'Mud Pies'

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Sedona is known as an artist's community. Prescott, Jerome, Cottonwood and even Pine are gaining quickly reputations as artists communities.

What about Payson?

"All the ingredients are here for us to develop that reputation, local potter and clay artisan Barb Bourscheidt said. "We just have to get them all in the same bowl.

"This has been a place where artists have come to hide out, to avoid the limelight of the galleries in places like Sedona," she observed. "A lot of artists live in this area, who are scattered in the hills, but who stay fairly anonymous around here, and don't show their work locally probably because we haven't established a good art market here yet."

The key word in that last sentence is "yet." There is an ongoing drive to add Payson's name to the list which opened this story and with events like this weekend's Payson Art League Autumn 2001 Show and Sale, results shouldn't be too far off.

This year's edition will feature some 35 well-known local and nationally-acclaimed artists including Rock Newcombe, Ruth Overton, C.D. Bond, Patricia Allebrand, Don Harmon, Donn Morris and Payson Vice Mayor Dick Wolfe.

Put them all together and you have a mixed-media extravaganza comprised of Western, contemporary and traditional fine art in oils and watercolor; works in bronze, wood and ceramic sculpture; functional and decorative pottery; and handcrafted silver and gold jewelry.

Portrait of the artist

You'll also have an opportunity to meet some of those elusive local artists-in-hiding that Barb Bourscheidt mentioned ... starting with Bourscheidt herself.

A Cleveland native who grew up in the Valley, Bourscheidt has "dabbled" in clay since her days at Washington High School in Phoenix.

"I signed up for an art class, thinking I was just going to go in there and draw and paint and go home, like playtime," she said. "But once I started hand-building with clay ... I just really got into it. I suddenly remembered how much fun it was making mud pies as a kid."

Bourscheidt did not seriously begin pursuing the art, however, until she was married, had a baby, and "really needed something creative to do with myself." That's when she signed up for an adult-education art class and started making those mud pies again.

"I don't know what happened," she said. "I couldn't think about anything else. I just wanted to play with clay after that.

"I think it was the flexibility of it. I could transcend that material from a block of firm mud into anything I wanted something that was beautifully decorative, something that was functional, and something that was a permanent object that I could then use in my life.

"It connected me with this is real esoteric, but here goes mankind," Bourscheidt said. "Even though I really didn't understand what that meant, I knew that clay was something that was timeless, and that had incredible history. I mean, the Chinese were producing work out of clay in 3500 B.C. Man, that's amazing!

"That's been what has driven me all these years along with just trying to master the medium."

On with the show

The Payson Art League Autumn 2001 Show and Sale is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3 and 4, in the Tonto-Apache Reservation Activity Center on Highway 87 at the south end of Payson. Admission is free. Complimentary light hors d'oeuvres will be offered by IT Catering of Payson, while beverages, light lunches and sweets will be available for purchase at the "Art Cafe."

During the course of the event, several featured artists will demonstrate their skills, field questions, offer tips, and discuss the passion behind their chosen form of creative expression. Additionally, an "Artist's Alley" will feature the work of three new Art League members; a "Kidzart Corner" will be stocked with art supplies for budding young artists to enjoy as their parents browse; and more than 25 high-quality works of art will be raffled off at 3 p.m. Sunday, with the proceeds earmarked to support community school art programs.

The public is also invited to an artists' reception on Friday, Nov. 2, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the same location. Attendees will be treated to refreshments, the music of pianist Brian Rogers, and first pick of the artists' work. Admission is $5 per person, and tickets will be available at the door.

The reception has been planned earlier than normal this year to accommodate Tonto Community Concert Association, which Friday evening will present a performance by pianist Richard Glazier at the Payson High School auditorium.

"Many concert goers are also on the Art League's mailing lists, and many of the artists are concert-ticket holders," Bourscheidt explains, "so we're just billing the whole evening as 'An Evening at the Arts.'"

Only in a true artist's community could audiences be offered a package deal like that.

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