Most of us are familiar with the AZ Art Alliance’s Veterans’ Outreach Program “The Art of Healing”, which offers free fine art instruction and art supplies to veterans at numerous Valley locations. It was through the vision of John Fontana that the program was begun in 2013. But you may not know that it is this month’s Volunteer Hall of Honor inductee, Rita Goldner, who organized the curriculum, volunteer instructors, art supplies and logistics for the very first program. Further, Rita continues to this day to coordinate and teach in the monthly Veterans’ Program in Tempe that is supported by Scottsdale Artists League.
Rita Goldner received a Bachelor of Arts degree with a concentration in Art Education from Rhode Island College. She joined the Navy after college and traveled around the world, absorbing a wealth of artistic inspiration. For over twenty years, Rita utilized her artistic talents in her own costume business, where she designed and crafted large foam promotional costumes for fast-food franchises. A visit to Rita’s house was fascinating, as one never knew what interesting sights would be seen: a giant hot dog or, perhaps, an ice cream sundae costume.
At the same time, Rita was, and remains, an active member of the Scottsdale Artists League. She, at one time, regularly organized plein-air painting excursions. Rita would load a bunch of fellow SAL members into her van and drive out to some desert location. With Rita at the wheel, it was always an adventure! Rita has served in many capacities in the Scottsdale Artists League and is currently the group’s AZ Art Alliance Representative.
Rita has enjoyed working in a variety of media over the years, most notably in gouache. Her subject matter, in addition to her plein-air work, has included pet portraits and wildlife.
More recently, Rita has branched out in her artistic endeavors and, since retiring from her costume business, is now an author and illustrator of children’s picture books. She experiments with a variety of media while designing a character, and for the final version, paints digitally. Rita is currently a member of several art leagues, and is a published member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Her book Orangutan: A Day in the Rainforest Canopy is a wild adventure in the rainforest of Borneo. The story follows a young orangutan through a day of learning life skills from his mother. Rita’s illustrations are colorful and lively, and the pages include Fun Facts about orangutans.
With so many twists and turns on her artistic path, Rita has led a most interesting life…while always managing to make time for friends and for good works. We salute Rita and honor her dedication in, not only building the framework for “The Art of Healing”, but also for continuing to serve in this program that has touched the lives of so many Veterans.