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CLEAN THE AIR. Dangling a cardboard, evergreen-scented cut-out from your rear-view mirror won't cut it. You gotta get outta that car!

If you're sick of paying high gas prices or can't afford it or just feel it's your patriotic duty to stop boosting the profits of Dubya's family oil business, leave the keys at home and bike, skate, run or ride to a bevy of activities for Clean Air Fiesta.

Oh, and it's good for the environment, too.

The kick-off takes place on Friday, March 21, from 7:30 to 8:30 a.m., at El Presidio Park (Alameda Street and Church Avenue behind the old county courthouse). Listen to good music, grab a bite to eat and hear some facts about how nearly 70 percent of Tucson's air pollution is created by motor vehicles. You'll feel good knowing you took a bus, carpooled, walked, ran or biked there.

Other activities include a basics-of-bicycling class for kids and adults of all ages on Saturday, March 22, from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at Himmel Park, (First Street between Tucson Boulevard and Treat Street). Lunchtime walking hours take place on Monday and Wednesday, March 24 and 26, at noon. Grab your sneakers and meet at the Main Library (Stone Avenue and Pennington Street) or haul your co-workers out of their cubicle for a 45-minute walk around the business park. Give your car a siesta with a telecommute day on Tuesday, March 25. Just one day a week of working at home eliminates a lot of deadly particulates.

For details about alternate work scheduling and all the events taking place from Friday, March 21, through Sunday, March 30, call Pima County Environmental Quality at 740-3947.

SPRING HAS SPRUNG. Birds are chirping cacophonously. The ocotillo are just about ready to burst forth their orange crowns. Yellow is as present as it can be here in the desert.

Saguaro National Park celebrates these rites of spring at the Rincon Mountain District Visitor Center on Tucson's eastside and hosts the final two days of activities known as Desert Springfest on Thursday and Friday, March 20 and 21.

A slide show of the park's bird life kicks off each day at 10 a.m. Take the self-guided bird search quiz and see how much you know about all their busy nest-building activity. (Righto--it's that time of the year.) At 11 a.m., slither into the park's Cactus Garden for a look at the secret spring happenings of reptiles and mammals. At 2 p.m., perambulate with a park docent to identify this year's crop of colorful wildflowers.

There's no pre-registration--just show up for the sensory smorgasbord. The park's visitor center is located at 3693 S. Old Spanish Trail Road. The programs are free except for the wildflower walk--the usual entrance fee is charged. Call 733-5153 for details.

IN AND OUT OF THE MAINSTREAM. Jazz pianist Kenny Barron started out as a conventional pianist. But then he developed his highly original post-bop jazz style. He crafted it so well that more and more, his compositions have achieved the status of jazz standards.

Barron was born in 1943 in Philadelphia, the younger brother to tenor saxophonist Bill Barron. His professional career started when he was just a teen. Before he was 20, he moved to New York to work with James Moody and later Dizzy Gillespie and began touring the States and Europe. When he hit 40, he co-led the group Sphere with Charlie Rouse on sax, Buster Williams on bass and Ben Riley on the drums. It wasn't too long before he established his own trio and quintet.

Barron brings his new performance, Canta Brasil, to Tucson on Saturday, March 22, at 8 p.m. You'll be mesmerized with his elegant playing, soulful melodies and a lyricism unmatched on the piano--so says Jazz Weekly. Barron teams up for the evening of Brazilian rhythms with Trio da Paz--musicians he first met in 1999 at a New York City music spot who have since joined him in performing original Latin-inspired compositions.

UApresents plays host at Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. Tickets cost $12 to $34 with discounts for students. Janice Jarrett, a local jazz musician, hosts a free Arts Encounter at 7:15 p.m. in the lobby of the Arizona State Museum across the street.

Call the box office for tickets or details at 621-3341.

SQUINT OF THE EYE. Where would you need to go to feel the cumulative effects of the corporeal and the optical manifested?

Inflections of Illusion is an art exhibit that promises to be a central gathering place for this meeting. Four artists are featured--three offer works on paper and one shows mixed-media photographs. They all reveal a progression from the illusory qualities of the natural world to an "interior" imagery. Invention, imagination, fact and fiction. It's all here.

John Folsom is fascinated with how landscapes are constructed for commercial backdrops. In his photography, he takes stock images of terrain and sky and digitizes them to get the most perfect vision of what's considered "familiar." Then he lets the process show itself and enhances it with paint and wax.

