Creating the Future of Her Dreams

Halle Rittgers ’21 has a passion for creating, and upon graduation last spring, she leaned into that passion full force. Today, she’s working out of her studio in Northeast Minneapolis as a full-time painter and mixed media artist—a position she once thought would only become a reality years down the line.

By Cherie Suonvieri '15, GS'21, content specialist

December 07, 2021 | 10 a.m.

Halle Rittgers

Halle Rittgers ’21 graduated from Bethel in May with her Bachelor of Fine Arts and a minor in teaching English as a second language.

Halle Rittgers ’21 remembers always wanting to be in art classes from elementary school on through college. It was in a painting class at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where she thought to herself: “I think I can do this.” Later on, in an AP studio art class, she thought, “I can do this—and I want to do it well.” 

Of course, Rittgers was talking about pursuing a career as an artist. And a mere seven months out from her graduation from Bethel, she’s off to a strong start. She creates art full time out of her studio in the Casket Arts Community in Northeast Minneapolis and has shown her work in a variety of exhibitions across the Twin Cities. The point she’s at in her career currently is where she’d hoped to be five years out from graduation—so she looks back at each event and connection that led her to this spot with gratitude. 

During her last semester at Bethel, Rittgers took an internship with artist Jodi Reeb, who she connected with after visiting her studio during an Advanced Painting class. “I learned a lot about the business side of the art world, which is exactly what I wanted,” Rittgers says. “Art is my passion, but I wanted to learn how to do it in a practical way.”

Through her internship, Rittgers was connected with Martha Dayton, an interior designer in the Twin Cities area. After seeing some of Rittgers’ work, Dayton asked her to do five commission pieces for new apartment buildings in Northeast Minneapolis. “That was one of the biggest commissions I’ve done, and that was a huge step into seeing it become a reality,” she says. “I saw that I could make money doing what I love and that I could have the opportunity to make beautiful art for people to live with.” She finished three paintings for Dayton around the same time as her last finals week at Bethel, and she finished the other two paintings over the summer after graduation. 

Painting by Halle Rittgers

Rittgers describes her artistic style as playful, but thoughtful. “I used to try and paint or draw things realistically, but I started to realize that it wasn’t feeding my soul,” she says. “So I decided to let myself just play. There’s so much importance in the act of playing with materials, figuring out what works to get you a certain color, mark, or texture.”

Shortly after graduation, Rittgers spent three weeks in Georgia working a temporary job for a Christian camp for high school students. After that, she came back to Minnesota and reconnected with Reeb. “I went back to help Jodi, and I was asking her, ‘Okay, so I have these commissions—what’s next? Do I just get a part-time job?’ and she was like, ‘No Halle, you don’t need to get a part-time job right now. You’re doing it, and you may as well do it full force.’ That’s what gave me the push to do it—and I’ve been doing it full time ever since,” Rittgers says. 

Rittgers spent last summer building her business and connecting with other artists in the Twin Cities. She held an art sale in her garage with some friends from Bethel’s art department, including her twin sister, Hadley Rittgers ’21, who creates pottery and jewelry. “So many people came and supported us,” Halle Rittgers says. “I had multiple big paintings and a bunch of little things that I was selling. Right away, my biggest painting sold, and that was so encouraging and crazy.”

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As cooler weather approached, Rittgers realized that the unheated, makeshift studio that she’d created in her garage wouldn’t sustain her through the winter, so she started looking for a new space. With the help of her former painting professor, Amanda Hamilton, Rittgers found her current studio, a space which she calls a dream come true.

Being a full-time artist comes with challenges like creating her own schedule and not always seeing consistent paychecks, but Rittgers knows this is where she is meant to be right now. “People are always looking for their calling, but I don’t think it has to be that hard. If you love it and God has gifted you the talents for it, go for it,” Rittgers says. “I have these skills and abilities that were given to me. Once I decided this was what I wanted to do, I put all my efforts in and pushed into it as hard as I could.”

Halle Rittgers

Rittgers sees many connections between art and her faith. “It’s such a redemptive process: making, and remaking, and working toward something bigger," she says. "We’re made to create, and I think that’s something that’s really important for people to remember.”

For the foreseeable future, Rittgers says she hopes to continue doing what she’s doing. “Where I am right now is where I thought I was going to be in five years. So my goal for now is kind of just to stay put for a bit,” she says. But she also notes that there are many ways to be an artist and that she’s open to change. “Currently, I’m making art full time. But if I do end up getting a part-time job in the future, I think that would only add to the richness of my creative process. It would be part of my creative journey.”

Study art and design at Bethel.

At Bethel, you’ll grow holistically in your creativity. No matter a student’s particular major, the Department of Art and Design’s curriculum offers a full suite of courses in studio arts, graphic design, art history, and art therapy—allowing you to explore a variety of interests and equipping you for success in many career fields.

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