Bekah Coleman paints and sketches, but her true art is collaboration.
The curator of education at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts, Coleman has grown the museum’s educational offerings exponentially by harnessing the power of partnership. Noting “the museum is for everyone,” she has intelligently joined forces with groups as contrasting as Angelo State University, the Association of Asian American Women, Goodfellow Air Force Base and San Angelo Friends of the Environment.
A lifelong soccer player, Coleman learned early the impact of teamwork.
“As a community activist, I enjoy working with others to make San Angelo a better place,” she said. “That’s what I saw as a child, and that’s what I wish for my children to see.”
Coleman, 31, earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art with a specialization in painting and drawing from Angelo State in 2009. After graduating, she worked and volunteered with the San Angelo Independent School District while pursuing an alternative teaching certificate.
A third-generation San Angelo educator, Coleman said her job melds her twin passions of art and education. She is responsible for creating and executing interdisciplinary museum programming that educates, enlightens, informs and inspires more than 28,000 visitors per year.
That’s in keeping with the museum’s slogan: “We are not just about art on the walls but art in our lives; and the community is the greatest work of art.” It’s reflected in events such as Art After Dark: Dia de los Muertos, a project in partnership with ASU and locally owned galleries along Orient Street. Dia de Los Muertos is a celebration of culture and community that showcases local art and ASU organizations, all within downtown San Angelo.
“Ninety percent of what I try, people get excited about,” she said. “Showing up and being involved is where change occurs. That’s a discussion worth having.”
Coleman’s activism extends beyond the museum.
She is vice president of San Angelo Friends of the Environment, a recycling center. She serves on the Toys for Tots Advisory Board and is an ad hoc member of the City of San Angelo’s Public Arts Commission and the newly formed Concho Valley Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum. She also volunteers with the SAISD, the animal rescue group Concho Valley PAWS and many other community groups.
Coleman learned about community activism from her grandparents. Once they retired from teaching, they immersed themselves in volunteering instead of becoming “keyboard activists.”
“My grandparents never wasted time talking or arguing about how to make San Angelo a better place for me,” she said. “They simply started working to make it better. Their determination, hard work and stubbornness have inspired me from childhood to change the community for the better from the inside out.
“Just do good things in the small amount of time we have,” Coleman urged. “Just do something for the betterment of someone or something, even if no one notices or acknowledges you. It makes an impact; it did for me.”