*This article appeared in Oct/Nov ’17 issue of Owensboro Living.

It all began quite innocently in the ’60s with a relatively small group of ladies who liked to paint—who did not have the assistance of social media to spread the word at light speed. Now, 56 years young, the Owensboro Art Guild boasts over 120 members. Guild members have been serving the community through the schools for years. “I remember when I was in first grade, Rex Robinson had a free class for kids in the community . . . The paint was provided; the poster board was provided. You just had to show up, and you learned how to splatter paint,” said Stacey Higdon, president of the Owensboro Art Guild. Now, she has the opportunity to work alongside the local artists like Rex who have long been her heroes.

The Guild sponsored their first “Art in the City Fine Arts Festival,” Oct. 1, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m., an indoor / outdoor display extending from the Holiday Inn along the riverwalk. The outdoor show included 18 artists and booths; the indoor show was a Guild-only show for Guild members to display their work. Painting with a Twist, a national franchise, set up a massive canvas for children to collectively paint, with the finished masterpiece being donated locally. Two silent auctions, which ran throughout the day and into the evening, benefited the Guild, who will use the proceeds to provide free community-wide art events. “I had the dream of this festival about a year ago, to have a museum-quality show outdoors, just right on the riverfront, with kids’ activities . . . it’s just a different way for people to get their work juried, a question artists often get about their juried status,” Stacey said. Artists pay a fee for a panel of jurors or curators to look at their art or work submitted, and they either accept or don’t accept the artists’ work. Awards are often part of a juried art show.

Guild members were “the movers and shakers” in creating art galleries downtown, within the public library, and in promoting the creation of The Owensboro Museum of Fine Art—the second largest art museum in Kentucky, which is highly respected nationwide. That respect for the arts runs deep within the Owensboro community, which has not only extended support to local artists, but has received tremendous support from artists through an array of city art projects. “We have a ton of phenomenal artists in this community—artists who like to volunteer and give of their talents,” Stacey said.

A relatively new member of the Guild, Stacey first helped her mom (an art teacher) judge art pieces, with the assistance of Guild members. After attending her first Guild meeting, Stacey said she had an overwhelming sense of belonging: “I felt like I was at a mini-potluck with people I had known all my life, because we shared a common interest, a common passion, and I left very excited . . . I fell in love with it.”  Once she had the chance to peruse the Guild’s scrapbooks, which document the rich heritage of the arts in “little Owensboro, before we had the riverfront, before we had the population that we now have, before we had technology,” Stacey said she realized this (the Guild) “was going to be my new passion project, my thing I want to dive into, to volunteer, to keep alive and to get more young members . . . to just keep it going.”

Their mission statement says “The Owensboro Art Guild exists as a network for local artists to have an opportunity to be inspired and to inspire other members to produce regularly. We come together to learn and grow from programs and demonstrations, and each other, to exhibit and sell our work, to stay current with local art events and to serve our community.” They meet every second Thursday of the month from 6 – 7 p.m. at the Ralph Center of Fine Arts (Room 128) on Kentucky Wesleyan College’s campus. The Guild is open to anyone. Student ($15), Adult ($25), Senior ($20) and Family ($30) memberships are available.

The Guild provides exposure, interaction and inspiration to artists.  According to Stacey, art is more than fun; art possesses the power to heal. “I had my ah-ha moment in the first grade with those little tooth brushes and simple splatter painting . . . I know what art has done for me in my life and my son’s life . . . on all levels—if I can just connect with one person and allow them to see light out of darkness, then I’ve done my job,” Stacey said, touting one of her favorite Picasso quotes: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”