Marian Kozachik painting

The Marian Kozachik exhibit will be open through Oct. 6.

Tucson City Councilman Steve Kozachik watched his mother Marian make a lot of sacrifices. A single mom, she toiled away in a nursing job to ensure Steve and his brother Pete had what they needed as kids.

So when she retired from her nursing job, the brothers decided to treat her to a first-class arts education.

“Her first love was always art,” Kozachik said. “When she retired, my brother and I put her through art school at NYU and sent her to Venice so she could get her masters in fine arts, and she got that at the age of 68.”

Marian passed away on Jan. 22, 2019. As he was settling her affairs, Kozachik discovered a collection of his mother’s paintings that are now on display at the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild Art Gallery at Williams Center. The exhibit, titled “Marian Kozachik,” highlights her elaborate paintings of birds and her love of wide open spaces. 

“She was involved with the Audubon,” Kozachik said. “She traveled to Central America and hiked Panama, Costa Rica, Sabino Canyon, Madera Canyon. She loved outdoors, loved nature.”

Having Marian’s work hung at the Art Gallery was a collaborative effort between Steve and her next-door neighbor Judith Billings, who was close to Marian.

“They hiked together, they did art together, and Judith is a member of the Art Gallery,” Kozachik said. “And Judith suggested that we hang her stuff there.”

Kozachik didn’t want to sell the paintings for his own gain, so Billings offered a charitable alternative: The paintings are being sold from $50 to $150, with the proceeds going to the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild’s scholarship fund.

Marian’s nature-inspired work was somewhat of a mystery to Kozachik until he came across her paintings in a shed after her passing. 

“It wasn’t until I got into that shed and started pulling the things out and actually taking a second to look at ’em that I realized, you know, what talent she really had,” Kozachik said. “So that’s my fault, not hers. And to the extent that I can share that piece of her with people now is really important to me. And I just wish she was here that I could show her how much people are appreciating her work.”

Kozachik said whatever he and his brother did for his mom’s arts education was a pittance, compared to what she gave them.

“How do you give enough back to your mom?” Kozachik says. “How do you give enough back to the person that literally sacrificed her entire life for us? I mean that’s just not an equation that you can say, ‘Well, OK. We’re even.’ You’re never gonna be even.”

The Marian Kozachik exhibit is open through Oct. 6 at the Southern Arizona Watercolor Guild Art Gallery, 5420 E. Broadway Blvd. The gallery is open Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

Ambur Wilkerson is a University of Arizona journalism graduate student and Tucson Local Media intern.

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