Hidden in the Hills returns with social distancing in order

BY Sue Kern-Fleischer

Arizona’s largest and longest-running artist studio tour, Hidden in the Hills, returns for a 24th consecutive year during the last two weekends of November—Friday, November 20, Saturday, November 21, and Sunday, November 22, and Friday, November 27, Saturday, November 28, and Saturday, November 29.

Coordinated by the nonprofit Sonoran Arts League, this year’s free, self-guided tour features 140 artists at 35 socially distanced, private studios throughout the scenic Desert Foothills communities of Cave Creek, Carefree and North Scottsdale.

While this year’s tour may seem a bit different, with masks and sanitizer, guests will still enjoy the unique experience of meeting diverse artists, watching demonstrations, and learning the inspiration behind each artist’s work.

“We’re excited to move forward with the League’s signature event, especially at a time when art can bring so much joy to the world,” says Jane Boggs, a gourd artist and studio host who serves as the event’s co-chairwoman.

Bronze artist Jason Napier

and ‘Weedeater’

A staple of Hidden in the Hills has been the four-color, glossy artist directory, which includes a comprehensive listing of participating artists with an image of their art; a large, easy-to-read map of the studios; and visual highlights from participating artists and community art partners. This year’s artist directory cover art features a whimsical jackrabbit, “Weedeater,” by Scottsdale artist Jason Napier.

Hidden in the Hills co-chairwoman and mixed-media sculptor/studio host Joanie Wolter says Napier has a distinctive style that exudes motion and expresses the playful spirit of every subject.

“We had many wonderful entries, but ‘Weedeater’ won our hearts for this year’s cover art,” Wolter says. “Jason is masterful with his form, and he brings each piece to life with rich and colorful patina finishes.”

Napier’s successful career has spanned nearly three decades. A self-taught artist, he is best known for his fanciful, larger-than-life and table-top sculptures of wildlife.

This is Napier’s first year participating in Hidden in the Hills. As a guest artist at Mark Lewanski’s Glass Studio No. 12 in Scottsdale, he will unveil several new pieces during the studio tour, including “Ascension”—a sculpture that depicts the Phoenix, a mythical bird with fiery plumage that lives up to 100 years. His inspiration for the piece came from a close client who is a retired veteran facing daily challenges of living with lifelong injuries and pain.

Lauri Koo adds fantasy

to her paintings

Like Napier, Lauri Koo is also participating in Hidden in the Hills for the first time, and her work also captures the beauty of nature. However, she creates her uplifting art with colorful acrylic paint.

In some ways, Koo’s mystical paintings mirror her life, with many different twists and turns painted in the form of paths, trails, tunnels and portals through peaceful forests, serene desert landscapes and soothing beach scenes.

A Chandler resident, Koo grew up in the Midwest, and while she was artistic as a child, she found herself pursuing different careers over decades. She had a high-pressure sales career in telecommunications in Miami until she was forced to slow down after several motor vehicle accidents. The discovery of energy healing and bodywork had a profound impact on how she began to see the world. By that time, she had moved to Arizona and became a licensed massage therapist in Mesa, where she had her own practice. She also held a teaching position with a national education franchise in Scottsdale.

It wasn’t until 2017 that she rediscovered her love for painting and photography. This time, she devoted her full energy to her art.

“I am deeply inspired by nature and the healing ability it carries in my soul. I like to get lost in nature’s spirit, and I have a passion for sharing that beauty and how it captures my mood and expression,” Koo says.

Affectionately known as “The Fairy” by her family and friends, Koo’s paintings and photography draw viewers into a soft, calm world full of beautiful flowers, trees, animals and other natural scenes.

“I enjoy creating depth perception in my work, and many of my paintings have a sense of ‘going somewhere.’ My paintings are both realistic and impressionistic. I have my foot in both worlds,” she says. “I often add a flair of fantasy to my work, especially if it offers a temporary escape from today’s precarious times.”

During Hidden in the Hills, Koo will exhibit her work at Robin’s Nest Studio No. 26 in Cave Creek.

“I’m so grateful for the support I have received from the Sonoran Arts League and others in the arts community,” she says. “My work has evolved so much in three years, thanks to the encouragement of so many artist friends. I’m so excited to see and meet new people at the event and share my passion with others.”

For details, visit hiddeninthehills.org