By Savanah Bandy

Charlene Bergen is a lifelong artist who uses her gifts and talents to spread good throughout her community. 

Charlene served as an art and music teacher for the McDonald County R-1 School District for 18 years, teaching students of all ages before her retirement in 2017. As an educator, she is known for her involvement with the Van Gogh Art Bus program, a mobile art classroom that visits all the schools in the McDonald County school district. 

“Our idea for the Van Gogh Bus evolved from a district art teachers’ meeting along with our advisor, Angie Brewer,” Charlene said. “I taught students of all ages about Vincent Van Gogh while promoting character education and creating art. As I taught art history, specifically about Vincent Van Gogh, I brought out facts about his life that showed his honesty and integrity as well as his failures and vulnerability.”

In 2014, Charlene received the District Teacher of the Year Award for her district. Two of her high school students won the prestigious Billy Long Congressional Art Award and won trips to Washington, D.C. Their artwork hung in the halls of the United States Capitol for a full year.  

Shortly after retirement, Charlene opened Bergen Studios in 2018. 

“My studio is in my home, and I own a kiln and potter’s wheel,” she said. “I create and sell pottery and paintings in local shops, such as Hello Sunshine Boutique in Granby. Bergen Studios has taught art in the Mustang Academy classroom, high school summer school SOPE class, as well as classes for homeschool groups in the area. I have demonstrated the art of throwing clay on the wheel for the annual New Bethel Preservation Day.” 

She also hosts a Crafts and Christ Holiday event each year that brings in approximately 300 women from the community. In addition, she will be speaking to a crafts group at New Life Church in Anderson this January. 

“I enjoy speaking to women and using art as the medium,” she said. “My motivation for everything in life comes from my relationship with God … I believe all of our talents are gifts that are uniquely given to us. Our talents and gifts should be used in order to live our God-given purpose. Everyone has a purpose if they are still breathing!”

Charlene has also taught community painting classes, including classes to help raise funds for MCKIDS Backpack Snack program that provides food for school children on the weekends. 

A lifelong resident of McDonald County, Charlene and her husband, Dennis, reside near Splitlog, Missouri, on land that’s been in the Bergen family for over 100 years. She is a graduate of McDonald County High School; Crowder College; Missouri Southern State University; and she holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Arkansas State University. 

“I’ve always loved art and music, except for one period of my life. My dad became very sick, and we helped him during his 15-month bout with cancer. I had stopped all drawing and creating art at that time. One day, my mom asked, ‘How long has it been since you have made art?’ I said, ‘I haven’t felt like doing art since Dad has been sick.’ She made me promise her that day that I would begin again, and I did. I am so glad she prompted me to start again. It was just a few years later that I became a teacher.”

Charlene is also a gifted gospel singer, guitar player and saxophonist. She and Dennis have sung in gospel groups throughout their 41 years of marriage. They have performed at Silver Dollar City and have toured the southern states, singing on the radio for over 100,000 listeners. Charlene has recorded a gospel CD that is available for purchase through her Facebook business page, Bergen Studios.

“One of my favorite things in life is to somehow share good and love through my paintings, drawings, pottery or music,” she said. “They are just mediums I use to get the true message of Jesus out to those I come in contact with.”