Barry McNamara  |   Published July 01, 2019

Creating Art for Everyone

Alumna Natalie Curtis named first artist in residence at Buchanan Center for the Arts.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – As a high-achieving student-athlete at Monmouth College, Natalie Curtis broke new ground in the classroom, where she was a double major in mathematics and art, and in the Fighting Scots’ pool as a record-setting water polo goalie.

NATALIE CURTIS: ?Art is for everyone, and I enjoy making educational art that explores, explains ... NATALIE CURTIS: “Art is for everyone, and I enjoy making educational art that explores, explains and celebrates topics outside of visual arts.”Now, the 2018 graduate is breaking ground once again, serving as the first artist in residence in a program recently launched by the Buchanan Center for the Arts in downtown Monmouth.

“Art is for everyone, and I enjoy making educational art that explores, explains and celebrates topics outside of visual arts,” said Curtis, who began her position June 1 and will continue working through Sept. 15. “I like making art that draws people in to be a part of it.”

Curtis enjoys exploring all types of art, including painting, sculpting and graphic design. She brings that diverse experience – which includes designing an award-winning theatre set as a Monmouth student – to the classes she’s teaching around town as part of the artist in residence program.

“I’m teaching a little bit of everything,” she said. “The variety helps keep the interest high. We’re doing lots of make-and-take projects.”

Curtis teaches at Lincoln Homes, the Jamieson Community Center and Costello Terrace.

In addition to taking art into the community, Curtis is involved in a pair of projects around the Buchanan Center. One is creating a new mural along the building’s south wall. The first mural there began as graffiti and was eventually the subject of a segment on a public television show.

“I’m keeping some of the elements that were there, and I’m going higher up the wall than the previous mural,” said Curtis, whose work will celebrate the history and impact of the Buchanan Center in the community. “I’m also using different styles of painting, so there’ll be some stamping and some pouring – things that are less stressful. We’re looking for all kinds of volunteers to help.”

And when Curtis says “all kinds,” she means it.

“We don’t want people thinking ‘I’m not a painter; you don’t want my help,’” she said.

Curtis will also explore the role of the Buchanan Center with her own installation, which will go on display later this summer. The 3D installation will be set in the center of the gallery during the 38th annual Security Savings Bank Photography Show.

Curtis became interested in the new Buchanan Center program after its executive director, 1990 Monmouth alumna Kristyne Gilbert, reached out to her last year.

“Monmouth’s very fortunate to have a place like the Buchanan Center,” said Curtis, who grew up in Arlington Heights, Ill. “Kristyne has a huge network of people that she works with and pulls ideas from. It puts Monmouth on a much larger scale. The shows she puts on are very prestigious for a town this size.”

The Artist in Residence Program was made possible through grants from the Galesburg Community Foundation and the Warren County United Way, as well as memorials and individual donations.

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