Local art scene shows new side of city

A student practices his technique after Art Matters owner and art teacher, Teresa Christmas, instructed him on Pollock’s “dancing” around the canvas. Mackenzie Mathews/HERALD

Mackenzie Mathews

While it may not seem like it at first glance, Bowling Green has a tight-knit, creative art community.

WKU art professor Beth Reitmeyer has taken note of it since moving here from Chicago.

“I think it’s a quirky and endearing part of Bowling Green,” Reitmeyer said. “As a place, it’s ‘what you see is what you get — if you like it, fine, and if you don’t, too bad.’ I think it’s strangely refreshing in that sense.”

In Chicago, Reitmeyer taught at DePaul and Northwestern University while continuing to work on her art to maintain her life as a painter and installation artist. 

In order to be closer to her family, Reitmeyer, a Louisville native, returned to Kentucky and currently teaches at WKU. After living in Chicago’s art world for almost two decades, she noticed some differences in Bowling Green’s art community. Reitmeyer said the goal of an artist is to not only get art in the public eye, but in private homes. Having your work featured in local galleries is a priority in Chicago, while Bowling Green artists take a more lax approach to the business.

“People aren’t necessarily ambitious at it,” Reitmeyer said. “They’re not trying to get into a new gallery and change the world.”

Events and institutions keep the Bowling Green art community connected. ArtWorks is a prominent coalition in the city. Artists can have their work featured in exhibitions, while enjoying the company of fellow art enthusiasts.

The Art Hop is another major work and social event within the art community. For five Fridays a year, galleries around town open their doors to the public.

“There are a variety of venues, and you learn who to work with at those venues and what their style is,” Reitmeyer said.

Lynne Ferguson, the Kentucky Museum’s artist-in-residence, has worked in and around Bowling Green’s art scene since the 1970s.

“Bowling Green’s art world seems to be pretty interconnected to me, and it’s as if whatever organization you’re working within, you run into the same people,” she said. “I think it’s an inclusive organization.”

One local art instructor has found her place amongst a younger generation in Bowling Green. 

Teresa Christmas, who majored in art at WKU, is going on 12 years as the artist-in-residence at Cumberland Trace Elementary School. 

Along with her work at the elementary school, she also teaches at Art Matters, a community art studio and gallery. Christmas offers lessons and acts as a curator, exhibiting local work throughout the year.

Christmas teaches kids constructive ways to express themselves. In a community like Bowling Green, there are many families that find themselves in low-income situations, and without art, those kids could get into trouble, Christmas said.

“The arts can make kids feel good about themselves and give them positive self-esteem,” she said. “It can give a lot of kids some direction.”

“As a community, I think we can feel good about our arts. I think it’s going to continue to get bigger, to do well and be more artsy.”