Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

New Wildfire director adds classes, new offerings to arts center

By: Shelley Widhalm | The Surveyor | February 25, 2022 | Education

Mary Bahus-Meyer wants 2022 to be a reset year for the Wildfire Community Arts Center.

Courtesy photo – Mary Bahus-Meyer

To do this, Bahus-Meyer of Loveland, named executive director Jan. 4, added new classes, is building new relationships with community organizations and is partnering with other event organizers to grow the Berthoud-based nonprofit.

“We did very well until COVID hit—that really hurt, as it did most businesses,” Bahus-Meyer said, explaining that in 2019, attendance doubled, but in 2020, the nonprofit had to cancel some of its classes. “There is demand from the community, and part of it is people need creative expression, to dance, to move, to express who they are.”

Bahus-Meyer launched two new classes at the arts center, a semester-long art history program and a drop-in yoga class.

Art Through the Ages is a 16-week creative homeschool program for students ages 4-11 (Little Creator) and 11 and older (Art Pod) to learn about different cultures and time periods of art and use different art mediums to create individual and group art projects. The lessons, which began Feb. 1, provide an overview of basic art principles and include projects like finger painting in caves, creating a “Starry Night” and paying homage to Warhol’s pop art.

“We’re skipping around different eras, focused on different artists and mediums,” Bahus-Meyer said. “The idea is to give them exposure to history, techniques and artists.”

Vinyasa Yoga with Cara Chaote, a registered yoga teacher, will begin with two ongoing sessions Feb. 15 and Feb. 19 for beginner and advanced students.

“People asked if we could offer it again, since it was canceled during COVID,” Bahus-Meyer said.

The new classes supplement the art center’s ongoing dance classes that include vintage ballet for adults, adult tap dance, hula dance and Just for KIX, a series of tap and contemporary dance classes geared to kids with hip-hop being added this spring.

Bahus-Meyer wants to add other classes once she finds instructors, such as drawing, watercolor, mosaics, marketing, beginning ukulele and acting, as well as create a new community mural art project and bring back the annual street festival. She also plans to reopen the U Create Studio on March 5, an open art studio where people of all ages can use the studio’s materials for their own projects or participate in guided art activities with an instructor.

Another of Bahus-Meyer’s plans involves working with an existing film festival organizer to develop an anime festival geared to high school students. She’s also reaching out to other organizations in the community, such as the Berthoud Community Library District and the Berthoud Recreation Center to identify potential partnerships and marketing opportunities. With the recreation center, for example, the town entity is listing the art center’s arts and cultural activities in its brochures.

“I’m a big believer in partnering in our own community … instead of everyone inventing their own wheel,” Bahus-Meyer, “It’s more efficient (to create) bigger events as opposed to everyone doing smaller events.”

Bahus-Meyer brings the mindset of a small business owner to operating a nonprofit. She and her husband, Channing Meyer, co-own Full Circle Creative, a design and marketing company they founded in 1999.

“I understand that perspective of how do you get the word out about your business, how do you grow your business,” Bahus-Meyer said.

Bahus-Meyer served as project manager and saleswoman for the Loveland ARTSource, an art guide of the Loveland area, for the past 11 years and added a Berthoud page last year.

“I have a lot of connections and relationships with artists and businesspeople, and I like to build on those relationships with the Berthoud community,” Bahus-Meyer said. “I feel very lucky to be in this position, to be at the helm when we’re resetting this organization.”

Bahus-Meyer’s career spanned both art and business over the past several years. She studied art and Asian studies at Towson University in Towson, Md. She taught art at Baltimore schools and managed an Asian Art gallery, an art and custom framing store, and the Walters Art Gallery Museum store and gift catalog. She was a buyer and product development specialist for the Smithsonian Institution and its art and artifact gift catalog. And she worked with the Office of Creative Sector Development in Loveland and served as president of the former Downtown Loveland Association from 2009 to 2010.

Bahus-Meyer has done other work, too, including writing articles, gift catalog copy and press releases and teaching marketing workshops for artists and small businesses.

“I’m passionate about the arts. I think it’s so important for people to be who they are and to express themselves,” Bahus-Meyer said. “We’re adding something the community needs. We’re the main source of art instruction.”

Bahus-Meyer calls Wildfire a “third place” outside of work or home where visitors can feel safe and have fun. It’s a place that welcomes the entire community and people of all ages, she said.

“Interactive and hands-on, that’s what we’re really about,” Bahus-Meyer said. “It’s not sitting down and looking at a screen. It’s about moving, doing and creating, and that’s what sticks. That’s what people remember.”

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