Portrait gallery

Chef Carlotta Flores and styleographer Michelle Owens pose for a quick capture together during the project's 50th photoshoot.

Local women older than 50 will be honored by the unveiling of an empowering project celebrating their stories and wisdom.

The first Wise Women: 50 Over 50 Experience is coming to Tucson, thanks to Michelle Beaumont Owens, owner of Artifact Photography Studio. As the project’s photographer, stylist and interviewer, her vision is to spotlight 50 local women over the age of 50 and recognize their experience, individuality and power through a collection of creative portraits.

The gallery of their photographs will be unveiled at the Wise Women: 50 Over 50 Portrait Gala from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, alongside the release of a portrait magazine featuring each participant’s individual story.

“Women at our age are stepping into our own power, and we’re doing things in our community and in our personal lives to really change the lives of people around us,” Owens said.

“I wanted to capture that and really shine a spotlight on these women and talk about the amazing things that they are doing, and also find out what their aspirations are, what’s left on their bucket list, and what else they would like to accomplish in the second half of their lives.”

The Wise Women: 50 Over 50 Portrait Gala will be held at Savoy Opera House at 6541 E. Tanque Verde Road in Tucson. Portraits will be illuminated and displayed on easels with the women in attendance to mingle and chat.

The event will feature a buffet dinner, dessert and a no-host bar with cocktails, wine, beer and nonalcoholic beverages.

Entertainment includes dance music by DJ Jonas Hunter and magic by master illusionist Rodney Housley. There will also be a special raffle for a makeover, photoshoot and portrait portfolio with Owens valued at $1,200.

Tickets to the gala are available on eventbrite.com.

The Wise Women: 50 Over 50 Experience is one of many events across the world influenced by Forbes Magazine’s 2021 national list spearheaded by Mika Brzezinski, Morning Joe co-host. It highlighted 50 influential women over the age of 50 who defy the idea that their golden years are behind them.

Owens was inspired to undertake a project in Tucson by her own life-changing experience opening her photography studio when she was 50. When photographing other women in their 50s and older, she met many in the midst of dramatically changing their lives and wanted to explore that common theme.

Through networking and many referrals, she gathered women from all over Southern Arizona, including Tucson, Oro Valley, Vail, Benson and Bisbee. One participant is Carlotta Flores, chef of the El Charro Restaurant Group in Tucson, who was on Forbes’ 2021 Vision List.

Owens began photoshoots in January 2020, with the final interview wrapping up in September 2022.

“There’s this myth that once we’re over 50, we’re kind of over the hill,” she said. “These women are fun. They are making differences in our communities. Some of them have started nonprofit organizations, others are working on their own businesses. Some are retired and are taking up art projects and doing other things with their free time.

“I really wanted to show the vibrancy of these women and how much more we all are ready to give and are giving at this time in our lives.”

The 50 Over 50 Experience is not a “cookie cutter project.” To capture their true selves, Owens allowed each woman to drive her photoshoot and explore different sides of her character through clothing, makeup and accessories.

The resulting gallery features a unique representation of each woman. Some incorporated their pets, careers, hobbies or meaningful treasures into their portraits. Others requested their photos to be enhanced with digital art — one woman even portrayed a phoenix rising from flames.

“There are layers of meaning in these photographs that make them deeply personal to these women, and I think that will also show and exhibit,” Owens said. “I think viewers will be able to see that and pick up on it.”

She also said she believes that the photographs are “legacy images” for the women, and that the following generations in their families will be able to feel connected and see their personalities.

“I want to capture images that we put time, effort and attention to detail into and so they do stand the test of time and they are a part of our legacy that we leave behind,” said Owens.

The project received rave reviews from its participants, which were accompanied by significant interest in Owens tackling another 50 Over 50 collection of local women. As a result, she is pondering the idea of transforming it into an annual event.

She plans to create a group offering outings, get-togethers and other events throughout the year as opportunities for women over 50 to connect and build a community.

Owens hopes that the group will attract a younger crowd to attend, as she feels that they would benefit from socializing with accomplished, driven women.

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