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Watercolors, local sights and more this First Friday

We're still a few weeks away from the official start of summer but as far as our weather is concerned, the heat is on. Of course, that means it's the season in which we find ourselves looking for fun activities that allow us to stay inside with the AC on. Luckily art lovers still have a chance to enjoy First Friday either from the comfort of their home or in galleries.

The new group show "Watercolor Challenge," currently on display at the Bakersfield Art Association Art Center, is the result of a gathering of artists who have been working together since 2018.

Artist Norma Neil invited eight others — a mix of fellow artists, former art students and passionate beginners — to join a watercolor class for mutual support and inspiration.

With a degree in art education, Neil said she wanted to offer a class with enough structure for beginning painters plus offering a solid review of the basics for the more experienced painters. 

"I wanted to recreate the exchange of art-centered evocative dialog from my own college days where some of the greatest discussions came after the bell," Neil wrote in an email. "I felt this give and take of ideas is missing from most art classes but it forms who we are as artists."

Most classes take place on Neil's patio where the artists are surrounded by nature with birds, fountains and flowers. Much of the time together is spent on art discussions and critiques, with the painting happening when the artists return to their own studios.

During the pandemic when in-person gatherings weren't possible, the group stayed connected with frequent emails, phone calls and one-on-one visits.

Neil said for this show each artist chose a way "to interpret their relationship with nature and its changing rhythm."

Along with Neil, "Watercolor Challenge" features the work of Laura Mizrahi, Micki Schulz, Becky Stokes, Barbara Mattick and Jeff Carney.

The show will remain on display through June at the BAA Art Center, 1607 19th St., which is open until 4 p.m. Friday. Current hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. The work will also be on display on the Bakersfield Art Association's website bakersfieldartassociation.org, Facebook and Instagram pages.

'A Bit of Bako'

If you're not in the mood for sightseeing, you can still enjoy viewing some local scenic spots with "A Bit of Bako," which is on display now at Dagny's Coffee Co.

This show by Vicki Meadows features a series of recognizable locations, many of which are downtown — the Padre Hotel, Mexicali, Cafe Smitten, Jake's Tex-Mex, The 18hundred restaurant, Guthrie's Alley Cat — and in parts beyond — Dewar's on Calloway Drive, an oil derrick and former honky-tonks Trout's and The Blackboard, which only live on in history and memory.

Meadows has been drawing since she was a child, encouraged by her father who got her an easel and starter paints when she was in junior high, according to the BAA newsletter. Even early on, her work reflected an architectural style, although her efforts to study architectural drawing in high school were thwarted by some sexist administrators.

"Art was always a hobby and I enjoyed math too," Meadows wrote in an email. "So, when I thought I could get paid doing two things I loved I decided to be an architect. When that wasn't an option I did what girls back then did and became a secretary. My art was put on hold and I stayed busy with having two kids and helping my husband in his business."

Other than murals for family and friends, Meadows put her canvas art on hold for about 40 years, when she got back into creating after being asked to paint something for the Michael J. Fox Foundation by the doctor who was treating her mother for Parkinson's disease.

After enjoying creating her auction piece, Meadows continued to paint and she joined the Bakersfield Art Association.

Meadows said, "Once I painted the lavender fields on a canvas I realized how much I enjoyed painting, so I decided to give it a go again."

"One thing I have learned is that you are never too old to give something new a try. If I hadn't been asked to donate a painting, I probably would have never picked up another brush and would have missed out on such enjoyment. I have painted pictures of client's homes, their farms, their children, their pets, and even their cars. It means so much to know that they aren't just paintings to them but a memory, a feeling."

Meadows' show can be viewed through June at the coffeehouse, 1600 20th St.

Bakersfield Museum of Art

There's cool and then there's cool. If you want to beat the heat in style, head over to the museum, which again is offering free admission for First Friday along with extended hours until 8 p.m.

View the current exhibitions including local artist and educator Art Sherwyn's "Uncommon Perspective: Paintings by Art Sherwyn." The tranquil imagery of "Color + Figure: Paintings by Linda Christensen" will be a soothing respite from the pre-summer heat. And tune in for a good time with "The Bakersfield Sound: Roll Out the Red Carpet," featuring musicians' detailed and colorful stage costumes and music memorabilia.

White Wolf Wellness Foundation will again offer a free yoga session but because of the heat, the class will be held inside rather than the Tejon Sculpture Garden. White Wolf's Stephen and Katherine Winters will lead the class from 6 to 7:15 p.m. (Visit bmoa.org/yoga for more details.)

The museum, 1930 R St., will be open from 10 a.m. until 8 p.m. For more information, visit bmoa.org.

Stefani Dias can be reached at 661-395-7488. Follow her on Twitter at @realstefanidias.