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Marge White Pellegrino

Marge White Pellegrino is originally from Westchester, N.Y., and came to Tucson in 1979. Pellegrino is an author, teacher and a mentor who leads writing workshops for people of all ages. She still finds time to be the project manager at the Hopi Foundation's Owl and Panther Project, where she has been working since 1999.

The Hopi Foundation's Owl and Panther project was created in 1995 when refugee parents grew concerned for their children and asked organizers to create something to give special support to their children. It became an expressive arts project designed to help refugee families who relocated to Tucson.

The Tucson Museum of Art and The Owl and Panther Project partnered together to create an exhibit called Sanctuary: Giving Voice to Tucson's Refugees, where you can see the art work of children and families who participated in the Owl and Panther project over the last year.

Viewing of this exhibit starts on July 3. On July 19, the grand opening of the exhibit takes place at 6 p.m. Prices for tickets are $10 for general admission, $8 for seniors, and free for people 18 and younger. For more information on the Owl and Panther Project and the exhibit, check out the website at www.owlandpanther.org.

What made you get involved with the Owl and Panther Project?

That is a great question. I went to interview the people that ran the program. When I found out what they were doing, I volunteered to do a writing workshop for them and it just blossomed from there. I went for that interview and never left.

Where did the idea of putting together the art exhibit with the Owl and Panther Project come from?

Marianna Pegno and Morgan Wells, from the education department of the Tucson Museum of Art. They brought that idea to me; we have been supported by The Tucson Pima Art Council P.L.A.C.E. grant to do some of the work.

Do you notice any kind of change in people who participate in the Owl and Panther Project?

We do see changes in people over the course of time and it is so encouraging to know that there is this resilience; art offers people a chance to really develop that resilience.

What made you want to get involved with this exhibit?

We were looking for expressive arts opportunities and visual arts is such a perfect way for our clients to express themselves and heal, so I was very excited when they (the Tucson Museum of Art's education department) approached us to work with us.

What kind art will we see at the exhibit?

You will see oil paintings, paper mache, mythical creatures, watercolors, clay and photographs. There is also going to be these 5-inch squares that we did with the Tohono O'odham community and the Hopi. So our art, and the Tohono O'odham and Hopi art is going to be hung together. We did a cultural collaboration. We went out there, shared culture with the oldest inhabitants of this land with the newest inhabitants. It was just this wonderful collaboration. So there will be art that celebrates that as well. There's also a group of paintings that will tell the story, the Cherokee creation story, of where we got our name The Owl and Panther. So there's going to be a variety of work.

What do you hope the Tucson community learns from this exhibit?

That the Tucson community becomes more aware of the rich heritage of their newest arrivals, these refugees who are just coming into our city now. They've got these rich cultures and I think that they will get a taste of that by seeing their art.

Will the ticket profits go back to Owl and Panther Project?

This benefits the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block who has made this incredible three years of programing happen. We could not have done this without them. They devoted two people's salaries and paid for the snacks that we give the children and all the supplies. That is really big.

More by Noelle Haro-Gomez

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