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Residents enjoy the Bluff Park Art Show, the signature event for the Bluff Park Art Association.
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Photo by Lexi Coon.
The Riverchase Women’s Club and Riverchase Country Club hosted their 11th Riverchase Loves Artists Art Show on Feb. 4.
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Photo courtesy of the BPAA.
A painting from “My Floating World” by Hatsue Miki.
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Photo courtesy of the Bluff Park Art Association.
“Organized Chaos” by Scott Coleman is part of the Bluff Park Art Association permanent collection.
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The Hoover art scene is home to artists working in a variety of mediums.
The beginning of Hoover’s longest-running art association lies, like so many other parts of Hoover, in the needs of the community.
In 1964, before the city had even incorporated, Bluff Park Elementary needed books to fill its library. Bluff Park already was known as a “haven for artists,” Hoover Arts Alliance founder Linda Chastain said, and a group of talented residents held an arts and crafts auction to help pay for the school’s books. That small beginning became the Bluff Park Art Association and its signature event, the Bluff Park Art Show.
“That really was the beginning of art [in Hoover]. Those people worked so hard,” Chastain said. “The art show grew legs of its own.”
There had been plenty of individual artists living in the future Hoover city limits before the first Bluff Park Art Show, and since then the BPAA has been joined by the Hoover Arts Alliance, the Hoover Shelby Art Association, Riverchase Loves Artists, National League of American Pen Women and Artists on the Bluff. But for people who have been involved in Hoover’s art scene for many years, the creation of the BPAA was a critical moment for the city.
“We’re very proud of our community and our people and their spirit,” said Sara Perry, who moved to Bluff Park in 1964 and remembers attending the first art show with her son.
The Bluff Park Art Show has grown into a regional gem, with artists from across the country competing for a space. BPAA board members Tommy Sanderson and Trish Hoover said that while the show is no longer a fundraiser for library books, that same community feeling persists in the show. Hospitality, they said, is one of the main draws for returning artists.
Chastain, a Bluff Park resident since 1966, said that in the early years of Hoover’s incorporation, there were not places for artists to work and exhibit their pieces.
“There was always art, but there was never a place to put it,” Chastain said.
Artists on the Bluff, now housed in the former Bluff Park Elementary, was one of several ways Hoover’s artists decided to fill that need.
“Well, now it’s almost like an artists’ colony. You can’t have that everywhere,” Hoover said.
Along with traditional mediums such as pencils and paints, Perry said a peek inside the Artists on the Bluff studios also will reveal creators working with wood, glass, clay, jewelry, metal and more.
“We kept up pretty well,” Perry said of the way artistic trends have changed in the past 50 years.
“Back in the day it was all painting. And now you’re seeing the different mediums,” Hoover agreed.
For some longtime BPAA members, Perry said they always get a kick out of seeing their former second-grade classroom turned into a studio.
“That’s a perfect place for it. That’s where the artists are,” Chastain said. “When you do things for the community, sometimes you don’t make a profit, but you improve the quality of life.”
Art exhibit spaces in the city now include Aldridge Gardens, the Hoover Public Library and a city hall gallery that was added about five years ago. There is also the “unknown secret” of the BPAA, Hoover said: the association’s permanent collection.
Since the beginning of the Bluff Park Art Show, Perry said the association has chosen one piece of art from the show each year to purchase and add to its permanent collection. There are now 110 pieces in the collection, and in 1979 the BPAA began displaying a few pieces at Bluff Park, Shades Mountain and Gwin elementary schools. Since then, the group has been putting pieces from the collection on temporary display in libraries, schools and other public buildings around Jefferson and Shelby counties.
Hoover said the BPAA continually seeks new places to show its permanent collection to continue sharing their art with the community.
“We don’t want it to be a secret,” she said.
The permanent collection has its roots in the earliest years of the BPAA, so Sanderson said it’s an opportunity to see how artistic tastes have changed over the decades. The entire collection can be viewed on the BPAA website.
“You actually can see the progression of art from our permanent collection,” Sanderson said. “Our permanent collection is something that we value very highly, obviously, because it is like a time capsule to show each year and what’s going on in art.”
Perry said some members of the BPAA are the sons and daughters of the original members. The association and the Hoover Arts Alliance want to continue that legacy of passing down a love of art to the next generation of Hoover residents. The Bluff Park Art Show presents a scholarship each year to a Hoover High or Spain Park student planning to study art in college.
Chastain said the Arts Alliance not only funds three scholarships each year, but also hosts elementary art contests and helps to fund other arts such as high school theater or band trips. Through the alliance’s work during the past 10 years, Chastain said she has been fortunate to meet the talented high school teachers and students who bring their artistic talents to the city, some in new mediums such as fabric and digital art.
As art continues to be part of the city of Hoover’s story, the BPAA is looking for ways to include more artists in its annual October show. Hoover said right now the show maxes out at about 145 artists, and they will need to find more space or add extra days in order for the show to grow. Both Perry and Chastain expressed a need for a dedicated civic or convention center that could provide a space for visual and performing arts in Hoover.
Creating a civic center has been a particular project for Chastain since she started the Hoover Arts Alliance with Barbara Lyons in 2007. She said she believes it would not only benefit Hoover’s resident dancers, actors, musicians and visual artists, but also allow the city to attract larger shows than it can currently accommodate. She plans to keep pushing until that idea becomes a reality.
“There’s a need not being met,” Chastain said. “That would be the last piece of the puzzle.”
Chastain marveled at how much the art community in Hoover has changed since that first little arts and crafts fundraiser 55 years ago.
“All this just because they wanted to get books for the schools,” Chastain said.