Bet'eseb: A Journey of Art and Community

Introduction: In 2004, two artists embarked on a unique endeavor that would blend their passion for art with the joy of friendship and community. What started as a casual painting session in an apartment quickly transformed into a vibrant social gathering. As their circle of friends grew, the need for a dedicated space became apparent. With the support of Life Asset, an organization providing microloans and training, Bet'eseb was born. This article explores the inspiring journey of Bet'eseb, a creative haven that has touched the lives of many and evolved into a nonprofit organization.

A Place for Everyone: Initially, convincing their non-artist friends to join them in painting proved to be a challenge. Resistance arose, as many claimed they hadn't painted since elementary school. However, once they took brush to canvas, something magical happened. The process of painting became enjoyable, and the results exceeded expectations. Soon, paintings and stories of their artistic adventures spread across social media, drawing attention and curiosity.

Expanding Horizons: With the growing demand for participation, the founders realized their apartment could no longer accommodate their expanding community. Gratefully, Life Asset provided them with a weekend office space to continue their artistic gatherings. Thus, Bet'eseb, meaning "house of humanity" or "family" in the Geez language, took root. Five easels and aprons were purchased to initiate the project, eventually expanding to fifteen easels and four painting sessions every Friday and Saturday, each lasting two hours. In response to popular demand, separate sessions for children and adults were introduced on Sundays.

Painting Beyond Boundaries: As Bet'eseb flourished, it ventured beyond its temporary home and spread its wings across the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia) area. The organization facilitated painting sessions in various locations, ranging from the prestigious Smithsonian African Art Museum to intimate birthday parties. The aim was to provide artistic opportunities to individuals who had limited access or resources, ensuring that everyone could experience the joy of painting.  

Art for All:
Bet'eseb held firm to its belief that financial constraints should not hinder artistic expression. Consequently, those unable to afford the modest fee of $20.00 for canvas and instruction were granted the opportunity to paint for free. This inclusive approach attracted individuals from diverse backgrounds, forging deep connections and lasting friendships. One such instance is the story of Eva, a French girl who arrived in the USA as a babysitter. She painted with Bet'eseb for months, becoming part of the family. As a token of appreciation, her father, Mr. Tony, an accomplished guitarist in France, serenaded the painters during a session, creating a heartwarming moment of gratitude and unity.

Community Partnerships: Throughout its journey, Bet'eseb collaborated with numerous organizations and individuals, united by the common goal of fostering creativity and artistic exposure. Together, they organized painting sessions, offering an alternative pastime and empowering those who lacked access to artistic opportunities for various reasons. The list of partners grew, embodying the spirit of collaboration and community support.

Adapting to Challenges: The unforeseen challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic forced Bet'eseb to temporarily suspend its operations in 2019. However, amidst the adversity, the founders made a pivotal decision. In March 2022, Bet'eseb officially registered as a nonprofit organization, marking the beginning of an exciting new chapter. With nonprofit status, Bet'eseb aspires to expand its programs, reach more individuals, and make an even greater impact within the community.

Bet’eseb’s journey highlights the transformative power of art as a community builder, a new form of entertainment for young people, a useful pastime, and a networking opportunity. Painting has brought people together, fostering a sense of belonging and bridging gaps within the community. It offers an engaging and fulfilling alternative for young minds and serves as a source of relaxation and self-expression for individuals of all ages. Through art, Bet’eseb has witnessed the formation of meaningful connections and the exploration of professional opportunities. As Bet’eseb transitions into its new chapter as a nonprofit organization, it remains dedicated to spreading the joy of art, fostering inclusivity, and building a vibrant and supportive community through the creative spirit. The organization’s commitment to providing artistic opportunities to all, regardless of financial means, continues to enrich lives and make a positive impact.