BY CAIRRIL MILLS
“We try to help people see art in every place and in everything,” says Bj Bennett, president of the Owen County Art Guild. Based in Spencer, the guild offers a wide range of activities to bring the arts to life.
Founded in 1963 by a small group of painters, the guild has grown to 200 members, many of whom are children, and includes both visual and performing artists.
“There really isn’t much in the way of arts in Owen County, so just being here gives people a place to come and experience artwork,” Bennett says. “It provides children with the opportunity to do things they don’t get anywhere else. It makes people aware that art exists. As people become aware, they enjoy it. It’s just a positive place to be.”
The guild’s home is a 30-by-60-foot building that has survived three break-ins and three floods, including one in 2008 that left the guild homeless for a year. Currently, members are fundraising for a new space, in large part by holding community luncheons. Bennett explains that volunteers donate the food, and visitors “come in and enjoy the artwork, they talk to the artists that are here, we answer any questions that anybody has, and it’s a gathering place—a time and a place where people just come together and relax and catch up with each other.”
The guild offers a variety of classes for adults and children at no charge. “If someone comes in saying they’re interested in something, we try to make it work,” says Bennett. They also have a scholarship program for college-bound students.
Guild members exhibit at local events, such as the farmers’ market and festivals, as well as at local businesses. The guild’s building holds more than 1,200 pieces and is listed with the American Alliance of Museums. It is also home to the guild’s shows, classes, and meetings and can be rented by community groups.