Story by  Julie Szekely 
Citizen Features Editor
Sept. 16, 1999

Make a face

A workshop this weekend will teach life casting - the art of creating a mask  with gauze and plaster.
Family," a casting by artist Marilyn Draving of the hands of two women friends and their children, is included in the "Please Touch" exhibit at Tohono Chul Park. 

How do you teach art to the blind?

        Marilyn Draving was faced with that question while an art student at the University of Arizona in 1987. To answer it, Draving began teaching visually impaired students at Arizona Schools for the Deaf and the Blind. Saturday she will teach others one of the techniques she and her students frequently use - life casting. In life casting, a person's face is cast in plaster. The resulting cast then can be explored with the fingers of those who are visually impaired.  After a plaster-soaked gauze mold is made of the person's face, the dry mold  is filled with plaster. The gauze is then peeled off, leaving the finished work.

      During the 11 years Draving has been teaching at ASDB, her students have  created life casts of such local celebrities as radio personality Betsy Bruce, U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe, former Mayor Tom Volgy, Navajo code talker Carl Gorman, and former Phoenix Sun Connie Hawkins. Those and other faces (and Hawkins' arms) are on display at the Berger Performing Arts Center at ASDB.  Draving also has worked with Very Special Arts in Tucson and Nogales, creating life masks for "hundreds and hundreds of children." The masks, which the children decorate with paint, glitter, feathers and ribbons, can be used as wall hangings or worn.  "It gives them a special pride to have their own face done rather than a  manufactured mask," said Draving. "It allows them to be creative and express some of their personality in their masks."

     Draving, who also works as a legal assistant for Pima County Legal Aid,  continues to teach once a week at ASDB. "I love the kids there," she said.Draving hopes teams of people, such as mothers and daughters, will attend Saturday's casting workshop at Tohono Chul.   "They'll work together," she explained. "It's a nice process, because there are very few times that we get to touch each other." Draving has two children, 14 and 16. "They've been doing this with me since  they were little," she said.  The workshop is open to adults and to children 6 and older working with  adults.