Location: Matthews, NC
Growing up in the suburbs of New York City, Bette Andrews had easy access to culture. Her mother always took her to the ballet and her family took full advantage of the plethora of museums that were just a short trip away. “Museums have always been the fiber of my life,” she says. Bette particularly enjoyed art museums. “I like looking at art,” she says, “and looking at the different periods and trying to figure out how they all connect.”
Bette finds art museums full of inspiration and food for thought. “Viewing art transports you,” she says. “For me, I always try to figure out how the artists were able to translate whatever their ideas were onto the canvas.” She is enthralled with the way every artist comes at artistic expression and creativity in a different way with a unique result. “Why is that?” Bette says she wonders about each individual painting or sculpture or drawing. “I like to think that every time an artist sits down at whatever medium they use it is an experiment of sorts.”
Bette even tried her own hand at expressing herself artistically by going to fashion school. She only lasted a few semesters. “I was terrible,” she says. She decided that her form of artistic expression would be through appreciating art, something she has continued to do her entire life. It is also something she incorporated into her parenting, filling her son Jason’s childhood in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Bette moved in 2001, with museums the same way hers was and instilling in him a similar appreciation for art and culture. Jason, 23, is an architect associate living in Pittsburgh and Bette frequents museums there too when she visits him.
Bette, who works as a compliance manager for team member conduct at Wells Fargo, initially found Charlotte to be a big adjustment culture-wise. But she had moved to Santa Rosa, California from New York prior to moving to Charlotte, an even bigger culture shock, so Charlotte was a happy medium between the two cities. And Bette has been thrilled to see the growth of culture and opportunities to indulge her appreciation for art grow in the Queen City. “Charlotte has increased its cultural scene tremendously in the 19 years since I have lived here,” Bette says.
Her favorite addition to Charlotte’s cultural offerings is the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art that opened its doors to the public in January 2010. The collection, amassed by the Bechtler family over seventy years in Switzerland, includes works by the most important and influential artists of the 2oth century. Bette was fascinated with the story behind the museum’s inception and eagerly anticipated its opening. “I loved reading about this family’s generosity in giving all the art they had amassed to the city,” Bette says. She was also excited about the fact that Mario Botta was the architect chosen to design the building, having admired his work with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. “We now have a stand-out building as well,” Bette says, noting that it is only the second in the country designed by the Swiss architect.
Bette was among the first patrons in the door at the Bechtler and has enjoyed the convenience of the museum’s location right across the street from Wells Fargo. She learned early on that the Bechtler Museum has a docent program and in late 2017 Bette decided to take her love of art and her appreciation for the Bechtler Museum to a new level. She completed the 10-week training program to be a docent and now gives tours of the museum and helps out with special openings and events at the museum.
Much of Bette’s docent training focused on how to explain the art to children and how to engage them in conversations about it because most of the tours of the museum are given to school groups. Bette was not enthused at first to learn that she would not be working with adults, but she quickly changed her tune when she saw, as she puts it, “what a difference I could make in a child’s life.” Many of the students who tour the museum are children who would not otherwise have access to a museum or the opportunity to see art in this way. “If I can inspire one child in each group so that one of them looks back and remembers something about the Bechtler, I am good,” Bette says.
She loves watching the transformation of children who are often agitated, hungry or tired into museum goers who are as enthralled with the art as she is. “I always show them things that are conversation starters,” she says, “and are sure to capture their attention.” She often begins by showing them a sculpture on the museum’s second floor balcony of a woman turning into a grasshopper. “They see things that I don’t see,” Bette says. “And they say the funniest things.”
Sharing her love of art in this way has given Bette a new appreciation for it. And she sees her job as a docent as one of the many ways that the Bechtler Museum is making art more accessible to the public. It is a relatively small museum with beautiful lighting and the exhibits change frequently. “It is a very easy museum to experience,” Bette says. “It is not intimidating.” She often encourages her friends and colleagues to enjoy the museum or visit a new exhibit. “The city is so fortunate to have this collection here,” Bette says, “and we should take advantage of it.”
The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is celebrating its tenth anniversary with a series of events and exhibits. To learn more, visit www.bechtler.org.