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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Sara Hamel and Ken Bowman Team Up to Support Fort Thomas Education Foundation

Sara Hamel, Fort Thomas artist 
The walls of Sara Hamel's Fort Thomas home are filled with her art. Wandering the rooms of the house she's lived in for 43 years one can't help but stop to look at her paintings, pastels and sketches, most depicting scenes from world travels. She's been back and forth across the Atlantic 10 times, with trips to locales such as England, Switzerland, Spain, Vienna, Italy, France and Greece. Her artwork are snapshots made by hand.

Hamel is moving this fall, to an apartment in Fort Thomas, so she's sorting, sifting, giving away—she found artwork she had done in kindergarten, a picture book she illustrated and her mother's watercolors. But about 20 paintings and pastels, along with several sketches, will not be part of the move.

Instead Hamel is having a show at Bowman's Gallery, with the opening Friday, September 18, 5 pm to 8:30 pm, to coincide with Art Around Towne. The exhibit will benefit the Fort Thomas Education Foundation (FTEF) with 70 percent of Hamel's sales directly benefiting the foundation. Gallery owner Ken Bowman will also be running a special benefit that same week, with 15 percent of all sales and orders at his frame shop and gallery also benefiting FTEF.

"We are filled with gratitude for Sara's generosity to the FTEF and look forward to the community supporting her during Art Around Towne to share our appreciation," says FTEF Chair Amy Shaffer.

Hamel seems almost perplexed when asked what inspires her to give so generously. "I have so much to be thankful for," Hamel says. "I can't hand out thousands of dollars, but I can do something through my artwork."

Hamel has lived most her life in Fort Thomas. She remembers the streetcar and the various neighborhoods that were built due to her father being a draftsman. She graduated Miami University in 1948, married and had two children. After 10 years of living in different states she moved back to Fort Thomas and got a teaching job at Highlands High School. She taught english and drama for 22 years.

It was the 1960s, and Hamel was busy—raising her two children with the help of her mother and teaching full time. Still, in the summer mostly, she drew and painted. "I enjoy it," she says. "And I like everything—landscapes, portraits, flowers, still life." She's easily created hundreds of pieces of art.

Hamel's first exhibit was about 25 years ago, at Risch Gallery in Fort Thomas (Paula Risch was one of Hamel's former students). "I was so amazed I sold everything," Hamel says. Once she retired from teaching and her children had left home, Hamel got a part-time job at The Mike Fink Riverboat and Restaurant as a hostess. A member of the Cincinnati Art Club, Hamel continued to do shows, while also selling her work at local art fairs.

Hamel no longer works outside the home, but still works in her studio, which she plans to move to a spare bedroom in her new apartment. And about 10 years ago she realized she no longer needed the money she made from her exhibits and shows. So now she simply covers her costs, giving a large percentage of her sales back to the community.

Hamel has had shows at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Fort Thomas to benefit a daycare and children in Haiti. Three times she's had sales to benefit the Wood Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory. Hamel's mother died of cancer—as a result of Hamel's generosity, one of the labs is now named after her mother. "It gave me closure," Hamel says.

This time, Hamel wants to give back to the schools—the schools she attended and taught at, and the schools her children, and several of her grandchildren and great-children also attended and attend. Enter Bowman, also one of Hamel's former students.

Ken Bowman, owner of Bowman Framing Inc.

Bowman has owned his frame shop and gallery for 26 years, and he has been selling Hamel's work for almost 20. Prior to owning his frame shop Bowman worked at Radio Shack and then Art Publishers, a seven-story mostly wholesale frame shop in Cincinnati, owned by his grandfather, from 1983 to 1988. When Bowman's grandfather passed away, the contents of Art Publishers went up for auction. Bowman went to Bellevue Bank and got a loan for $8,000, bid on startup equipment and supplies at the auction, and in 1988 opened Bowman's Backdoor Framing at 11 S. Ft. Thomas Ave.

About 10 years later Bowman moved to 103 N. Ft. Thomas Ave., a building Bowman owns. He changed the name to Bowman's Framing Inc. The gallery and shop are on the first floor, Bowman's workshop is on the second and he rents out an apartment on the third.

Throughout the years Bowman has established relationships with art collectors around the tri-state, catering to their framing needs, as well as local well-known artists, including Beverly Erschell. With a strong appreciation for art and the schools he once attended, Bowman is eager to give back.

"The FTEF strives to create a private school experience in our public school system," Shaffer says. "Every gift, every family, every dollar helps to fulfill that vision. We are so grateful for the support of Sara Hamel and Ken Bowman, and look forward to seeing everyone during Art Around Towne In September." 


  1. Congrats to mrs hamel. Seeing her artwork the Hamel household when I was in high school was a main reason I chose to study art in college. And subsequently in graduate school and as a career teaching in higher education. You certainly deserve all your happiness!!
    tony rubey

  2. very well done. I am sure this will be a huge success!