“While I’ve always loved art, it wasn’t something I seriously pursued,” Hefty said. “That all changed when I decided on a whim to enroll in a painting course with a few friends.”
The year was 2011. The course was taught at STLCC-Wildwood by Mark Weber, professor of Art.
Fast-forward to today. Hefty is a blossoming artist with an impressive portfolio of work. Since that first class, she and her friends have successfully completed Weber’s painting course 18 times – or once every semester.
“He just couldn’t shake us,” she joked. “He genuinely cares about us and is invested in our success as artists.”
While Hefty and her friends aren’t pursuing degrees at STLCC, this hasn’t lessened their commitment to their work. In fact, according to Weber, his non-traditional students are among his most enthusiastic.
“They are an asset to our class,” Weber said. “Not only do they help mentor and encourage the younger students, but they also have made it a priority to take an active role in our campus’ Fine Arts Club.”
One significant initiative driven by Hefty and her friends in the Fine Arts Club is STLCC-Wildwood’s art gallery program. Since its inception in 2013, the campus has successfully hung more than 175 original works of art at various locations in west St. Louis County.
According to Hefty, the idea for the program stemmed from the fact that she had numerous pieces of artwork stacking up, without a place to display them. Rather than store them at home, she decided to approach local businesses about the possibility of hanging student artwork. The first establishment to agree to the program was Wildwood City Hall. After that, several restaurants followed, along with a few offices and the Wildwood Hotel.
“It’s a win-win for us and the establishments,” Hefty said. “Not only does it help beautify their spaces, but it also provides us with a public venue to display our work. And it provides us with an avenue to sell our artwork.”
While other colleges have public galleries, STLCC-Wildwood’s approach is unique because the artwork is on loan. Each piece that is on display is available for sale. Moreover, when an interested buyer purchases a painting, the student who created the piece receives 100 percent of the money.
“We all play a role in the gallery program; it’s truly a team effort,” Hefty said. “Studio 309 at STLCC-Wildwood has great energy. We have a sense of shared pride in our work, and we always celebrate when one of us sells a piece of art.”
Currently, eight locations are part of STLCC-Wildwood’s art gallery program. In addition to planning each exhibit, the students regularly hang new artwork at each establishment.
“When you paint, inspiration comes through you and you want to share your work with others,” Hefty said. “I feel fortunate to have discovered my passion for painting at STLCC, and I am thankful for the support I’ve received throughout this process.”