LAC artistic director leaves lasting legacy

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Kathy Berls loved the arts.

From the visuals arts — painting, sculpture, jewelry — to films, music and literature, she was a passionate supporter and believer in the power of art, and that is how she will be remembered.

Berls, 68, passed away on March 24. She is survived by her husband of 45 years, Dick; son, Scott; niece, Katherine and many other family members and friends.

Berls was the artistic director of the Lakewood Arts Council (LAC), an organization that she played an integral role in creating.

“I became involved in the LAC through her,” said Barbara Benik, president of the LAC. “We’ve known each other for 15 years, when we met in the Mountainside Art Guild, where she was very involved in the exhibits.”

According to Barbara Tobiska, who founded the LAC, Berls was one of the group’s first members and its organizer from its creation in 1983 to its establishment and incorporation in 1988.

“We started out with her as the mentor and me as the teacher and then kind of switched,” Tobiska said. “I worked on so many thing with her on so many different things, and it was always fun.”

Berls was an award-winning artist in her own right, and her work is in private collections spread out across the country. She used her talents to teach art in high schools, and was a teacher at the LAC.

“She was very much an advocate for children’s art and public art,” Benik said. “She would do anything to connect with other art councils out there, and keeping the arts alive was really her goal.”

Tobiska said that Berls worked with all kinds of organizations — from Red Rocks Community College, the City of Lakewood and Miners Alley Playhouse — on a variety of projects and fundraisers to keep the arts going.

While she worked mainly in the visual arts, Benik said she was a major film lover and loved reading. She was also a great appreciator of music, and when possible tried to spread these arts in Lakewood as well.

“The LAC Gallery hosts all kinds of events to get these works in a local gallery,” Tobiska said.

Despite the recognition her talents received, Berls remained humble about her work.

“There is no great message in any of my works, but hopefully the works will make people see things a little different,” she once said. “In that seeing, I hope they’ll find some enjoyment.”

Donations in her honor may be made to either the Lakewood Arts Council (lakewoodarts council.org) or to the Hospice of St. John (hospiceofsaintjohn.org).

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