3/15/2021 | By Rachel Marsh

For nearly a century, the heartbeat of Covington has resided at Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center. 

This downtown staple is responsible for the creativity and wellness of its thousands of students of all ages, featuring its year-round and extensive offering of classes, events, and artistic community outreach.

A Creative Oasis in North Covington

Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center hosts a wide variety of experiences to help fuel the creativity of its students and its community. The courses offered at Baker Hunt range from unique art classes (like painting, pottery, mosaics, and photography); mind and body (like yoga and meditation); and even cooking classes, offered as both one-off events and long-term courses. 

Classes are approachable and available to every skill level. Which means, yes: students can take a painting class even if they haven’t touched a paintbrush in decades; a culinary course even if they seem to burn everything they cook; and a yoga workshop even if they’ve never set foot on a yoga mat.

After all, as with most creative endeavors – it’s never truly about the finished product!

Roots of Compassion

The origin story of Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center is a classic tale of silver linings. The community center was founded in 1922 by Margaretta Baker-Hunt. She, sadly, faced a short yet devastating period of serious losses – including her parents, husband, and daughter; but instead of succumbing to the grief and isolating herself from the world, Margaretta turned her energy outwards and opened her heart to the community.

With the help of her niece, Kate Scudder, Margaretta opened her home to the local residents for an assortment of art and lifestyle classes. 

“Margaretta and her niece, who lived with Margaretta, were both woodcarvers. So they taught woodcarving classes,” explains Karen Etling, executive director of Baker Hunt. “They also had some etiquette-type classes in the past, as well as painting classes … They used to have piano lessons, and singing lessons, and just a variety of different classes that they could teach.”

Throughout the decades, the course variety has grown significantly, and the single-building institution has now evolved into a 3-acre campus. But they still, in fact, teach some classes in Margaretta’s mansion!

Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center campus

A Mission of Creativity and Community

Underneath the surface of pastels and mosaics, Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center works hard to carry on Margaretta’s community-focused mission. The foundational goals of Baker Hunt include making “art available to all; young and old, on campus and off, for the enrichment of our students and the cultural development of our community.” 

Not only do they work to make classes affordable for everyone, they also make art as accessible as possible.

Situationally Accessible

Thanks to their robust outreach programming, for instance, staff and teachers at Baker Hunt make an effort to connect with as many people in the community as they can.

They can frequently be found at local events such as farmers markets, festivals, and art shows with free art creation booths for both kids and adults. They’ve brought their culinary program into the community, too, with the initiative to bring meals to local shelters. “We’re giving back to the community in a variety of different ways,” Etling explains.

Financially Accessible

The center also aims to ensure that nothing prevents a potential student from participating in a class, including financial impediments. 

“We have scholarships available for any class that we offer,” Etling affirms. “We used to offer [scholarships] just to kids, but we rethought that policy and decided that it’s a good thing for anybody who may not have the financial opportunity to join us, but the desire. So we support everybody.”

Serving the Community Members Who Need It Most

And this ever-inclusive center strives to embrace every population of the Covington area – especially local seniors. 

Senior woman using watercolors at Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center

In addition to bringing art out into the community through avenues like farmers markets and festivals, for example, staff at Baker Hunt also provide art classes to residents of nearby senior living communities and adult daycares. The center also has senior students who attend classes every week – a much-needed social outlet, particularly important for older adults and retirees so prone to loneliness. 

“Engagement and community help provide older people in our community an opportunity to connect, create, to have community, and to have something that they can look forward to every week,” says Etling. “That engagement helps keep them young in heart and spirit.”

In addition, of course, Baker Hunt goes beyond art! This community center also has a heavy emphasis on health and wellness, another feature they work to bring to their local seniors. “We’re expanding the way we look at our senior community,” Etling explains. “Our hope is to start providing some different kinds of programming in the kitchen for more mature people on ways to continue to eat to live versus live to eat.” For example, “We’re looking at creating a program for … adult diabetes education.”

The Mission of Margaretta Holds Strong

Baker Hunt Art and Cultural Center began as a mission of benevolence, so it only makes sense that it continues to run as such. The center serves nearly 3,000 students a year, and it’s no surprise that it’s become like a second home to many of them.

Says Etling, “We are a firm believer that art gives you an … outlet, and a way to connect with others.”

Rachel Marsh

Award-winning writer Rachel Marsh has written for many different sites and publications on a variety of topics. She is the multimedia editor for Seniors Guide and works hard to make sure seniors and their families have the best information possible. When she’s not writing for work, she can be found writing for fun. Really!

Rachel Marsh