It's a new year, and for those of you looking to try on a new you, here's your chance. Just grab a mask and head to the Community Food Bank's Mardi Gras 2013.
"People love masks because they can be another personality," said Richard de Maledón, one of about a dozen local artists who created and donated masks for the fundraiser, which aims to help feed local children in need. "People can't see your real face, and you can invent who you want to be with the new face that you put on. That holds a lot of magic for me."
All proceeds from the annual fundraiser benefit child nutrition programs such as Summer Meals, which served 16,836 meals at nine sites last year; Kid's Club - Adventures in Nutrition, which provides after-school snacks to 230 children at seven sites; and Snak Paks For Kids, which provides packs filled with healthy food over the weekend to children who receive free and reduced breakfast and lunch at 20 schools in Pima County.
Jack Parris, food bank public relations manager, said these programs have particular significance to the community since Pima County ranks ninth in the nation with 29.7 percent of children living below the poverty line, according to Census Bureau statistics.
"We hope to raise in the neighborhood of $60,000 to $70,000 at this event. For every $1 donated to the Community Food Bank, we can distribute about $9 worth of food, so we hope to be able to distribute over $500,000 worth of food as a result," Parris said.
Helping hungry children is a cause that is dear to de Maledón and his collaborator, Terry Moss, who have donated 24 masks over the past two years.
"Both Terry and I come from difficult circumstances, and we both know what it is like to be without food, and without a doubt that has influenced us. Tucson is such a wonderful place filled with people with good hearts, and there should be no children going hungry here.
"Keeping children well-fed is a responsibility of all adults, and as a single person with no children of my own, this is one contribution I can make to the community," said de Maledón, who moved to Tucson from Chicago 20 years ago.
A landscape artist who works in acrylics and is illustrating a series of children's books called "Darla and Flim-Flam Go for a Walk", de Maledón employs diverse artistic and craft skills and a range of media - including beading, macramé, sewing and weaving - in his masks.
He also uses a wide range of found objects provided by Moss and tailored to themes that have ranged from characters in myths, legends and fairy tales to a Middle Ages crusader and a Chinese emperor.
"(Richard) wants all of his masks to be wearable, so I look at things from standpoints of function as well as color. He also has a great historical and cultural perspective and a real perspective on costume," said Moss, who teaches art to veterans in the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System.
His favorite mask this year is "Rosa Blanca," which features silver and white roses and intricate pink, green and white beading.
"It has a Mardi Gras flavor, but an Arizona flavor that combines Day of the Dead and Mexican cultural influences for a nice overall effect. It is not only festive but calming, too," Moss said.
Contact free-lance writer Loni Nannini at email@example.com
If You Go
The Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona's Mardi Gras 2013.
When: 7 p.m. Jan. 26.
Where: Casino del Sol Resort, 5655 W. Valencia Road.
Cost: $125 per person.
Festivities include a New Orleans-style dinner and dessert, cocktails, tarot card readings, a photo booth, dancing, live entertainment by Batucaxe, Flam Chen, the Muffulettas and 80s & Gentlemen, and a silent auction.
Honorary King and Queen of Carnivale Mark Kelly and Gabrielle Giffords will be honored, along with reigning queen Betsy Bolding.
For more information, or to purchase tickets or make a donation to the Community Food Bank online, visit the website at communityfoodbank.com/ or call 622-0525.