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Life in the Spotlight

A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Michelle Golden

The arts are a part of just about everything in someone’s life. There are the obvious things like paintings and music, but the subtle things like the typeface in a book or the engravings on a plaque can also catch one’s eye. Unfortunately, when schools suffer budget concerns, art and music programs are often the first to get cuts. In some communities, especially for elementary or middle school students, getting a good arts education is difficult. Michelle Golden, President of Book and co-founder of Books, Brushes & Bands for Education (BBB4E) and lifelong Hammond resident made it her goal in life to advance the arts education of students across Hammond and Northwest Indiana.

Founded in 2000, Golden’s BBB4E seeks to engage students with the literary, visual and musical arts. To that end, they provide low-cost tuition and instrument rentals to students entering their music programs and work with First Midwest Bank and Centier to donate children’s books across the region. Students in BBB4E’s programs take trips to symphonies, operas and concerts. It’s a project built from Golden’s life-long passion and involvement in the arts.

“We’re trying to nurture these beautiful things inside children,” said Golden. “This is so that the parents see their kids, and realize all the gifts that they have inside of them that would maybe never be developed or drawn out. A school isn’t necessarily going to do that.”

Golden began seeking art as more than a hobby when she attended Purdue University. Initially she studied medical technology, but 8 weeks into her time at college she shifted into the arts and finished with a Bachelor’s of Arts from Purdue. After her father suffered a near-fatal injury, she found herself needing to support her family.

“Back then the only way to find a job was to look through the want ads in a newspaper,” joked Golden. “My father found an ad for an engrosser, so I called the number and went downtown with my portfolio. I talked to a woman there who eventually hired me.”

Apart from her work with BBB4E, Golden still does work in the arts. She owns her own studio, called the Golden Studio, which does design for awards and various other products, like certificates, diplomas, books, plaques and more.

“The Studio has been running for 27 years,” said Golden. “The scope of the work, and the recipients are people like Bill Clinton and the Alvin Ailey dance group, all the way down to diplomas and honorary degrees for a wide variety of people. My heart is still in my studio work, and my mind is still at Purdue.”

All of her work at BBB4E is done as a volunteer. Put together with her work at the Golden Studio, Golden does not get many opportunities for free-time. But when she does, she enjoys deepening her attachment to the arts by reading about Da Vinci, Einstein and other famous geniuses and renaissance men.

“It’s just amazing that their body of work was their entire life,” said Golden. “It was all intertwined, and I feel like there’s so much to learn from that. It’s hard to do everything, and I try to balance it out. Even the relaxing time, but it’s tough because my whole life is art, even my husband’s name is Art.”

Golden’s days are often hectic and are large mix of work. She bounces between her studio, the BBB4E office and meeting with clients. Sometimes she’ll drive to 5 different locations a day, all while calling clients or parents of students in BBB4E. Despite being BBB4E President, she remains involved in day-to-day operations and communication with parents and students.

“I used to be the person that did it all,” explained Golden. “I had to create a system to do it, because no one was standing there on the street saying, ‘Okay, I’ll help you do it.’ I got, ‘That’s a great idea, but it’s so enormous. It’s so big; it’s never going to work.’ I got a lot of pushback.”

Yet she persevered and continues to do so. Since 2000, BBB4E thousands of students have experienced their programs, and the organization continues to grow and expand its goals with Golden’s leadership. Her passion and drive to share the arts with kids across the Region led to a remarkable success story that continues to enrich lives.

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