KOKOMO, Ind. – Elizabeth "Biz" Bates enrolled at Indiana University Kokomo without a clear idea of what she wanted to be when she grew up.
Now, as she prepares to graduate with a degree in humanities, she says the program has allowed her experiences that guided her to be a theater director.
"I had the opportunity to look around and see everything I could possibly do," she said. "My professors encouraged me to explore and find out what was best for me, for my life, and for my future."
One of those opportunities is working as the IU Kokomo Art Gallery intern, and curating the newest exhibit "Heartbeat of the Heartland."
"If I had gone to a larger school, I would have never had this kind of opportunity," Bates said. "It has shown me a different way to view the arts world."
The art show, which opens Wednesday, January 16, features paintings, photography, graphics, woodworking, metalsmithing, multimedia, and sculpture created by Indiana artists. Bates chose the theme after hearing a comment that Indiana is not an art state.
"I really wanted to highlight the artistic ability that exists all throughout the state," she added. "I wanted to show that we are an art state. People just don't realize that, and I want to make them aware of it."
Her yearlong gallery internship teaches her the business side of art, which will help in her intended career as a theater director and producer.
"I am learning how to manage a show, from concept through opening," she said. "I've developed professional skills from working with the artists, how to select the right work, and even how to reject some work. I'm also learning about publicity and raising money, which are all things I will need to know."
Gallery Director Susan Skoczen said curating the show builds real-world skills, applicable in many career fields.
"Biz is in charge of all aspects of planning and making contacts for the show, and reaching out to people and organizations outside of campus," she said. "It is a huge undertaking to organize all of the art, and artists' schedules, once the show has been planned. She also did the promotional postcard design, planned the gallery layout, and scheduled staff to help with installation of the show."
The internship will also make her stand out among applicants for highly competitive graduate school admissions in directing.
Her years as a humanities student helped her learn about herself, and find her interests. She originally planned to earn a degree in history, but changed her focus to art after taking a class from Minda Douglas, assistant professor of fine arts, who encouraged her to pursue her artistic talents.
Bates then planned to become an art teacher, but after working with several Kokomo Civic Theatre productions, she decided theater was her life's passion.
"I just fell in love with it, because it used all my strengths," she said. "I really think you should do something that will make you happy and fulfill you."
The exhibit opens with a reception from 4 to 7 p.m. January 16 in the Art Gallery, 2300 S. Washington St. The exhibition continues through February 16. The Art Gallery is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday, and noon to 4 p.m. Saturday. It is closed Sunday, Monday and Friday. Free parking is available on campus.
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.