Trail Of Art Tour Leads To Christopher Creek

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The annual 'Neath the Rim Open Art Studio Tour will take participants up the Rim to Christopher Creek this year, with invitations to the home work spaces of Jim Hagen and Marilyn Salomon.

The two are among the 35 artists participating in the Payson Art League's studio tour April 29, 30 and May 1. The northern reach of this year's tour is East Verde Estates, while the southern boundary is Upper Round Valley.

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Jim Hagen of Christopher Creek is one of the featured artists in the Payson Art League's 'Neath the Rim Studio Tour April 29, 30 and May 1. The tour is self-guided (a map accompanies the article) and tickets are available at the chamber of commerce and library, and from the artists.

Jim Hagen has been part of the Rim country since 1938, when he came here for a Boy Scout camp.

"I came here every chance I could (after that)," Hagen said. Then in 1960 he built a cabin on Forest Service lease land in Christopher Creek. Later he and his wife, Marlene, were able to buy the property, plus a lot across the street from the cabin. Eventually the couple built a full-time home on the lot, but they have held on to the cabin.

"I'll never let that go, I built it with my own two hands," Hagen said.

At 78, the artist came to Arizona from Illinois when he was only 2. He attended Emerson Elementary School in Phoenix and North Phoenix High School.

He worked as a engineering manager and program manager for defense contractors and developed the self-protection system for Air Force One and the aircraft of other heads of state, such as the Queen of England and the King of Jordan. The system was also used on the helicopters in the first Gulf War, he said.

Hagen didn't start painting until 1980, though he had always had an interest in arts.

"We were visiting some neighbors and their children were playing with watercolors," he said. "I picked up a brush and liked it."

His wife then bought him an easel and oils at a yard sale.

But it wasn't until one rainy weekend at their home in Riverside, Calif., while his wife was away, that Hagen tried his hand again. It was a three-day weekend and he painted a picture of a lab puppy.

A friend of his, wildlife artist, Gary Swanson, saw Hagen's work and encouraged him to put together five or six more pieces and enter a show at the Phippen Museum in Prescott.

"He said he'd help me. Gary was my mentor and I spent a week with him in his studio. And he taught me quite a lot."

In 1981, with six paintings, Hagen entered the noted exhibition. "I sold all of them and came away with several thousand dollars in my pocket. But the next year I didn't sell anything."

Among those first show paintings was one Hagen called "Cowboys," which was purchased by a museum in Klamath Falls, Ore. for its permanent collection. He gave another of his pieces, "Comin' Home," to the King of Jordan when the company delivered his specially built plane with the self-protection system. He said the king sent him a very nice "thank you" letter and he now includes it with prints of the painting when they sell.

After getting off to such a stellar start in the art world, Hagen stopped painting for about 10 years, and didn't start again until around 2000.

He is currently working on a six-part series of paintings of Horton Creek. Four are currently in-progress and two more are being planned.

During the upcoming PAL Open Studio Tour, Hagen will have the works in progress available for visitors to see, plus he has a small gallery featuring current works and some prints. Among the prints are his specialty, Gambel's Quail.

"Prints are available that I have put on Masonite, lacquered and framed," Hagen said.

Visitors will also have a chance to see a new venture -- stained glass stepping stones.

To see more of Hagen's work, visit his website at www.westernfineart.net.

The PAL Open Art Studio Tour is from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, April 29; and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, April 30 and Sunday, May 1. It is a self-guided tour, guests may visit studios in any order they wish. At each of the studios work donated by the artists for a raffle will be displayed. The money raised by the raffle will help PAL continue its efforts to support art in the schools of the Rim country. It buys art materials and sends artists into the classroom to work directly with students.

The raffle drawing will be Sunday and winners will be notified immediately to pick up their prize or have it shipped if they are out of town.

Tickets for the tour are free and available at the Payson Public Library and the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce. Tickets will also be available at the participating studios.

The artists taking part in the tour are:

Patricia Allebrand, No. 23

Brenda Baker, No. 21

Claudette Barker, No. 17

Robert Barela, No. 24

Dan Basinski, No. 3

Barbara Bourscheidt, No. 14

John Finkey, No. 15

Jim Garrity, No. 9

Peggy Gould, No. 12

Wendy Grove, No. 12

Jim Hagen, No. 1

Don Harmon, No. 6

Delores Hartless, No. 10

Bernadette Heath, No. 4

Annelle Henson, No. 7

Jan Hodson, No. 15

M. Sue Jones, No. 19

Jay Kemp, No. 11

Donn Morris, No. 22

Linda Nannizzi, No. 3

Rock Newcomb, No. 18

CM Okerwall, No. 20

Hollis Osborne, No. 16

Ruth Overton, No. 21

Bob Roark, No. 13

Glenda Roark, No. 13

Donna Rokoff, No. 5

Mike Rokoff, No. 5

Marilyn Salomon, No. 2

Georgianne Smolenski, No. 14

Jim Strong, No. 24

Carol and Alan Snyder, No. 23

Dick Wolfe, No. 22

Pia Wyer, No. 8

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