Art student wins inaugural Cornelia Hoppe Art Exhibit Award

Exhibit of artwork

College of Education students, faculty members and staff, as well as clients visiting the HEDCO Clinic for counseling, now have a new art exhibit to offer them comfort. The exhibit was made possible by the Cornelia Hoppe Art Exhibit Award.

Katy Keuter, a self-taught artist and current undergraduate art student, is the inaugural winner of the award. Keuter’s embroidered textile canvases stood out from other submissions because they represented her own experiences in counseling at the HEDCO Clinic.

The canvases, which are made from recycled tablecloths and present a range of simple shapes cut from colorful secondhand quilts, are displayed in the student academic services suite on the first floor of the HEDCO building.

“I applied for this award because I love the HEDCO building. It’s really special,” Keuter said.

The annual Cornelia Hoppe Art Exhibit Award is open for students to submit artwork for exhibition in the HEDCO building and is named after Cornelia Hoppe, who earned a bachelor’s degree in education in 1951. Hoppe works as a couples and family therapist and recently included the College of Education’s Department of Counseling Psychology in an estate gift. The gallery space is named after Hoppe to honor her contribution and her own passion for art.

Keuter says her exhibit, titled “Mingled,” connects to an old sketch she drew during a past counseling session. At one of their last appointments, Keuter’s counselor prompted her to draw what she wanted in her future. She drew a joyful scene where her children were happy and she had a house of her own.

“This exhibit is supposed to be very childlike, simple and hopeful. And that’s how I felt when I was doing that sketch,” Keuter said.

Keuter first began attending counseling sessions during a difficult period in her life, and she said it was sometimes hard to show up. After years living abroad, she had returned to her home state of Oregon and was working multiple jobs to take care of her family. She had little time to think about herself.

Her counselor would regularly ask her, “What do you want to do?” Keuter said she hadn’t thought about what she wanted until then. She started to remember her childhood bike rides to the UO campus and art studios. She was reminded of her lifelong dream to attend college at the UO, and then realized she wanted to return to school and get an art degree.

When she learned she won the Cornelia Hoppe Art Exhibit Award, Keuter was particularly touched because her art would be displayed in an area of the building she used to walk through on her way to counseling sessions. It made her think of all the individuals who may be using the counseling department’s services now.

“I want my art to be there for people who show up and are feeling stressed out,” she said. “I want them to have something that’s simple and has lots of color. Because I know what it’s like being that person, and how hard it can be to show up.”

Keuter said she was grateful the HEDCO Clinic provided affordable services for her and her family. The Center for Healthy Relationships at the HEDCO Clinic works with couples, families and individuals to address relational challenges from a family systems perspective.

Providers in the clinic are master’s degree students in the Couples and Family Therapy Program who are supervised by licensed couples and family therapists. Donor support has made it possible for the cost of services to be determined on a sliding scale, making them affordable for clients.

“I can’t believe this counseling exists, because it’s such a good program,” Keuter said. “I picture all of these families that come here, and I want them to see some artwork they could relate to. I want them to see the possibilities.”

Even though Keuter had families like hers in mind, the exhibit is meant to be meaningful for everyone who views it. Keuter intentionally chose textiles for the piece to create a feeling of softness, and the exhibit is a collection of a dozen canvases that evoke the image of a quilt. Embroidery connects the fabric shapes. 

“It’s supposed to be approachable for anybody,” Keuter said. “And I wanted the exhibit to be very simple because I wanted people to go up to it and think, ‘I could do this.’”

“And yes, you can do this,” she said. “I wanted them to feel some freedom.”

Keuter said in some ways, the opportunity to put her art in the HEDCO building feels like a chance to give back to the program that helped her return to the UO. 

“It is so full circle for me,” she said. “I wouldn’t even be here doing this if I hadn’t gone to the HEDCO Clinic.”

— By Madeline Ryan, College of Education