Q&A: Kathy Bechtel, Gallery Manager at Frauenthal Center

As the new gallery manager at the Frauenthal Center in Muskegon, Kathy Bechtel hopes to increase daily traffic to the historic theater and for special events. 

A Kendall College of Art and Design graduate and artist who hails from Grand Rapids, Bechtel also serves as the gallery manager for the Terryberry Gallery at St. Cecilia Music Center and at ICCF on Cherry Street in Grand Rapids. She’s also the art director of the Franciscan Life Process Center in Lowell. At the Frauenthal Center and the adjoining Hilt Building’s Reception Gallery, she hopes to showcase new local and regional artists on a monthly basis. Bechtel spoke with Revue about her plans for the gallery in 2017. 

Many people are unaware there is a gallery on the second floor of the Hilt Building. What are your hopes and plans for the space? 

My hope for the Reception Gallery at the Frauenthal Center is to bring in exciting artists who work in a variety of mediums and styles. Art is a language. Artists communicate their thoughts and concerns and dreams in their work. My goal is to bring in a variety of these artists who will educate with their work. 

Do you hope to target artists from any certain area? 

I would like to mainly showcase the work of lakeshore artists, in time. At this point, there are artists on the schedule from the general West Michigan area. We will have a regular appearance from the Boys and Girls Club of America, and will also highlight a local artist to celebrate Black History Month. Some of the artists on the schedule for next year are Jon McDonald, Jim Johnson, Larry Blovits, Randy Nyhof and Evie Carrier, Christie Dreese, Mary Reusch and Margaret Kriegbaum.

What are some of the highlights for the gallery in 2017?

Most of next year’s schedule is already full with sculpture artists, watercolor artists, photographers, oil painters and acrylic painters. It is in our plans to create, occasionally, an afternoon with a particular artist, where there is a question and answer time, mainly a time for people to learn and share time with the artist. 

The gallery’s proximity to the Muskegon Museum of Art would seem to play into your favor.

The Reception Gallery at the Frauenthal Center (is) a few steps from the Muskegon Museum of Art. Why not take in the Reception Gallery after your trip to the museum?

What’s your philosophy to managing the several galleries you work for?

There are many things to consider when managing the galleries. Each gallery that I manage has a different reason for existing. The Reception Gallery at the Frauenthal Center and Terryberry Gallery at St. Cecilia are galleries to highlight outstanding artists’ work in the community, to educate the viewer to different art forms, and most of the work is for sale. 

The other two galleries that I manage — the Guardian Gallery at the Franciscan Life Process Center in the downtown Grand Rapids campus at St. Adalbert’s and ICCF of Grand Rapids — are in businesses that serve the community. The Franciscan Life Process Center has music therapy for children with autism, and has counseling available at many levels, and offers regular music lessons. ICCF, on the other hand, provides affordable, beautiful housing to all people, teaching practical skills to the people who take advantage of their services. The galleries there are to educate, serve, and some of the work is also for sale.  

How do you decide what art and artists to exhibit in each gallery?

Art is for all people. It is important to me, when choosing artists to show their work, that they bring something important to the venue that I place them in. 

Can you give an example of that? 

Jon McDonald, for instance, brings an important message, as was highlighted in his exhibit that is currently hanging in the Guardian Gallery, in his “Human Series.” This is a collection of beautiful portraits of people — different people — who are all “Human.” The name tag next to the painting might have on it “Asian = Human,” or another might have on it “Older African American Man = Human,” or “Gay Woman = Human.” It is a timely series, and brings all the arguments that are currently going on an understanding of what defines human. Art teaches, and this exhibit teaches us what is important. 

At the end of the day, what does the connection to art and your exhibits mean to you? 

I always try to bring artists that work in different mediums and different styles. Art has been one of the important thrusts of my life. I feel fortunate every single time another artist goes up in one of the galleries. 


“People, Places, Outdoor Spaces”

Artist Dennis O’Mara, whose artwork runs the gamut from large etched doors to oil paintings and pastels, will have his “People, Places, Outdoor Spaces” displayed from Dec. 5-Jan. 28 at the Frauenthal Center’s Reception Gallery. 
425 W. Western Ave., Suite 200, Muskegon
frauenthal.org, (231) 722-9750