Once a month, we feature local small business owners and artists who are using their creativity to make the homes and businesses of Roanoke beautiful.
This month, our spotlight is on artist Rebecca Hurt. Rebecca primarily creates large, non-objective pieces using oil paints.
A Budding Art Career: Rebecca’s Story
Rebecca is just beginning her career as an artist. Born and raised in Roanoke, she has been passionate about art for as long as she can remember.
“Art was always my thing that I was good at,” she said. “Growing up, everyone knew ‘Rebecca does art.’ It’s something that’s been stamped on me.”
Living in the Roanoke community, one that is so supportive of the arts, definitely had an influence on Rebecca. She recalls years of attending local galleries and events such as the Sidewalk Art Show and admiring the work of so many talented local artists. Rebecca credits a lot of what she knows from her art teacher, Sarah Rutherfoord, another Roanoke artist.
“I took private lessons from Sarah all through high school,” Rebecca said. “She pushed me and helped me developed the skills I now have. She’s been a huge mentor in my life, not just in my art.”
There was never a doubt in Rebecca’s mind that she would pursue art as a career. She studied Studio Art at JMU and received her BFA from there in May of 2017. What did come as a surprise to her were a couple of shifts that happened during her time as a student at JMU.
One shift was in the style of artwork that she did. She had previously done more objective, realistic drawings and paintings, but her professors pushed her to try a different style as well—non-objective, abstract pieces.
Inspired by other abstract expressionist artists that she studied, she fell in love with this style and now focuses almost primarily on it. Her paintings typically feature vibrant colors and rich textures. “I mostly use oil, because I love that thick, buttery texture you get with oils. They seem more vibrant.”
Rebecca’s style and her use of passionate colors have an intense personal meaning. A spiritual realization three years ago helped reveal the reason why she enjoyed this type of artwork so much, other than that people told her she was good at it.
“At first it was pretty paintings, and it wasn’t until later that the meaning presented itself to me. At the time, I was going through some things and growing in my faith as a Christian. I was working on one painting in particular that was very vibrant, with deep reds and oranges and bright colors,” she said. “I didn’t have a vision for it in the beginning, but as I was working on it, it came to me that the colors reflect the love that Christ has for us.”
She has carried forward this meaning in all of her work since then and draws her inspiration from this. “It’s special that my pieces mean that to me, and getting to share that love through art to other people means a lot to me.”
For Rebecca, the process of creating each piece, even when it doesn’t go as expected, is what can bring the most meaning and joy.
“I find a lot of the time that the pieces I’m happiest with are the ones that gave me the most grief in the beginning,” she said. “The ones I put some extra love into are the ones I end up being most proud of.”
When Rebecca moved back to Roanoke after finishing at JMU, her mentor, Sarah Rutherfoord, encouraged her to join The Market Gallery. Rebecca is the youngest member there. “I feel so fortunate to be there, surrounded by so many other amazing artists that I looked up to when I was in high school,” she said.
Rebecca’s Career: Teaching & Creating Art
Another surprising shift that came about during her time at JMU was a desire to teach art. “It hadn’t even crossed my mind before, but I decided to take one intro class in art ed,” she said. “It was fine, but once we started going into the schools and being around the kids, something in me clicked, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do.”
In addition to her BFA, she also received her Art Education License. Rebecca recently moved to Winchester because she is set to start her first full time art teaching job this fall at a high school in Front Royal, VA.
“What I love about teaching is seeing those kids who maybe were having a harder time at school or weren’t the most joyful and seeing the happiness for that kid that day that came through art,” Rebecca said. “Of course you want to teach them about art, but I think teaching is ultimately about showing kids that they’re cared for and that you’re there for them.”
While this shift in her career pulled her from her beloved hometown, she still plans to be part of the Roanoke art community as much as she can through The Market Gallery and other opportunities as she is able.
“I’ll be teaching full time, but I’m planning to keep up my own practice and painting,” she said. “That’s another good reason for being part of The Market Gallery, it will help me keep my art coming.”
When Rebecca is not working on her art, she enjoys being outdoors and hiking. She also collaborates with her friend from college and fellow artist, Nava Levenson, to create and sell handmade journals. Rebecca collage the covers of them, and Nava binds them. The pair go to shows and markets to sell them.