Alumna opens Iowa art gallery & studio

As you step inside Big Picture Gallery & Studio in North Liberty, Iowa, you’ll find splashes of vibrant color.

Paintings of every shape and size fill the walls, tables are covered in creations by children, and display cases are filled with ceramic creatures.

Popelka works with her students on a ceramics project.
Popelka works with her students on a ceramics project.

You can also hear the owner and director, Becky Popelka ’02, calling out directions to the young artists taking her week-long summer art class. 

“You can choose up to three different glaze colors,” she said. 

Her students are making all kinds of different ceramic mugs.

“The floor is messy, but it’s all part of the creative process,” she jokes as she looks down.

Popelka opened her colorful art business less than a year ago. After getting her master’s degree in graphic design, teaching in Egypt, and teaching in Iowa, the Cornell alumna knew it was time for a change.

She had the idea to create this business while visiting Cornell friends in Oregon, and the rest is–as they say–art history. She’s now a one-woman show doing art camps, birthday parties, and workshops for kids. She also does some wine and paint events and private parties. 

Becky Popelka '03
Becky Popelka ’03

This new venture has been her dream since her art class days at Cornell College.

“I have always wanted my own art school,” Popelka said. “That was something I always fantasized about when I was at Cornell.” 

Popelka took her first art class at Cornell at the end of her first year, and she says it was an immediate fit.

“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m at home here.’ I just loved it.”

She says attending Cornell is one of the best life choices she’s ever made because it helped her find out who she was, not only artistically, but as a person. Her friends at Cornell, which she calls her life-long friends, were independent and confident, and her professors were her role models.  

“I really attribute my time at Cornell to helping me feel like it was okay to be me and pursue what I wanted to pursue,” Popelka said.

She’s pursuing her dream of owning and running her colorful, new art school in North Liberty, Iowa.

At the same time, she’s sharing her love for art and Cornell to anyone who will listen.Popelka works with her students on a ceramics project.