Cycles of birth, decay and regeneration are themes for Jim Waid's paintings. Also interested in revealing the creative process in the work, he says, "I want the paintings to look as if they're happening in front of your eyes."

Alice Briggs' work begs the viewer to consider the gap between the image and reality. She clusters images created by artists in previous centuries with drawings she's made of spaces she's passed through and collages them together with clippings from papers and magazines. Briggs' imagery conjures the confusion.

Chris Rush also works in a conglomeration style, forcing the ephemera gathered on the streets of Tucson and flea markets of Europe to intermingle. The result is an amalgam of old letters, diaries, 18th-century documents and children's artwork. Seeing becomes questioning.

Meet the artists at a reception held on Saturday, March 22, from 7 to 10 p.m. at Etherton Gallery Downtown, located at 135 S. Sixth Ave. Regular gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. or until 7 p.m. on Thursdays. The show stays up through May 31.

For more information, call 624-7370.

SHOP 'TIL YOU DROP. If you're native to Tucson, you probably remember Steinfeld's. The department store was one of the pillars of downtown shopping for decades ending in the '70s when the notion of "anchor" stores and food courts invaded to the east (El Con Mall), the north (Tucson Mall) and the northwest (Foothills Mall).

For those of us nostalgic for something we never knew, or for those who actually shopped there, Bettina Lyons can take us down memory lane for a couple of hours on Sunday, March 23, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Lyons is the granddaughter of Albert Steinfeld, original owner of Albert Steinfeld and Co. For 130 years, this pioneer of mercantile activity was managed by the same family, passed down from generation to generation. The firm was born not in Tucson, but in Santa Fe, opening its doors to the public in 1854--pre-railroad, mind you. It survived the Civil War and opened a branch store in Tucson.

Steinfeld's held out against Apache raids, two World Wars, the Great Depression and the tragic Pioneer Hotel fire in 1970. But it couldn't stand up to the demands of Tucson's sprawl.

Lyons recounts the colorful saga of her family's business at the Jewish Historical Society's annual History Luncheon, co-sponsored by the Historic Stone Avenue Temple. It takes place at Westin La Paloma Resort, located at Sunrise Drive east of Campbell Avenue--a part of the desert Albert Steinfeld would have been downright fearful of venturing out to in his day.

Tickets cost $30 per person for lunch and the presentation. For reservations call 670-9073.

CENSOR THIS. When the International Folk Museum in Santa Fe included Alma Lopez' Our Lady in a show there, they didn't expect it to be the target of censorship.

It was 2001, for Pete's sake.

The aesthetics on the chopping block was Lopez' digital print interpreting the Virgin de Guadalupe. Guess that was just a little too personal in the faith department to be tinkered with--even by a Chicana artist from Los Angeles.

Come hear what they decided to do with her work. Lopez appears for the second of a three-lecture series by visiting artists talking about race, gender, sexuality and identity. It's co-sponsored by a consort of folks: the Committee on LGBT Studies and the UA School of Art as well as UA's Department of Women's Studies, Pima College, Gordley Designs and others.

The talk starts at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, March 26, in the Architecture Building, room 103, located in the fine arts complex just south of Speedway Boulevard and Park Avenue. It's free. For details, call 621-1239.

CONTAGIOUS SPIRIT. OK, I lifted those words from a press release, but it seems appropriate in describing what happens to audience members who witness the newest work by Urban Bush Women.

The performance is Shadow's Child and it's a collaboration between the National Song and Dance Company of Mozambique and the U.S.-based ensemble. Together, they dance a fable about a young African girl whose family moves to the rural southeastern United States. The story of her conflicts and eventual comfort are played out with masks and puppets as well as song and dance.

UBW was founded by Jawole Zollar in 1984 and has since become the pioneer company connecting communities with its creative synergy, fierce and feminine style and artistic virtuosity. The ensemble of artists has as its mission a desire to mine African-American culture in all its social complexity as a catalyst for social change. In any of their performances, you'll witness a weaving of contemporary idioms with the folklore and spiritual traditions to celebrate the struggle and transformation of the human spirit.

Shadow's Child plays on Thursday, March 27, at 7:30 p.m. at Centennial Hall, 1020 E. University Blvd. Tickets cost $10 to $28. There's a free Arts Encounter with Barbea Williams of the local Barbea Williams Dance Company at 6:45 p.m. in the lobby of the Arizona State Museum across the street.

For tickets or details, call 621-3341.

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