Becky Fowler is the full-time frame shop manager at the local Hobby Lobby. M.B. "Beth" Hetzel was a tattoo artist for 14 years. But the two sisters share a common dream of fostering artistic interests and leading clients in Cleveland to realize their artistic potential at the newly christened Hetzel Art Studio & Gallery.
“There are so many artists who are just sitting at home and don’t feel like they are being heard, that no one cares or that they’re not good enough,” Beth said. “A lot of artists struggle with social problems and anxieties. So, if you break down those walls immediately and we’re not some pretentious, better-than-you studio (visitors will see) we’re you. We are not classically trained. We just love what we do, and that’s what we want to encourage.”
In fact, art is in their blood.
George Hetzel was a famous landscape and portrait painter in the Ohio region in the 19th century, and Beth and Becky’s great-great-grandfather on their father’s side. They grew up surrounded by his work and his daughter Lila’s work, at the inn and Hetzel studio in Somerset, PA. It was from this exposure that their love of art grew.
Hetzel’s work resides in Carnegie Mellon University and the Smithsonian. The sisters said Mary Todd Lincoln even purchased a piece of his work that is still in the White House.
Their ancestor was an advocate for women’s rights, and the artist helped start the School of Design for Women, in Pennsylvania. In the spirit of their familial support of women in the arts, the Hetzel Gallery that Beth and Becky are opening aims to make it a part of their mission to empower young people, girls and women in the arts, but they do not exclude anyone interested in expanding their artistic inclinations.
The owners and operators of Hetzel Gallery grew up in Lake Milton, Ohio, in the Ohio Valley, often spending hours in their room drawing and dreaming, inspiring each other to work harder.
“I think we inspired each other more growing up than anything. We grew up in the '80s. We didn’t have internet. We played outside and we played in our room. We relied 100 percent on our imaginations,” Beth said.
Becky moved to Cleveland during “The Storm of ’93” as they referred to the landmark snowstorm. They both became pregnant at the same time in 2006, both with their first children. So, Beth moved to Cleveland with her family to be close to her sister during their pregnancies.
Becky is trained in faux painting techniques and mural painting, and Beth combines her previous tattoo experience with a focus on serious painting that began over 10 years ago. Both sisters are working artists who take commissions regularly for landscapes and portraits. It is through these commissions that the Hetzel Gallery itself came to be. The commissions, as well as other programs within the gallery, are what fund the gallery’s existence.
The Hetzel Gallery is offering a variety of art parties for groups to reserve time to explore their artistic endeavors, and unlike some competitors who have their groups all create essentially the same composition in the same medium, Beth and Becky evaluate each student individually and urge party attendees to try different media to see what fits best for them. The gallery is also offering individual lessons for students.
“We’ve always worked together and have been known as Hetzel Studios,” Beth said. ”But it’s a really big deal for us to have a physical space together.”
Becky has been doing private lessons with some home-schooled students and elderly students who have always had some inkling that they had something artistic to express.
“If they’re in a welcoming environment where they feel accepted and not judged, people thrive,” Beth said.
Hetzel Gallery is planning to do some themed shows, a process that was employed at the Cleveland Workspace that was shuttered last year. There will be a loosely chosen theme in which artists can submit a piece to be in included in the show. These shows won’t be judged. Beth and Becky believe having an environment in which the work prompts discussion about its own artistic merit is more important than choosing a “winner.”
“Seeing the work and talking about it gives you enough to go home and actually do something, instead of just thinking about it,” Becky said.
Becky and Beth are enthusiastic about prospective artists setting up an appointment time, via Facebook or the website, to come into the gallery in-person with their artwork to see if it is a fit for that gallery.
Prints and postcards will be a way for gallery visitors who might not be in the market for an original to take artwork that they love and connect with home for display.
The Hetzel Art Studio & Gallery commission list is now open for 2019. If you have an idea of a work that you would like to commission them to paint of a pet, home, portraits or landscapes, contact them at their Facebook page at Hetzel Art Studios or at www.hetzelstudios.com.
A soft opening for the gallery is planned around the beginning of February, with a grand opening planned for Saturday, Feb. 23.