Artist Rebekah Pruett Garners Critical Acclaim

Rebekah Pruett wants to teach. In fact, according to her professors at
Bluefield College, the senior from Tazewell, Virginia, who will graduate in
May will make a good teacher.
However, some folks say she’s an even better artist. In fact, the
Bluefield College teacher education major was recently named “an emerging
artist” by folk art critics from “America Oh, Yes.” So, while Pruett
continues to balance her studies with student-teaching and a hobby in folk
art, she may find that her artistry brings her acclaim sooner than her
teaching.

Pruett grew up on a dairy farm in Tazewell where she was surrounded by
animals and nature. As a young girl, even though she was bashful, she was
very creative. Realizing her talents, her parents, Bill and Mary Pruett,
encouraged her to be artistic.

“I can’t really pinpoint when I first started drawing, but I know that I
was drawing at age five,” Pruett said about the beginning of her hobby.
“Drawing and creating were things I always loved as a child.”

By age 12, she started painting flowers from gardening books. Over the
years, her style of painting evolved from flowers into pictures of angels,
nature and her rural surroundings. The inspiration, she said, came directly
from her strong belief in God and her love of nature and simplicity. As time
passed and the completed works began to accumulate, Pruett said she began to
wonder just how good her artwork was.

“I got really tired of having all of my pictures just piling up around
me,” Pruett said, “so one day I decided to get a qualified opinion of my
work.”

On the Internet, she found a web site for folk art, “America Oh, Yes,”
an organization that holds, shows and promotes one of the most extensive
folk art collections in the country through galleries in Hilton Head, South
Carolina, Washington, D.C., and on-line. She submitted pictures of her work
and asked the critics of “America Oh, Yes” for an opinion of her pieces.

“I sent the letter and kept waiting and waiting for a reply,” Pruett
recalled. “I was really discouraged and convinced myself that they hated my
artwork so much that they were not even going to consider e-mailing me.”

As it turned out, the critics were replying to an incorrect e-mail
address. They found Pruett by phone instead. Their reply: “We love your
artwork and would like to include some of your pieces on our web site.”

“I guess this was a lesson in believing in myself,” Pruett said, “and to
quit being so pessimistic about my own abilities. From then on things have
really taken off for me.”

“America Oh, Yes” placed several of Pruett’s pieces on its site,www.americaohyes.com, under “Folk Art/Visionary Art,” and even named the
Bluefield College senior “an emerging artist.” From the site, many of her
works have sold, including pieces entitled “Catch a Falling Star,” “Faith,”
“Set Your Heart on Things Above,” and “What Could Have Been.” Other works,
like “Pickin’ and Grinin’,” “Hillbilly Hannah,” and “Gray Haired Grace” are
still available for sale on the site.
In addition, Pruett has been featured in the art shows “Spring Has
Sprung,” “Surviving Cancer Creatively,” “What I Did for Love: Folk Art from
the Garden of Eden” and “Southern Belles” in Washington, D.C., and “Angels
We Have Heard on High” and “Nothing But the Blues” in Hilton Head, South
Carolina. Her work has also appeared at the Folk Fest in Atlanta, Georgia,
and the Burkes Garden Fall Festival in Burkes Garden, Virginia. And, she is
currently on exhibit at “The Starving Artist Cafe” in Abingdon, Virginia.
Her show there will run through the month of March.

“She is truly a talented artist and a very dedicated Christian,” said
Besty Steenken, a BC assistant professor of education who teaches Pruett.
“It is evident in her artwork. She is an excellent student, thoughtful and
careful in her work and very reliable. She’s a real asset to Bluefield
College.”

In the meantime — because she would be the first to tell you that her
art is just a hobby, something she never really expected to be recognized
for and something she never thought would become a career — Pruett will
continue to pursue her teaching degree. Her next step: student-teaching
kindergartners at Dudley Primary School in Bluefield Virginia.

“After college I would like to find a job somewhere in the area teaching
elementary school,” Pruett said. “If I cannot find a job right away, then I
will probably substitute teach until I find a job.”

But, as she and others well know, it is not out of the question that
this BC teacher-to-be who credits her mother and father for her success
could easily pursue a career in art.

“I realize how difficult it would be for someone to make a living solely
on his or her art,” Pruett said. “However, if I¹m able to somehow do that
(support myself as an artist), then that would be a dream realized. I don’t
know anyone who wouldn’t like to make a living from a hobby. I¹m just going
to take the opportunities that are given to me and see how far it takes me.
Every opportunity to show or sell my art is a blessing, not something I
expect to happen.”

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