By Mary Hursh
SYRACUSE — Many artists have lived and worked in Syracuse over the years. Perhaps no other artist’s work has been displayed as often as the work of Betty Harkless Appenzeller.
Her watercolors feature such local landmarks as the Oakwood Hotel, Macy’s Slip and the Crow’s Nest Yacht Club. Other famous landmarks in her repertoire include the Chinese Gardens, King’s Grocery, South Shore Inn, Waco Dance Hall and the Frog Tavern. From 1968 until her death in 2002, Appenzeller painted the history of the area.
Appenzeller and her fellow artists at the Lakeland Art Association were instrumental in founding the original Oakwood Art Festival in 1996 and she showed her paintings every year. Appenzeller’s son Patrick plans to have a display of his mother’s paintings at the Wawasee Fine Arts Festival at Oakwood Resort from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 27. Over 30 artists will showcase their work on the lawn of the Oakwood Program Center beneath towering oak trees. “After my mother’s passing, I continued to show her work until the original Oakwood festival was discontinued,” said Appenzeller.
“I enjoy the Oakwood Fine Arts Art Festival from the standpoint of seeing old friends and meeting new people and talking about the history of the Syracuse-Wawasee Lake area and promoting the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum.
“All monies from the sale of my mother’s works go directly to the Syracuse-Wawasee Historical Museum. Her artwork was always popular because the pictures preserved and passed along the history of our area to lifelong residents, as well as new residents or visitors,” said Appenzeller.
Appenzeller speculated that the most popular of all the historical buildings or scenes his mother painted would be the Spink Hotel because it is recognizable to most people.
Betty Appenzeller graduated from Syracuse High School and studied business at Indiana University. She married Harry Appenzeller and settled in Syracuse in 1947. She started painting in 1968, encouraged by her uncle Ken Harkless. Oil was her medium of choice. She often painted with her fellow plein air artists all around the area. She also painted from her home on Kale Island. Often area Realtor Tom Prickett would commission paintings of properties he sold and would give her painting as a gift to his clients. “She lived with the scenes and painted what she saw,” said Appenzeller.
In her long career, she taught painting from her Kale Island studio built in 1915 and purchased from Mamie Long, wife of W.E. Long. She modeled the technique and students followed her lead on their own canvasses. She emphasized her brush stroke technique and how to use color.
Appenzeller taught oil painting classes at Lakeland Art Gallery in Warsaw and oil painting at the Syracuse Community Center. She called her work “impressionistic.”
The Wawasee Fine Arts Festival is sponsored by Chautauqua-Wawasee and is free and open to the public.