An Exhibit of Diversity, Community, Humanity and Environment


Nova Starling and AARTII's Board

Nova Starling


This Visionary Project began by chance with Ed Moses' portrait. Telling the story of his work in fusion inspired the use of a nebula, the birthplace of stars, in the background. And while developing the composition in Photoshop, I made his layer translucent over the nebula layer in the background. While inspecting it, I zoomed into his eyes at high magnification and was struck by the sight of the stars coming through his eyes from the background.

This was an aha moment for me and I thought "This is all of us, fully integrated with our universe." The idea came together in what seemed like an instant, to paint a series of Americans, visionaries, men and women of diverse cultures whose careers have had global impact and who share a universal vision of humanity and nature while dedicating their lives to improving the human condition. I knew I would paint them as if they were partly translucent emerging from yet fully integrated with the universe, like a constellation. I would use two light sources, one on the body and another on the image representing their focus. I knew their eyes would look above and beyond the viewer in order to take them on the same journey. I knew I could find star formations that I could weave in to the backgrounds to tell their stories . I thought I would be able to put these portraits together as an inspirational package along with resource links on-line so young people could find their own heroes and in the process define themselves.

I searched for 6 more people to fit the profile, that is, people who are doing something to improve the human condition. I wrote them, detailed my plans and asked if they were interested in participating in my exhibit. Now, these were all very significant and busy people with remarkable achievements, the Nobel Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, Life Achievement Awards, headed international organizations and projects of great size. I really didn't expect anyone to reply. They wouldn't know me from anywhere. But they did, within two months. And I thought, 'the doors are opening so easily; I must take this project completion!' I have visited* my subjects, recorded an interview and photographed them for the eventual composition I created for the painting. *All but Maya Lin were available.

I had internalized much before I even started their portraits. What I learned on meeting my subjects was a sense of their space, mannerisms, energy, nature, tone, presence. I studied their lives, read their books, watched their videos, knew their work and accomplishments. I brought all this information with me when I started their painting. During the process of painting, I studied every subtlety of their facial features, their hands, their posture. By the time the painting was complete I felt I knew them like an old friend.


Nova Starling

Nova Starling

President & CEO

 Art has been my lens to focus on and investigate aspects of the world that interest me. When making my initial career decision, I knew what I wanted most at that time was to understand how things worked and how they were made. That curiosity led me to a functional art & design curriculum and the creation of objects which involved fabrication and casting metals, also textiles, ceramics, glass and wood. Much of my career was spent designing articles for the gift, accessory and apparel markets. My Fine Arts background led to a strong preference for Asian art principles and architecture which eventually led to the recent creation of a Japanese Teahouse and Garden. My MA in Design from UC Berkeley and the California environment encouraged exploration, a more global view of the world and more time in nature.

I share the story of the Visionary Project for young people to know that if they have a dream, one that is not so much about their success but about doing something significant for others, if they keep talking about it, people who can help them achieve that goal will hear them and the doors will open for them. In the meantime, they will meet a lot of really nice people and their sights will be raised higher and higher to the unlimited possibilities of their own life.


Bob Woerner


Bob started his career as a laser physicist, transitioned into business and has over 35 years of experience in the banking, telecommunications, business consulting and the energy utility industries in a variety of leadership roles. For the past 10 years he has been leveraging his professional experience to help the City of Livermore and is currently serving as Mayor. 

 Bob feels that his greatest reward has been being able to hear the heartfelt concerns of citizens and helping enable them to work with the City Council and Staff to solve issues. Among them is protecting our youth by enabling strong anti-vaping legislation and creative solutions for building affordable housing for first responders and teachers, seniors and veterans. Keeping the City he has loved for the past 44 years safe and financially strong has also been most satisfying. 

 Bob represents the City on several boards and committees and is city council’s liaison to several local nonprofits. He initiated and is Chair of the council subcommittee on Public Safety and was recently appointed to the Alameda County's Working Group on Racial Justice. He is happy to support his wife’s nonprofit Visionary Project to help prepare our youth to step into vital roles benefiting our local communities and possibly at the national level.


Ruth Gasten


My parents and I were Holocaust refugees who escaped from Germany in 1939. Because we had no resources, my mother and father convinced me that the way to have a “good life” in the United States was by getting educated. I believed them and did well enough in school to get a university scholarship.
After I married, my husband, two daughters and I settled in Livermore, CA. I remembered how my life was changed by getting an education; so the first organization I joined in town was the Nursery School Scholarship Fund. We raised money to send poor and non-English speaking children to existing preschools.

As I learned more about community needs, I became involved with the Student Education Loan Fund over 50 years ago. It gives no-interest loans to Livermore high school graduates who want to get post high school training. They don’t need to have good grades or plan to go to a university. If they want to become mechanics, plumbers, or hair dressers, that’s fine.
I have been passionate about education my whole life. Programs that encourage creativity and curiosity in children thrill me. I’m happy to be on the board of AARTII.


Mary Beeve


A native Californian, Mary fell in love with writing poetry while attending Cal State Hayward where she received her B.A. in British and American Literature. A published poet, Mary’s passion for the written word has grown throughout her 16-year career of tutoring English students of all ages. The last 10 years she has focused on teaching ESL Conversation classes to help her students learn the ins and outs of our challenging American English Language. She believes if she can instill the love of reading and writing in her students, it opens the door to living richer lives. 

Mary’s desire to pass on her love of learning aligns with AARTII’s mission to inspire students to find their voices through the arts. Service in community has been an important aspect of Mary’s life, and she has volunteered as a literacy tutor at the public library and as a baker for Culinary Angels, another nonprofit organization that delivers meals to people with serious medical challenges. Mary’s other lifelong enjoyments include Qi Gong, yoga, meditation, soul collage, baking and studying poetry and Buddhist spiritual teachings. Mary also enjoys singing in the Asbury Faith Choir, which she joined in 2019, and which welcomes people of all faiths and all walks of life.


Tasia James


Tasia was born to very bright, loving, yet eccentric parents who spent their money on travel, not belongings. It was a big, noisy family with five kids and always lots of guests. Summers were spent traveling, often to impoverished parts of the world. From the age of three until the sixth grade, Tasia was treated for a speech impediment. She had to teach herself to read. She was diagnosed as hyperactive and so her parents always gave her plenty of room to run and play.

Tasia’s childhood experiences made her thrive and inspired her to a 30-year career in education, teaching diverse 7th and 8th grade children with a variety of needs. She believed in spending private time with each student, inquiring and listening to stories about their lives. Students responded to her enthusiasm, and it was a real high for her to see the students so engaged! Her classes were structured and democratic with no double standards. Courteous behavior to everyone was the rule.

Tasia helped students develop life principles through a process of modeling and also by analyzing historical and public figures. By determining the principles the positive role models lived by, students could compare their personal life experiences and come to a conclusion of what would be the best path for themselves. It is here that Tasia believes she relates most strongly to AARTII’s mission to help students find their voices and make a difference.


Ben Hance 

Advisory Board

Ben is chief legal counsel at Copper, a San Francisco-based software company. He studied at St. John's College in Santa Fe, NM, where he read the Western classics and developed a deep appreciation for the value of a liberal education. Ben received his law degree from Yale Law School, and worked in New York, London and Houston before finally making the Bay Area home. 

Ben has a lifelong love of music and the graphic arts, and enjoys drawing, painting and playing guitar with family and friends. He is a great believer in the power of art to engage and educate people, especially young people, and he is excited to help Nova further this valuable project.




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