Art Studio owner finds joy in decades of teaching in BG


Jay Flood

Becky Laabs, owner of Art-A-Site studio and gallery.

Jay Flood, Reporter

The yellow, orange and blue paint covering her hands and shirt make it instantly obvious just how much Art Studio Owner, Becky Laabs, has immersed her life in art.

Currently the owner and main instructor of the Art-A-Site gallery and studio in Bowling Green, Ohio, however, she has been creating and teaching art for much longer.

Laabs found her love for art as a kid and was supported by her parents immensely.

“One of my elementary school teachers mentioned to my parents that I had an interest and talent in art,” said Laabs. “My mom immediately signed me up for lessons at the Berlin Art Center, where I learned to draw using pastel, pencil and charcoal.”

Laabs said her lessons, along with her elementary art class experience, were what developed and nurtured her interest and love of making art.

After Laabs graduated high school and it was time for her to choose a career, she had limited options.

“My options were to be a stewardess, a nurse, a secretary, a teacher or a wife,” she said. “None of the other options were suitable for me, so I chose to be a teacher.”

Laabs attended the University of Colorado for two years, where she majored in art education with a concentration in fiber. After discovering the leading instructor in her field was teaching at Bowling Green State University (BGSU), she transferred there.

“I graduated in 1972 and am a proud Falcon,” she said. “I went on to receive my master’s degree in education from the University of Toledo (UT).”

Laabs has spent 50 years of her life teaching art.

She taught for 35 years in public schools, including both the middle and high school in Bowling Green, UT and BGSU. After retiring, she opened her studio and has been giving lessons and holding workshops for 15 years.

“I had such a wonderful experience as an art teacher,” she said. “I can’t imagine myself doing anything else as a career.”

Every wall in her studio is painted a different color with paintings and sculptures everywhere, including her childhood swing, which now hangs from the ceiling.

“I love to create interesting parts of the studio that draws peoples’ eyes to inspire them,” said Laabs. “Both my high school classroom and studio are visually busy, there’s always so much for people to look at.”

Laabs didn’t begin creating 3-D art until she was in high school and college. She found she really loved ceramics, sculptures and weaving.

“I was drawn to manipulating the materials with my hands,” said Laabs. “I loved moving the clay around, carving linocuts and weaving the yarn.”

Laabs said since high school, everyone around her has always come to her when they have art ideas.

“In high school, I got into lettering, so everyone came to me to do posters and banners for sports events and it made me feel really good,” she said. “It seems like when people have an idea, but don’t quite know how to bring it to life, they come to me.”

Laabs began winning awards and having her work accepted in exhibitions in high school and is still winning awards now.

“My work was accepted into the National Scholastic Art Exhibition in high school, which definitely boosted my morale,” she said. “One of my students won an award in the Governor’s Show and because of that, I won an award for the Top 25 art teachers in Ohio.”

Laabs’ long-time friend, Jo Ascunce, has seen first-hand the joy Laabs gets from teaching her students.

“She instills her love of art in her students,” said Ascunce. “Our daughter has always wanted to be an artist and I think Becky has done an excellent job at inspiring her.”

Laabs loves to host events and teach classes at her studio.

“I love that in art, everyone can succeed because they’re able to show their unique personalities in their work,” said Laabs.

Laabs and Ascunce have organized a fundraiser for a new dog park in Bowling Green. To raise money for the fundraiser, Laabs is hosting an event where people can paint a picture of their pets.

“We planned for 24 people to come and paint their pets,” said Ascunce. “It was so well received that we have to host a second event, so that we can fit in the people who wanted to do it.”

Although most of her time is spent teaching and hosting events, Laabs still creates art. However, it is mostly commission work.

“I’ve done prints of downtown Bowling Green and pen and ink sketches of homes for people,” said Laabs. “For a while, I was sort of the artist for the Chamber of Commerce, and I would create individualized watercolor paintings instead of a plaque for the person who won the I Love BG award.”

Laabs’ love for art extends to her family, as well.

“I think the persona of an art teacher is what everyone associates me with,” she said. “But, I’m also a mom and a grandma.”

Jon Laabs, her son, says his children love learning and creating art with their grandma.

“Ever since my kids were one or two years old, she’s created art with them,” said Jon. “The kids do a lot of art at her house, her studio and sometimes she’ll even bring supplies for them to do art at my house.”

Laabs says she saves everything her grandkids make with her.

“My mother didn’t save too much of my elementary school artwork,” said Laabs. “I have saved everything the twins have created with me in their own little portfolios.”

From elementary school art class to owning her own studio, Laabs has spent her entire life not only doing, but teaching something she says has brought her so much joy.