From the BAAA Archives (1993) left to right, Peggy O’Neal, Don McMichael, Larry Watson, Rod Sullens, Joe Bush as McMichael shows his latest painting.
BAAA! This may sound like the bleating coming from a “band” of sheep, but is the acronym for Bay Area Artists Association and represents a group of artists who “banded” together 26 years ago, energized by Dick Wheeler. Wheeler, an artist coming to Coos Bay from San Francisco, saw the mutual benefit for all concerned by bringing the artists in the area together to form meetings, classes, shows, critiques and social events. It worked! A sizeable group, of approximately seventy five artists, started meeting at Coos Art Museum on the first Thursday of every month. It didn’t take long for the organization to set up by-laws and officers, electing Don McMichael, locally and nationally known artist, as BAAA’s first President.
Through the years BAAA has continued to hold their monthly meetings at Coos Art Museum. A close relationship has existed remaining to this day with both entities sharing projects and events. Many serve in volunteer and administrative positions for the museum. One notable project shared by both organizations was the acquiring of a large demonstration mirror for the museum’s art classroom. This co-operative endeavor has benefited BAAA’s programs and classes, as well as the museum’s diverse art classes.
The association has a rotational “Artist of the Month” drawing among the members. A different artist’s work is featured on the wall reserved at the museum for BAAA where their work is exhibited each month. The Denny Black Library housed in the upstairs classroom in the museum is also co-owned and is open for lending purposes for members of both organizations. At a time when funding for art was withdrawn from public schools, BAAA’s artists volunteered, making sure art remained a part of the curriculum. The names of those are many, but one which keeps popping up is Jim Davenport for taking part in this outreach. Davenport says, “I love the look of joy in the eyes of those children when they see what they have created.”
Scholarships have been issued from time to time to deserving students who have shown promise. One year a student was sponsored for a second term at Southwestern Oregon Community College.
On-going exhibits are at Southwestern Oregon Community College’s Eden Hall, juried exhibits at the Events Center in Florence, Coos County Fair, South Slough in Charleston, Evergreen Court, Pacific Park Medical Center and their annual Pony Village Mall exhibit. You just might find a group of artists on sunny days painting outside at Shore Acres State Park by the reflection pool or somewhere in the gardens. Other community participation has included the Blackberry Arts Festival, “Art In The Park” at Mingus Park, and one year at Christmastime they decorated a tree for the “Celebration of the Lights” at Shore Acres Holiday Lights. The monthly newsletter, “Perspective,” mailed to all members, carries posts of up-coming events, exhibitions, receptions, featured artists at galleries, workshops and classes including activities from the surrounding towns.
Under BAAA’s by-laws I found the following: “The purpose of BAAA; ‘ Is to support the success of member artists by providing opportunities to present public educational programs, forums and lectures, promote the visual arts as a positive and necessary component in the community, interact with other artists and exhibit their work’”.
Their purpose has been clear through the years that new artists are welcome and may come as guests for the programs to see if it is a fit for them. It seems to me the organization has done very well in doing exactly what they intended to do from the beginning. All mediums of expression are open for membership, demonstrations and sharing include oil, acrylic, pastel, watercolor, pen and ink drawing, scratchboard, collage, quilting, photography, print making and wood working (and perhaps some we don’t even know about yet). Innovative and new ideas are continuously introduced as shown in the photo of potter, Catherine Walworth
recently bringing her talents for full class participation which spanned two separate meeting nights. On the first class the students started with the raw clay, using the tools the teacher provided, created dishes, candle holders, plaques and other objet d’art. Walworth reminded them, “It’s only clay, and it is very forgiving.” This bit of information was helpful in releasing the student’s fears of messing up. The next step was the firing and glazing done by Walworth then returned to the delighted members.
The BAAA members do know how to have fun and a Christmas party is held every December for good food, games, good talk and fun! The custom of bringing handmade Christmas cards or original gifts for an exchange has been practiced from time to time.
My thanks go to archivist Veneita Stender, jewelry artist, who writes a monthly account in the “Perspective”of the activities of the past, and to Jean Adamson who kept impeccable notes of the minutes from 1994 to 2004. It was from these and former copies of the “Perspective” I was able to draw the information for BAAA’s story. There are many names of the officers and members who have made the association what it is today. It is impossible for me to name them all, I hope they understand. “It Takes a Village” certainly applies to this thriving “band” of artists who have done such a fabulous job in the name of art and the community they serve.