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Feminist Artists of Kentucky

Since 2013, a group of women in Berea have shared their artistic interests and talents to raise money for charitable causes, locally and globally.

“We started because we all loved art, and found out that painting and making art can become a lonely, solitary experience, and that if we met together with others we would really motivate one another,” says artist Pat Jennings. “And we have.”

Linking their work to social justice causes made the work more meaningful to the artists and their patrons.

“I just love how it feels to be able to make a piece and know that it’s going to help somebody else in another country,” says Jennings.

One of the group’s most important ongoing projects is its annual Images of Ghana exhibit. That project started when Dr. Valeria Watkins, a member of the group and advisor support for Berea College, visited Ghana in 2014.

“On our last day [in Ghana], the elders of the church called the leaders of the group into this little room, and they were so gracious,” Watkins remembers. “They said, we really need help to raise the money to finish the roof of the church. There were only the beams and they were exposed to the elements. I thought he said, we need $2,500, and I’m thinking, no problem. I think I can do that.

“It wasn’t until we were on the plane coming back when one of my colleagues said, Dr. Valerie, how are you going to raise $25,000? I just had that moment of panic, like, oh my gosh, what did I just do?”

Watkins’s fellow artists were ready to help, beginning with the first Images of Ghana exhibit. For a follow-up project, the group made aprons using fabric made by members of the Ghanaian church that Watkins was working to raise funds for. Ultimately, they were able to raise the $25,000, and the church members finished the roof.

The artists continue to do an annual Images of Ghana exhibit, now raising funds to purchase material and pay workers to sew uniforms for Ghanaian children so that they can attend school.

Other projects include fundraisers for spay and neuter programs for dogs and cats, equine therapy for children, and an exhibit at Berea College honoring women’s history month in March.

“We have really branched out and have enjoyed making art for all those things,” says Jennings. “In our group, we realized that we are small but mighty. You never know when you plant a seed how it will travel.

This segment is part of Kentucky Life episode #2311, which originally aired on May 5, 2018. Click here to watch the full episode.