have arts programs.  Outside schools, there are scant, if any, resources to develop artistic talent.

That’s why at a recent Board of Directors retreat, we decided to enhance our commitment to arts education centered around three key areas:

  1. Offsite outreach:  The strategy of “fishing where the fish are” reinforced the importance of taking our programs where folks go after school, work or on weekends (such as social clubs, festivals, fairs, etc.).  This addresses the issue (or excuse) of accessibility: the rationale many use for not participating.  Hanging our artists’ work offsite such as at Cochise College also reinforces our effort, as does our new scholarship program for their top art students.  Of course, we will continue to hold our on-site classes weekly.  (Check out our Facebook announcement on right sidebar.)
  2. Community partnerships:  Our partnerships with local schools and community clubs showed us that the sum is indeed greater than the parts.  This year, we are extending our outreach to senior and mental-health agencies who have sought these programs, sharing budgets for greater impact.
  3. Pro instructors:  We have built a small team of commercial artists, plus former and current arts instructors who are paid a stipend for teaching art classes.  This incentivizes teachers to “bring their best”, raising the bar for our programs.  In a community where volunteers are a challenge to find and retain, unemployment is high while pay rates are low, this strategy works for all.

This initiative would not be possible without donors such as the Arizona Commission on the Arts, which receives support from the State of Arizona and the National Endowment for the Arts.  The Santa Cruz Community and Shipley Family Foundations are also supporters we count on to expand this effort.

The Nogales Superintendent of Schools, Alfredo Velazquez, also deserves a special shout-out for his commitment to continued funding for our Summer kids ARTVENTURE program  that has more than 100 student signed up.

Mr. Velazquez is not alone in his philosophy about arts education. Check out this news brief from Phoenix:

“Tom Horne, the state superintendent of public instruction, made it his goal to provide high-quality, comprehensive arts education to all K-12 students. Horne, a classically trained pianist and founder of the Phoenix Baroque Ensemble, hasn’t yet achieved his objective, but he has made progress: He pushed through higher standards for arts education, appointed an arts specialist in the state Department of Education, and steered $4 million in federal funds under NCLB to support arts integration in schools throughout the state. Some have restored art and music after a decade without them.

“When you think about the purposes of education, there are three,” Horne says. “We’re preparing kids for jobs. We’re preparing them to be citizens. And we’re teaching them to be human beings who can enjoy the deeper forms of beauty. The third is as important as the other two.”

Even with the level of support from our foundations and school administrators, we could not do it without our valuable members and local residents!

We invite you to join with us in this important initiative by donating to our Educational Fund (ARTBRIDGE – click on right sidebar logo image) or by calling us at 520-287-5515 to share your ideas.