Celebrate the River

Celebrate the River

The Celebrate the Santa Cruz River Student Art Contest is an organic community event that utilizes children’s love of the river and their artistic expressions to further their entire family’s appreciation of the unique and very precious Santa Cruz River.

The Celebrate the River Student Art Contest began in 2011. This event is been hosted by Friends of the Santa Cruz River (FOSCR) and sponsored by Global Community Communications Alliance (GCCA) and The Hilltop Gallery in Nogales, AZ. Other participating organizations have included:

  • Global Change Multi-Media (setting up sound system for presentations)
  • Out-of-the-Way Galleria (collecting art)
  • Tumacácori National Historical Park (assisting with educational component)
  • Mexicayotl Academy, Nogales AZ (student participation)
  • Global Community Communications Schools (Tumacácori – student participation)
  • Rio Rico High School (student participation)
  • Patagonia Elementary School (student participation)
  • Montessori de Santa Cruz, Tubac, AZ (student participation)
  • San Xavier Mission School, South Tucson, AZ (student participation)

History of the Event:

FOSCR established the “Celebrate the River” picnic/art contest to more closely connect people with the Santa Cruz River, so they would become inspired by its beauty and motivated to protect its habitat.

In FOSCR’s early days, picnics brought people—especially local families—to the river to learn about our new group and to enjoy the river’s natural bounty together. The FOSCR Board decided to bring back the picnic idea but add an art contest, to encourage young people to seek inspiration within the riparian environment they often didn’t realize existed until we brought it to their attention.

Since initiating this event we have found that attendance (75&mnash;200 per year) has been boosted by families’ coming to celebrate not only the river, but also the recognition of their children’s artwork.

FOSCR Board member Blue Evening Star solicited many teachers and principals from area schools to participate. Her hard work paid off, as each year the number of schools and classes involved has increased.

The event was held at the Tubac Community Center in 2011 and 2012. Skits (complete with costumes and props), poems and songs became an integral part of the awards ceremony. Of course the highlight was always a beautiful display of student art about the river. During the picnic we also included guided river walks with 50–60 people checking out the river environment each time. Talks and entertainment were presented in both Spanish and English.

For the 2013 event, we moved to the Guy Tobin Trailhead in Rio Rico. We displayed the art in the nearby Santa Cruz County building offices. Starting in 2012, we brought presentations on the flora and fauna of the Santa Cruz River to classrooms.

We also offered to take students on river walks before the contest so they could see for themselves the fabulous environment they were being asked to interpret with their art. FOSCR has offered to pay for transportation expenses for these class field trips, as cost is often an obstacle to class travel.

Each year Blue Evening Star has planned the entertainment for the award ceremony, and FOSCR member Nanette Miranda (a paper maker and former President of the Hilltop Galley) has organized the art contest and has recruited local artists and gallery managers as judges. The winning pieces have also been displayed at the Hilltop Gallery for several weeks after the event. The prizes for the contest have been donated by the various partners who have been supporting the event, including:

  • Scholarships to the Tubac Center of the Arts Summer Youth Arts Program
  • Scholarships to the Hilltop Gallery Summer Youth Arts Program
  • Pass for tours of the Tumacácori National Historical Monument
  • Art supplies
  • Wal-Mart gift certificates
  • A basket of organic vegetables from Avalon Gardens
  • Hummingbird feeders and food
  • In 2013 FOSCR began awarding $40 to each of the three First prize winners (one from each age category)

Plans for the Future:

In order to allow for maximum participation, we decided, in 2014, to split the event into two events. We had the indoor art contest on May 19th and plan to hold the outdoor picnic in October, when the river and the weather are at their best for an outdoor picnic.

Our envisioned outcome is to continue to build a community of families in the Santa Cruz County region who will come to increasingly know and love the Santa Cruz River through participating in the Celebrate the River Student Art Contest.

Here are ways people can support this event with financial contributions or volunteer hours:

  • Design and print event flyers
  • Pay a small stipend to schools to transport students on buses to the river
  • Provide art supplies to students
  • Purchase prizes
  • Design and print award certificates
  • Provide snacks at event
  • Make a short video of skit, music, poetry and dance at the event

For more information or to help with the event, contact Blue Evening Star at (520) 403-2823 or [email protected].