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The Bedford Gallery Reveals the Drama, Pageantry, and Thrill of Art in Contra Costa County

By Paul Rowe

Located in downtown Walnut Creek, the contemporary art space Bedford Gallery showcases the work of established and emerging contemporary artists in exhibitions that are local, national and international in scope. Organizing four to five exhibitions a year, the Bedford engages the Greater Bay Area community in a dialogue about the importance of art in our daily lives.

The Bedford Gallery exhibitions primarily foster the work of living artists, and present a broad range of media from painting, sculpture and photography to site-specific installations. Since 2010, the gallery has also produced exhibitions that travel nationally, bringing the unique visions of the gallery's exhibitions to art galleries and museums around the country.

At the gallery you will also find annual public programs like the ever-popular Bg Craft Fest which is hosted in the gallery every November. The Bg Craft Fest also has demos and hands-on workshops through the event.

"Our curated holiday craft fair of handmade goods, from ceramic and textiles to jewelry, by local makers is now in its tenth year," Carrie Lederer, curator of exhibitions and programs, said. "This shopping extravaganza offers our community the opportunity to support local artist and shop local."

Through these collaborative events and hands-on opportunities, Bay Area communities are able to immerse themselves in an artistic atmosphere that is unique and accessible. The programs are appropriate for patrons of all ages, and there are special school tours available during the weekday mornings. Studies have shown that the visual arts help children develop crucial skills in critical thinking, problem solving, reading, writing, experimentation, confidence, and so much more.

Through docent-led school tours of the Bedford Gallery, children express themselves freely while absorbing emotional and social skills that are essential to living healthy lives. Thanks to a grant from JP Morgan Chase, the gallery tours for Contra Costa County schools are free, and many schools are already taking advantage of this opportunity.

"We can see and hear the excitement from students during our docent-led school tours," Lederer said. "For many, this is their first time discovering the world of contemporary art, and it is a joy to be a part of that. Following our docent tours, the students go into our Learning Center for a hands-on art project related to the exhibition they just viewed."

Students follow their artistic spirit through viewing exhibitions at the gallery, and answer questions about history, art theory, and their personal connections to the arts. It doesn't stop there. After these viewings, the same children complete powerful art activities connecting the work from the exhibitions to creations of their own. This deep engagement with craft opens up possibilities that stick with students for the rest of their lives.

"Through our Art in a Suitcase program, we offer a significant resource for teachers to engage their students in visual arts," Lederer said. "Docents travel to the classrooms directly and bring all the necessary art supplies in a specially-designed suitcase."

The Bedford Gallery also offers a program called Art in a Suitcase, where docents travel to the classroom with an art lesson and project packed all into the suitcase. "Our Art in a Suitcase program offers a significant resource for teachers where they can engage their students in a fun project based on engaging visual art concepts " Lederer said. When this suitcase is opened, doorways open in the imaginations of students. Children who may not have the opportunity to experience art firsthand in their classroom learn color theory, drawing, and writing under the guidance of a team of experienced Bedford Docents.

The Bedford is also available to rent for a private reception or meetings as well. "With spacious ceilings, hardwood maple floors, and plenty of natural light, the gallery makes an elegant and unique setting for a reception, meeting, or party," Lederer said. "Our engaging contemporary art exhibitions give guests an opportunity to visit and chat about the exhibition while they mingle."

Bedford Gallery exhibitions focus on everything from Legos and superheroes to baseball and inflatable art?and there is always something for everyone at the Gallery. And to top it off, for every show there is a free audio tour available, as well as fun merch for sale at the reception desk. For more information about the Bedford Gallery exhibitions, programs, tours, art opportunities, and venue rental, please visit the gallery's website at www.bedfordgallery.org.

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About The Author

Paul Rowe is a graduate instructor of writing and master's student of Literature at...

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