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People that “echo”-Tom Bell

This month Border Eco is featuring in their people that “echo” section Tom Bell. He has been a member of the Hilltop Gallery board of directors for several years now. Bell served one year as treasurer, vice president and for several years now as a handyman.

“I was attracted to the Hilltop because of my interest in art and the friendly, welcoming greeting they gave to me as a newcomer to Nogales in 2004,” said Tom Bell.

Bell taught beginner classes in photography at the Boys and Girls Club. He regularly takes photos for the Crossroads Rescue Mission too. Mr. Bell has never worked in “public service” as a vocation, just an individual who has tried to be of benefit to his community in ways such as serving on various boards of schools, mental health clinics, churches and service clubs.   He also served on two city planning and zoning commissions as well as various community improvement committees.  His leadership style is that of example and inclusion. His plans for the Hilltop are simple:  That art survives and thrive in the community.

The Hilltop is different from other organizations in that it provides a long established venue for sharing artwork in the community.   They have a long tradition of offering art education for youngsters and adults.   The Hilltop Gallery tries to reach out to the community by offering art classes at the VFW, Boys and Girls Club, and our current Saturday art classes for elementary school children.   They offer a popular “art camp” each summer for young people.   All of their programs are open to the public.

“My goal is to improve the Hilltop’s service to the community we would like for the Gallery and our programs to be 100% inclusive so that all residents of Santa Cruz County feel that the Hilltop is their own special place to experience art,” said Mr. Bell.

Mr. Bell was inspired to mount a photography show “Mirame” at the Hilltop Gallery. The photography show is a display of beautiful faces of individuals in nursing homes and rescue mission. Bell visits places such as the Crossroads Rescue Mission here in Nogales to take informal portraits of folks there.  He makes copies of their portraits for them to use as they wish.   “By virtue of poverty, addiction, old age, bad luck or what-have-you, some of these folks sense that they may be rendered invisible to many of us lucky enough to enjoy good health and prosperity.  They seem pleased to see that my camera and I enjoy seeing them, hence the name of the show Mirame,” said Tom Bell.

“I have enjoyed photography as a hobby since the age of ten.   That means for sixty-six years I have been taking pictures.   It was my son’s time of illness and dying in 1994 that inspired me to look outside of myself.  I have gradually since that time transformed my view of the world to a photographic form called Social Documentary.   Milton Rogovin is my most admired photographer of this kind,” said Mr. Bell.

Tom Bell is originally from rural Iowa, he moved with his family to Douglas at the age of ten and graduated high school in Glendale, AZ. He has a daughter who teaches high school art in Phoenix.  His wife, Janis, and he are mostly retired.  They recently circumnavigated the world in their small sailboat, Tomboy.  Today, they live happily in Nogales behind the old County Courthouse.  They both love old houses and have restored a few in the old Nogales neighborhoods.  Janis his wife works occasionally for her old friend and college classmate, Simon Escalada.  

In closing, Tom Bell would like to thank everyone in the community who supports the Hilltop in some way, most especially, Janice Johnson who has contributed more than anyone else and for a longer time to the success and survival of the Hilltop Gallery.

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