published Sunday, December 22nd, 2013

Meeting to make art: Exhibit features works by North River classmates

"Ross's Landing" by Linda Rugina
"Ross's Landing" by Linda Rugina
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

In the first few days of winter, Linda Rugina’s “Ross’s Landing” is like a deep gulp of summer.

Her oil painting, based on a photograph she took on a walk with her husband and son, portrays cruiser yachts moored along the gently lolling Tennessee River, with the Walnut Street Bridge and the Delta Queen under a medium-blue sky.

“I love those boats and the bridge,” says Rugina, one of 14 exhibitors in the current Art for Holidays exhibit at North River Civic Center, where she is manager. “It’s beautiful, beautiful scenery.”

The exhibit has 84 pieces and is on display through February.

“All of these pieces are new [and] have not been shown before,” Rugina says. “The idea [for the name Art for Holidays] is to give a piece of art as a gift.”

The artists, she says, are all participants in either the center’s portrait drawing and painting session on Mondays or its oil and watercolor painting session on Fridays.

Suzy Baggett of Ooltewah, who has two oil paintings and two pastels in the exhibit, has attended the Monday sessions for several years.

“They are a wonderful gift [to Chattanooga],” she says. “You can go and do, and it’s such a nice facility. It’s really one of our community’s best-kept secrets.”

Three of Baggett’s works come from trips she and her husband took to Ireland and France. Two of the five focus on three sisters in matching outfits they observed in Ireland. The older sisters were playing violins, while the youngest was peering into the violin case into which people were dropping money.

“We’ve been blessed to be able to travel some,” she says.

The larger of Baggett’s two works of the sisters, a pastel, includes all three sisters. A smaller one, an oil, is the youngest sister reaching into the case.

The third work in the show, a pastel, is a little girl she observed in France while the fourth, an oil, shows the busy legs of four little boys she observed at St. Nicholas School, where she retired as a teacher 10 years ago.

“I guess the theme for me besides loving to [paint] people,” she says, “is that there are so many stories to be told. There’s a story in everything.”

Carol Ruocco of Hixson, who has five works in the show, has attended the center’s portrait sessions for five years. “Whoever’s there,” she says “splits the cost of a model for two hours. It’s pretty fun.”

Two of Ruocco’s five pieces in the exhibit are portraits of yoga instructors, one in her native Asian togs and one in a belly dancing costume.

A third is “Flight of the Sandhill Cranes,” an event she saw firsthand at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge near the confluence of the Hiwassee and Tennessee rivers.

“It’s a beautiful site,” Ruocco says. “We went on our own” the week before an announced sandhill crane viewing event. “There were hundreds.”

She told Rugina, she says, but when Rugina went a few weeks later, she saw very few cranes.

“Timing is everything,” Ruocco says.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts at

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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