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Art Beat
A weekly look at creativity, arts, and culture in southwest Michigan, hosted by Zinta Aistars.Fridays in Morning Edition at 7:50am and at 4:20pm during All Things Considered.

Art Beat: Through a lover’s eye

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Doug Bingaman
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Kathy Bingaman began her art career painting signs and banners for grocery stores in her hometown of Three Rivers, Michigan. 

Her creativity came into demand, and Bingaman opened Walnut Street Studio in Three Rivers. She and a partner created custom floor cloths, hand-painted signs, banners, furniture, and faux finishes for clients. Later, Bingaman closed that business and opened “That Artsie Place” and painted murals, stencils, and did restoration work. Today, Bingaman makes one-of-a-kind jewelry from her home business, Bingaman Design – although on occasion she can still be found bringing a historic location back to life.

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A conversation with Kathy Bingaman.
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Credit Doug Bingaman
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Jewelry by Kathy Bingaman.

“When I was a kid, I wanted to be an archaeologist,” Bingaman says. “It’s on my bucket list, to be part of a dig… the eye that you see in my jewelry and my logo is my husband’s eye. It’s kind of my own version of the Egyptian or the Lover’s Eye jewelry … Even when I am trying to do something different or a different shape, most of the time it comes back to those same images. It just happens.”

While still involved in Walnut Street Studio, Bingaman opened “That Artsie Place” with her husband, Doug, a downtown gallery of local artists. After investing 3-1/2 years into the business while both continuing to work full-time jobs, then another 15 years into Walnut Street Studio, Bingaman decided to move her work home and focus on creating handmade jewelry. Bingaman Design was born.

Another aspect of Bingaman’s work has been as a 10-year board member of the Downtown Development Authority in Three Rivers.

“Trying to preserve our historic Three Rivers downtown has always been important to me,” says Bingaman. “Among the projects I helped complete were several community participation murals and a handmade tile pool and fountain in our downtown. Our biggest project was the faux finishing and stenciling restoration in the St. Joseph County Courthouse.”

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Credit Doug Bingaman
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Kathy and Doug Bingaman's bus project.

Bingaman has also worked on restoring the stenciling at the Carnegie Center for the Arts in Three Rivers. She is a member of the Carnegie Center, the Three Rivers Women’s Club, has taught Carnegie’s Fourth Grade Art Awareness Program and Summer Full of Art Camp. She is a charter member of the Three Rivers Artists Guild. A personal project for her and husband Doug has been to renovate a retired school bus into a traveling art studio that they now use for regular trips to Key West, Florida, where Bingaman gathers more beach materials for her unique jewelry.

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