Member art teacher in Livonia wins top prize in MEA/MAEA Art Exhibition

MEA member Keith Beale, who’s in his first year teaching art in Livonia, took the “Best in Show” prize at the 59th Annual MEA/MAEA Art Exhibition. Beale, who previously taught in Virginia for 19 years, won for his watercolor painting of a street behind Detroit’s Eastern Market.

Beale says he is drawn to the mystery of industrial landscapes, having grown up in Queens, New York, where his father was a truck driver and convenience store owner. “I got a lot of time being able to drive out to warehouses and docks in the city and experience that mystery world where there’s so much behind those buildings that you just don’t have access to.”

Beale studied illustration in college and took up watercolor painting in 2004. He said he enjoys trying to control the chaos of water in watercolor painting. “It has taken so much time to learn control of personal pacing and the timing of the water — when to keep painting into your paper and when to let it rest,” he said.

Growing up, Beale was exposed to art through many family members who displayed work by the popular American painter, Norman Rockwell, he said. For his Eastern Market painting, Beale drew from a photograph he took when his wife’s family from Michigan showed the couple around the area.

“They took me down to that Eastern Market area, and I found it fascinating. That one street just kind of got to me with the quietness and the sun, so it was fun to tweak all of the color and play with the contrasts.”

Surprisingly Beale said the winning work was the first in which he painted snow – and to add challenge, the snow piles are partly in sun and partly in shadow. “I like the play of shadow and light where there’s so much color in shadow,” he said. “Shadows can bring a painting to life.”

Beale teaches fifth- and sixth-grade art in Livonia after years of teaching middle and high school art, art history, photography and more in Virginia – “everything but ceramics so far!” he quipped.

Juror Jan McCune, a retired high school art teacher and practicing metalsmith from Indiana, praised the quality of the 61 entries selected for the show. McCune said in selecting pieces, she looked for mastery of medium and excellent craftsmanship.

Of Beale’s best-in-show and other award winners, she said, “I selected ones that showed the artist’s unique voice or a particular point of view that set their work apart from the rest.”

A showcase for members’ artwork, some of which is purchased for display in MEA offices across the state, the art exhibition co-sponsored by MEA and the Michigan Art Education Association continues at MEA headquarters through April 19. View the accepted entries from this year’s show.

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