Opening a new business in Madison, Wisconsin, is a dream come true for Amy Meitzel ’91. Meitzel, who majored in art at Ripon College, taught for 20 years in the Madison and Janesville, Wisconsin, school districts.
But she always had the dream of opening her own arts business and offering experiences to all ages of the general public. On May 3, 2014, she took a leap of faith and opened Bare Knuckle Arts (www.bareknucklearts.com), an independent art center offering weeklong summer classes for children in grades 1-9 in visual arts, weekend workshops for adults, family fun weeks, and art parties for everyone.
The art center is located on the east side of Madison in an up-and-coming neighborhood called Schenk’s Corners.
“I’ve always wanted to try this on my own,” she says. “I didn’t want to get to the end of my life, look back and think I was afraid to try things.”
To prepare herself for undertaking this venture, Meitzel took classes through the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Small Business Entrepreneur Center and reaffirmed a love for lifelong learning that was the basis of her liberal arts and sciences education at Ripon College.
“When I went back to school to pursue something completely different, I really liked it,” Meitzel says. “I have my master’s degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, and taking business courses has been fun for me because I’m learning all these new things. It reminded me that I also still love learning myself.”
She also has evolved in her own work. At Ripon, she worked a lot in sculpture. “I’ve gone the gamut since I left Ripon,” she says. “Now, I’m working mostly with mixed media pieces and had a show last year in June at the Commonwealth Gallery in Madison. Each piece of artwork had writing on it, as well as embroidery thread, watercolors and oil pastels.”
Assisting people in their own creative endeavors has been a great experience for her, she says. “Creating something makes people happy. I’m helping them explore something new.”
Bare Knuckle Arts is doing well. “I’ve been doing summer classes for kids, and both of my adult workshops this summer – on silk scarf marbling – have sold out,” she says. A class on designing a skateboard deck was particularly popular with younger visitors.
Classes coming up include a Minecraft workshop for children to create visual art based on elements of the video games; a magic wand-making workshop; a session with a woman from the Art Institute of Chicago on making handmade archival storage boxes; and pinhole camera photography. A long-term goal is to arrange art tours to interesting places around the world.
Meitzel has had group visits from various organizations, people who come in during open times to use the studio and family groups who enjoy experiencing their creativity together. Among her visitors have been Gene and Evelyn Kain, professors of art emeritus of Ripon College.
“I really believe anybody can be an artist and explore their creatively and the world,” Meitzel says. “I value the visual arts, and I read a lot about how leaders in government and businesses are looking for creative people. Bare Knuckle Arts is a very open and inviting place and a great opportunity for kids and adults to investigate and try out different kinds of visual arts.”