Architecture, Art, and Color, “Demystifying Color for the Built Environment”

Presented November 13, 2015 at the Civita Institute's Benvenuti in Famiglia fundraising event


BETTY MERKEN is a visual artist, an architectural colorist, and an educator.  She has researched color extensively and teaches seminars nationally to architects and design professionals giving participants the tools necessary for understanding color for the built environment. Her enhanced skills as a professional artist and a teaching professional (UCLA, University of Oregon, University of Washington) are reflected in the work of numerous architects and other professionals working in the fields of art and design. As such Betty is a strong advocate for architecture as a cultural, cross disciplinary practice and for expanding upon the historically innate and nuanced rapport between artists and architects.

Betty’s paintings and prints are represented by leading galleries in the United States and are included in numerous private and public collections in the US, Asia, and Europe. Her work is also included in the permanent collections of major museums including the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the Portland Art Museum, where she is currently included in “Now on View”, an exhibition of 58 prints and drawings curated from the 1100 works on paper which have entered the museum’s collection since 2009 and span the past 500 years.  Betty’s work has been featured and reviewed in major art publications and in 2014 a mid-career survey catalog on Betty’s paintings and prints was published by Ed Marquand Books. Betty has been honored with several awards and fellowships, most notably the 2011 Astra Zarina Fellowship where she documented extensively the colors of the architecture of Civita di Bagnoregio and neighboring central Italian hill towns. She is currently working on a book on color and preparing for a forthcoming solo exhibition in March, 2016 at the Laura Russo Gallery in Portland which will feature new work evolving from the inspiration of her Astra Zarina Fellowship and her travels in Italy.

Few architectural institutions offer a formal program addressing color for the built environment and this presents a unique challenge to architects and other design professionals, often leaving them at a loss when it comes to color specifications. Betty’s presentation will highlight several ways in which designers of the built environment navigate the complex considerations of color design and develop an authentic and professional language of color. In her presentation, Betty will also discuss the impact of her Astra Zarina Fellowship on her work as an artist and she will illuminate aesthetic principles deeply embedded within art and architecture and how we can draw upon these common elements to inform and inspire our practices.

Learning Objective #1

Participants will learn the elements of the spectrum and the properties of color relative to architecture, art, and design so that they can begin to develop an informed, confident, and successful approach to color.

Learning Objective #2

Participants will learn to recognize color as material and use it as such, making color an integral part of the design process by keying color to the environment, various building materials, products, and surfaces. 

Learning Objective #3

Participants will learn about the dynamics of color and human response.

Learning Objective #4

Participants will learn the principles that artists, architects, and designers share and how color and related elements can serve as powerful sources of inspiration.