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The Empowering Properties of Art

Leila Lopez learned the power of music at an early age. She started playing guitar at age 8, when her dad went down to Nogales, Mexico, and bought Lopez her very own little guitar.

"He got me my own guitar because I wouldn't stop messing with his; I guess he was afraid I might break it," said Lopez, who has spent her whole life living in downtown Tucson. "They still sell little guitars like that in Mexico, but I guess they're more like toys now; this was more of an actual instrument."

Lopez's dad taught her to play the first part of "La Bamba. " He told her to practice what he showed her, and promised to teach her the rest the next day. Later that night, she got bored with the first part of the song and taught herself the rest, she said.

"I didn't realize people could do that, play by ear like that," Lopez said.

Lopez, 25, said she has come to realize that music and art can be very empowering.

"When I first started playing music, I didn't think of it as empowering, but as you keep playing over the years, you realize it's a huge, empowering feeling. It makes you feel powerful in other ways; it helped me to be super solid in who I am."

Which is why she's perfect to be one of the local female musicians performing in a benefit concert for The Haven (thehaventucson.org), a residential substance-abuse treatment program for women and their kids. The Haven's mission is to provide services to women with substance-abuse problems, including their kids in the recovery process.

The show that Lopez will be playing in will raise money to start a series of art classes for The Haven's moms and kids.

"We have many classes, but we wanted to include art into recovery," said Robin Fatovich, internal services director for The Haven.

Lopez grew up playing other instruments as well; in high school, she picked up the cello and drums. But she says that the acoustic guitar is the primary instrument she uses to put together songs such as the Spanish-guitar-laden "Tonight" and the breezy, folk-infused "The Sea and the Mountainside."

Last week, she was taking a break from making music and was trying something new that she said also makes her feel powerful: surfing.

"Out there, getting pummeled in the water, it's a consistent way to face getting over your fears," Lopez said. "You're just like, 'I'm going to do it,' and it's just totally scary, and it's really fun."

She said she feels brave out in the ocean on her surfboard she bought last summer, and that surfing is a bit different from skateboarding, which she's been doing for 10 years.

"It's the funnest time I've ever had getting beaten up--I never thought it could be so much fun," Lopez said, although she was kind of bummed to hear she missed out on the first monsoons of the season while she was busy escaping the heat on her surfboard in San Diego.

Also in the benefit show will be Namoli Brennet, another local folk musician, and new talent Kaia Chesney, as well as other local female artists.

"I've played for The Haven a couple of times," Brennet said. "Something I like about what they're doing is it seems like the women there are trying so, so hard to get themselves together, and I myself tend to complain about things that are going on in my life, which turn out to be not so bad."

"She Objects! II: Women Who Make Music," a benefit concert supporting The Haven, will start at the Conrad Wilde Gallery at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, July 21. The concert is in conjunction with the gallery's new exhibit, She Objects! II: Women Who Make Objects. The Gallery is located at 210 N. Fourth Ave. Admission to the concert is $10, or $7 with a donation of art supplies, which could be a box of crayons, a pad of paper, some paints or a package of pencils, Fatovich said. For more information, contact the Conrad Wilde Gallery at 622-8997.

Fatovich said art and music go hand in hand when it comes to helping women with addiction recover.

"The whole reason that we thought to do this was to take women who make objects and integrate that with women who make music. We wanted to inspire women with the music," said Fatovich.

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