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Lifes obstacles (even breast cancer) can trigger creative solut

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Article first appeared in 10/2/2011

When confronted with an obstacle, Lori Betz gets creative.

A sculptor and painter, art gallery owner, founder of a nonprofit, and breast cancer survivor, Betz has faced every challenge with a drive that suggests, though she may sometimes be slowed, she will not be stopped.

Her love of art began as a child and was nurtured by a high school art teacher and then later by artists spanning the globe. Greece, Italy, Japan and the UK are among the locales where Betz has studied. A return to Houston for a brief visit when she was 28 years old gave her an opportunity to check on a persistent problem.

One year prior, she’d discovered a lump in her breast. Told then that it was fibroid, she assumed she would be told the same thing when the pain prompted her to visit with another doctor. She wasn’t. She was in surgery the next day.

But breast cancer and chemotherapy barely put a dent in her travel itinerary.

“Attitude is 80 percent of recovery,” she said. “I had my catheter and I went everywhere.”

“Everywhere” included living in a tent on the border of Iran and stopping in at hospitals in London, Greece and Bahrain when she needed help with her medications. Thin and having close cropped her long, thick hair into a “boy’s cut,” she didn’t hide that she was ill but her health was never the focus of her engagement with people during her travels.

“No one dwelt on it because I didn’t act sick. I was so grateful and that carried me through . . . . I admit that cancer could have been very traumatic for a 28-year-old to hear, but I felt blessed to be alive,” she said.

Betz returned to Houston to settle down a little more than a decade ago. With limited knowledge of what she was purchasing, she acquired what would become a small studio and gallery on West Gray. A few years later, the City of Houston offered her a list of what would have to be done to get the space up to code.

Faced with another barrier, she chose to invest in the Houston arts community, make the needed improvements and expand. Betz Art Gallery now features monthly innovative exhibits showcasing local artists as well as some more prominent international artists. In addition, Betz Art Gallery also works with and helps sponsor many charity events and started the nonprofit Houston Art and Culture to promote artists and art projects that enrich the community.

“Houston supports a huge arts community. When I had to choose whether to invest or shut down, I justified spending the money because I knew I would accomplish more than one goal. I could enrich the community,” she said.

When a popular outlet for local artists – White Linen Night in the Heights – had grown to more than 40,000 participants and the grassroots organizers needed more structure, Betz offered Houston Art and Culture to serve as its host. At the recommendation of the board’s vice president Bob Domec Jr., the 5th annual White Linen Night in the Heights featured Pink Street, a portion of White Oak dedicated to local breast cancer organizations. Seventeen organizations offered education and awareness in a fun-filled setting.

Betz was there, surrounded by a juried art exhibition and encouraging passers-by to stop and express themselves on canvas. Proceeds from the evening were shared with the Breast Health Collaborative who helped organize the breast cancer emphasis.

Next up is for Betz to bring her creativity to Pink Days at The Rose. The now monthly collaboration between Pink Ribbons Project, in motion against breast cancer, and The Rose, a nonprofit breast cancer organization, offers clients waiting for screenings and diagnostics an opportunity to “create while they wait.” Local artists have shared their skills of painting, needlework, jewelry and card-making on each first Tuesday of the month. Lori will offer instruction on sculpting.

Pink Days at The Rose are held the first Tuesday of each month. Betz will be providing instruction from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 4 at The Rose Galleria, 5420 West Loop South, Suite 3300, Bellaire. As part of the Pink Days, Pink Ribbons Project is covering the costs of the initial screening mammogram of uninsured clients who book on those Tuesdays through November. Should further services be necessary for those uninsured clients, Pink Ribbons Project will cover those costs as well. To book an appointment during the Pink Days at The Rose Galleria program, call 281-484-4708.

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