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BBAC to celebrate 60 years of ‘art for all’

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published September 1, 2017


BIRMINGHAM — There’s nothing like a good birthday party.

The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center will celebrate its own 60th anniversary Sunday, Sept. 10, during a special edition of the monthly free Sunday @ the Center event. The whole family is invited to come have some fun with all-ages art activities, giveaways and, of course, cake.

“Sept. 10 is our way of celebrating the many generations who walked through our doors. We are truly your home for visual arts and plan on being so for another 60 years,” said Annie VanGelderen, president and CEO of the BBAC.

While visitors enjoy the free festivities during Sunday @ the Center, they can get a sneak peek at the fall schedule of exhibitions, which opens just days before, not to mention the new classes for people of all ages and skill levels available year-round.

Leslie Masters first walked into the center 50 years ago as a new resident to the neighborhood. She still drives in from Ypsilanti each week to teach color theory and advanced painting.

“As an artist, another artist friend got me involved, and I applied to teach in 1968. I’ve been teaching there ever since, and in the ’80s I worked as the assistant director for 11 years,” Masters said.

It’s the classes, she said, that most attracted her and so many others to the nonprofit center.

“It’s a unique place, and there are so many talented teachers there. They’ve always hired teachers who have taught in colleges and are very good at what they do,” Masters explained. “People have the opportunity to get a quality education, and because of that they keep coming back for years and years and years.”

After all, the BBAC’s mission to provide art experiences for residents nearby is what has sustained the institution for six decades. In 2016 alone, nearly 2,000 adults and young people attended classes at the center. More than 1,500 people walked the halls of the galleries to take in exhibitions, 810 children enjoyed free art activities at local community events, nearly 300 Alzheimer’s and dementia patients enjoyed art events along with their caregivers, and 45 children who have lost a parent to cancer took part in the Planet Lori art camp — and that’s just a small fraction of the work the nonprofit has done annually since 1957.

“As we celebrate our 60th year, it’s important to acknowledge all the forward-thinking individuals who understood how important arts and culture are to our community — the founders, who saw that an abandoned water treatment plant could be a gathering place for artists; the city, who appreciated the value the BBAC could bring to its residents and beyond; and of course the many, many students, teachers and artists, corporations, funders and supporters who help us continue our vision of ‘art for all.’ It’s such an honor to be part of this organization that allows you to explore creative possibilities,” VanGelderen said.

For more information on the Sept. 10 Sunday @ the Center event or other fall happenings at the BBAC, visit The Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center is located at 1516 S. Cranbrook Road in Birmingham.