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Meet Betsy K. Schulz

Today we’d like to introduce you to Betsy K. Schulz.

Betsy K. Schulz has provided creative design solutions and art installations for municipalities, schools, non-profit groups, businesses, and private individuals across the nation for more than 20 years. Layering words, imagery, and texture, she creates art installations that are meant to be touched and experienced by the people who live with them.

Betsy grew up in rural Pennsylvania, where her family spent time collecting and refurbishing discarded items like tools and furniture. Her family home started as a shell of a house with no insulation or bathroom. Her parents slowly renovated their home, as finances would allow, for the next 30 years. All the cabinets and tables were built from discarded oak pallets from a grocery store warehouse, where her father worked nights as a janitor. Her mother paved all the walkways, patios and driveway with bricks the family collected from houses being scheduled for demolition.
In addition to growing up in a construction zone, she drew, painted and made found object and clay sculptures throughout her childhood. She knew art was her passion and was the only career path for her. Her constant exposure to recycling, reusing and repurposing continues to shape the direction of her artwork today.

Betsy graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and then worked as a graphic designer for over a decade. As the owner and creative force behind the A Design Garden studio (now BetsyKSchulz, LLC), she designed print campaigns, corporate identities, websites, and museum and trade show exhibits.
Inspired to produce more lasting work, she started designing landscapes as “outdoor learning environments” for local schools and private clients. Betsy’s environments are characterized by cohesive color palettes, edible and low-water plants, natural structures, fountains, boulders, and tile murals and sculptures. Her murals and mosaics are largely inspired by nature and the history of the communities where they are installed. Working with hand-sculpted tiles and found objects, she includes poems, historic information, and captions pressed into clay with antique letterpress letters or silk-screened glazes onto tiles.

Betsy works extensively with historical societies and other sources to ensure that her artist interpretations are accurate. Where possible, she involves local volunteers of all ages, encouraging them to donate information and materials to support the project’s theme and to participate in workshops in her studio and on-site.

She is meticulous in her preparation and follow-through for each project: She prepares comprehensive budgets, makes presentations complete with photo mock-ups of the finished project in place, organizes volunteer workshops, provides regular project updates, and oversees the final installation. Download full CV here.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
My career has been one transition after another. It was not easy to be a young girl with aspirations to become an artist. Money was always tight in my family, and art was seen as a frivolous career path. In addition, I was the first in my family to apply and be accepted to a four-year college right out of high-school. Even in 1988, Carnegie Mellon was exceedingly expensive. Even after being accepted I feared I could not afford to go.

Therefore, I applied for multiple scholarships and grants and worked one to two jobs each year and through the summers, which made it possible to remain all four years. The next transition from graphic design to the public artist was difficult financially and compounded by being a new mother to a little boy; then two years later a girl. After lots of sleepless nights and a disjointed work schedule and pinching pennies, I enrolled the kids into preschool.
Our preschool bought a new building, and I was asked to help design the spaces in exchange for a reduced entrance fee for the children. I discovered I had a knack for designing creative and interactive play spaces. That was the beginning of my next 20 years as a public artist.

As a public artist, there is always the challenge of creating beautiful and creative art and art that will be embraced by the community. I find making mutually acceptable compromises one of the hardest parts of creating art in public spaces.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I create public art and landscape installations for municipalities, schools, nonprofit groups, businesses, and private individuals. By layering words, imagery, and texture, I create art and landscape installations that are meant to be touched and experienced by the people who live with them.

My work is very detailed. My largest projects include over 100,000 sculpted ceramics, glass pieces, petrified wood, pebbles, and found objects. It takes hundreds of hours to complete each piece. I work extensively with historical societies and other sources to ensure that my artist interpretations are accurate.

Where possible, I involve local volunteers of all ages, encouraging them to donate information and materials to support the project’s theme and to participate in workshops in her studio and on-site.

What were you like growing up?
I grew up in rural Pennsylvania. I spent a lot of time in the woods hiking to locations to draw and paint. I also loved spending time on local farms and riding my neighbor’s horses. I have always loved nature and gardening. This inspires a lot of my current work sculpting native flora and fauna.

I was and am very determined with amazing amounts of energy. My parents woke my brother and I up at 5 am every weekend in the fall to cut and collect dead wood in the local forest. We would work until five at night splitting and stacking. We used this wood to heat our house in a refurbished pot belly stove. I suppose this is where I get my work ethic from.

I was a nervous child. I needed to always have my hands busy and be moving. School was not easy for me, but I worked hard and did well, knowing I wanted to move from DuBois and attend college.

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