When Lecia Owen came to the United States from Ukraine more than 13 years ago, she did not speak extensive English. She and her future husband had met in the art museum where she worked in Kiev and built a relationship across the language barrier.

"We did dinner on a first date that consisted of sign language and charades and we had a lovely experience together," Tom Owen said.

But, like most relationships, there was work to be done on both sides. After that first date, Tom left soon after to return to America from his missionary work. They drifted apart until one day, about six years later; he received a piece of mail from the Ukraine. The problem was he couldn't read it.

"I took the letter to my friend and I said, ‘Remember the girl from the Ukraine? I think this is from her,'" he said. "But I also told him, ‘If it says what I think it says, then I am going to marry this girl.'"

A year later, Lecia had moved to Arizona and the two were married. Over the last 13 years, she has not only learned English, but has traveled all over the country with her artwork and taught art history and oil painting locally. From 1999 to 2004 she taught at Mesa Community College and Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

"I call it a good addiction," Lecia said.

Since that time, she has been doing local shows as well as teaching private and class lessons to residents. Every Saturday since December 2009, she has taught oil painting to a class of about 12 at the Hobby Lobby in Ahwatukee Foothills.

"I want people to enjoy the experience of art," she said. "I teach the basics and the secrets of oil painting."

The class will be presenting its first art show to the public Saturday, March 12. Some of her work will be on display.

"For them, it's interesting to see how people will respond," Lecia said. "I tell them, ‘Don't even worry if you sell or not, it will be a celebration of our work.'"

She hopes this will be the first stepping stone in a path that will bring more culture to the area.

"My dream is for it to evolve into an art center or a neighborhood place that does local art events," Lecia said.

The inaugural "Oil Painting for Joy of the Spirit" show will be at Hobby Lobby, 4710 E. Ray Road, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. To find out more about Lecia, visit her website, www.LeciaOwenFineArt.com.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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