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Betty_Younger
Betty with husband Milt and daughters Lisa, Lynda and CeCe
Betty Younger, Bakersfield's most renowned sculptor, brings her bold, dramatic art pieces to the streets where everyone, especially children, can have a cultural experience on their way to and from their daily activities. "I am an advocate of public art," she says. "With both parents working, and kids involved in so many things, parents don't have the time to take their kids to the museums. I wanted to bring the art to them, so they can have a chance to see art as they drive by it."

With more than 20 of her sculptures displayed prominently around the city of Bakersfield, there are ample opportunities to appreciate her masterpieces in a natural setting. She also created a permanent sculpture garden on Truxtun Avenue for the public to enjoy.

The Youngers, Betty and Milt, along with the Arts Council of Kern County have opened a modern gallery that bears their name, "The Younger Gallery: Contemporary and Functional Art," that is located in the Truxtun Tower. "The reception from our community has been wonderful. Our opening nights have been very successful with large crowds filling up both the gallery and the lobby," says Nicole Garvin, gallery manager. "Local artists and patrons have responded well to having a new space to display their work and to see the work of the artists that we bring in."

An internationally recognized artist, Betty recently finished a life-size statue of Jesus made out of a 1,200 pound steel pipe for the Bakersfield Rescue Mission. She says when she saw the unrefined pipe, she knew it was meant to be Jesus with his arms open and children gathered around him. She spent over two years working in her outdoor shop on this ambitious project. Her latest work-in-progress is a nine foot tall Great Horned Owl made out of 1/2-inch thick steel pipe with big, yellow eyes.

Betty has been referred to as a "Woman of Steel." In the arts community, she is a super woman. She can find a piece of junk steel and transforms it into a magnificent piece of art. With a lot of "muscle" (forklift) and industrial strength welding equipment, she cuts, shapes, welds, and polishes or paints it. She works with different types of metals including stainless steel, bronze, and copper. "I like to challenge myself. My art is a mental challenge for me; it's stimulation," she says. "I have always loved metal. It's the most lasting form of art."

She received the "Silver Medal" at the 2000 Olympic Art Competition for her work of art, "The Eternal Flame." This sculpture was purchased by Juan Antonio Samaranch, president of the International Olympic Committee, for the permanent art collection of the Olympic Art Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland. Her piece, "The Olympic Spirit," was awarded fourth place in the 2004 Olympic Art Competition.

Now in her 70s, Betty knew as a young child she would be an artist. Even in third grade at William Penn Elementary, she was drawing murals in the hallways. In high school, she began working with jewelry – small pieces of metal. Her unique artistic talent led to a job designing fine jewelry for two local jewelers. She still loves jewelry. In fact, at the Younger Gallery, they have just added a jewelry section featuring semi-precious stones.

Betty and her husband of 54 years, Milt, a prominent attorney, share a passion for the arts. They work tirelessly to promote and improve the cultural affairs of the community. Together they raised three daughters: Lisa Mello, Lynda Pennington, and CeCe Younger. They have five grandchildren. Their "retirement" home is a striking, visual treat located on a hillside in the Bakersfield Country Club area. It provides the perfect ambience and lighting to showcase many of Betty's sculptures.

While raising their daughters, she says she wasn't a "soccer mom" but rather a "horse show mom." The girls took after Betty's mother and fell in love with riding horses. They were nationally recognized for their expertise in Olympic-style equestrian show jumping. When talking about raising her children, she says, "I did everything I could to make them as successful as they could be."

Betty's heritage traces back to one of the pioneer families of Bakersfield: the Hoenshells. Born in Oakland, she graduated from Bakersfield High School. She received a bachelor's degree in fine arts and art history from San Jose State. At UCLA, she earned her master's degree and teaching credential. She taught art on the secondary level and has continued a lifelong commitment of promoting arts education. She is currently on the Board for the Arts Council of Kern County.

For more information on Betty, visit www.bhyounger.com. To find out more about The Younger Gallery, visit the Arts Council of Kern County's website at www.kernarts.org or call 324-9000.

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