Bethlehem Town Hall has become a little more colorful this month, as the Bethlehem Art Association brings its first exhibit in decades to the town’s seat of government.
Although the organization’s members showcase their work multiple times each year at the Bethlehem Public Library, exhibits at Town Hall stopped about 20 years ago, according to BAA President Peter Keitel. Now, nearly 20 local artists are being highlighted, with many of the pieces inspired by local natural and historical landmarks.
“This is really a kick-off event for us, because we are hoping to do more outreach work around the community,” Keitel said.
The organization was first formed in 1966 in order to provide a place for local artists to meet each other and learn new techniques. Despite the name, artists from throughout the Capital District are welcome to join the group. With 100 members, Keitel said interest has grown in recent years.
“We’ve been operating sort of under the radar, in a way,” he said. “I have been doing artwork for years and only recently found (the BAA) two years ago.”
Keitel said he has been doing more to help the organization find a larger audience and grow its membership, because he believes there are more amateur artists in the Capital Region who might be looking for guidance, much as he once was. The group now has a website and has been manning a booth at the Delmar Farmers Market, each week highlighting a different member’s artwork.
“We’re trying to spread the word about our existence,” said Keitel.
Right now, the group mainly caters to those who paint, draw or take photographs. There are no sculptors, so the group is looking to expand its membership and include artists working in other mediums.
“One of the reason we want more publicity is because there are some pretty talented people in this area and we want to showcase their work,” said Keitel. “I think we have been overlooked in a lot of ways and I think this is a way to support local artists and for the community to buy artwork at reasonable prices.”
According to past president Bob Link, the group meets about once a month from September to June. For most meetings, the organization finds a local artist of some notoriety to come and give a demonstration to help members learn new techniques. Then in the spring, a different artist is brought in to critique members’ work.
The organization has typically held three shows each year at the Bethlehem Public Library. Two are for fun, while the third is judged. Awards are usually given for each medium, but this year the BAA opted for a change and overall awards will be presented.
The organization also holds workshops for artists depending on their mediums, and Link said members have formed smaller groups that meet on a more regular basis.
“It’s a great way for new artists to get exposure,” said Link, who started painting later in life. “It’s a way to receive instruction in a friendly environment and produce better work.”
Keitel said he hopes the organization will be able to host more exhibits now that they are working on outreach, and he wants to do more themed shows that may draw larger audiences. But because those types of exhibits take a lot more organization, and the artists need more notice in order to complete their pieces, he expects that might not happen until next year.
“We just want to form a stronger connection with our community,” he said.
For now, visitors can see the BAA’s latest exhibit at Bethlehem Town Hall on the first floor by the Receiver of Taxes office through the months of October and November. The next Bethlehem Art Association show will take place at the Bethlehem Public Library in November.
For more information, visit www.bethlehemartassociation.com.