Enriching lives through art and craft

Arrowmont Connections: Barbara Bullard reflects on 50 years in the Arrowmont Community

Arrowmont is a special community full of creative people – a family who know that coming together and making art is important. We talk a lot about the Arrowmont Experience – connecting through craft and community. That connection exists beyond physical proximity. It is in shared memories and new ideas. It lives in the friendships we make with each other. It grows when we learn and support one another.

Whether on campus or off, we are connected as members of the Arrowmont family. Over the next few weeks, we are going to share stories from our community of instructors, residents, and students in a new series, Arrowmont Connections.

Barbara Bullard is an artist, Pi Phi alumna, and member of Arrowmont’s Board of Governors.  Barbara received her BS in Art Education/Fine Art, with Honors, from the University of Tennessee. She was an Art Educator in public and private schools for 26 years, recently retiring to pursue a career as a studio artist.   Ms. Bullard is active in a wide number of arts organizations, including the Tennessee Watercolor Society where she has earned signature status. She has been involved with the Arrowmont for many years and is currently serving her third term on their Board of Governors. Barbara has exhibited in many juried exhibitions at the local, regional and national level, receiving awards for drawing, painting and mixed media. She was awarded the Winsor Newton Watercolor Award at the TNWS 2018 Bicentennial Exhibition and was named a national Woman in the Arts by the DAR in 2019.

Barbara’s association with Arrowmont began in 1969 when, as a newly minted member of Pi Beta Phi, she came to the school for a pledge weekend.

She writes, “As I walked into the beautiful, recently finished Turner building, I felt a creative connection that was almost spiritual, and which has never left me. Over the years, I have taken many classes at Arrowmont, from Printmaking and Batik to Drawing, Painting and Textiles.

These experiences broadened my horizons as an artist and expanded my skill set as a high school art teacher. More than that, however, I witnessed the way the Arrowmont touches students at a basic personal level and awakens a deeper creative force in them.

I could not have known when I was a wide-eyed college freshman that Arrowmont would still have a profound effect on me five decades later.

It has inspired me as an artist, an art educator, and a Pi Beta Phi member. In my three terms on the Arrowmont Board of Governors, I have been privy to the workings of the school and come to appreciate the extraordinary quality of the program and its reputation among other institutions of its kind. Arrowmont has been a lifetime association, and it is an association that makes me extremely proud.

Barbara has retired from a career in art education. She shares how the current environment has impacted her studio, which hasn’t gone in the direction she anticipated.

I am in a fun season of my artistic journey. Having retired from a long career teaching art and raising a family, I find that it is now “my turn”. Finally, I have time to pursue my own work in a serious way. This Spring I was looking forward to a busy schedule of juried exhibitions, local shows, and a 3-week trip to the Rhine Valley to gather inspiration. I never imagined a situation where these plans, and the world, would just stop…for all of us. The COVID virus has altered the personal and working lives of everyone, and the art community is no exception. The closing of schools such as Arrowmont, of galleries, exhibitions, workshops, and life in general, has left a gaping void in the Artist’s creative and economic life.

When we were ordered to “Shelter at Home” my first thought was that I would have more time to paint, free from the distractions and commitments of my normally busy life. Surprisingly, however, that has not been the case for me.

The unsettling social situation and disruption of “normal” has affected my creative process. The sense of peace and oneness that is the grounding force in my work has been replaced by uncertainty and an anxious wariness of the unknown.

Despite my good health, comfortable shelter, and full refrigerator, I miss my family! I miss making plans! I miss my life! This unease is all reflected in my work.   After starting and discarding several large projects, I have given myself permission to stop working at it for a while. Instead, I am making small personal pieces that touch me, such as sketches and paintings of my grandchildren…like comfort food, it is comfort art.

I learned from a YouTube video how to weave a new splint cane seat on my grandfather’s chair. I repainted old patio cushions in fresh colors since I cannot go to the garden store to buy new ones. I turned a stack of colorful birdseed sacks into bright totes I can give my friends.

In the back of my mind I feel guilty that I am not using this time to do “serious” work, but I think our minds and hearts find their own ways of surviving. And I know this will pass. The virus will abate, the world will adjust, the school busses will run, and the shops will open. Then my mind and heart will flow again with ideas, and creative energy, and the art will happen.”

Find Barbara Bullard’s art available online at: https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/barbara-bullard/shop

Instagram: @barbara.b.bullard

Facebook: @barbara.b.bullard


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