Malissa Goff Baker with her daughter

Artist Malissa Goff Baker is exhibiting in Empty Bowls Invitational, an exhibit curated by Lisa Guiliani, including work by artists who support Empty Bowls Monongalia (but not necessarily bowls!) throughout February. Baker opens up about her impetus for creating, how the art scene in Morgantown is blooming, advice for aspiring artists and more.

Z: How did you end up in West Virginia?

MGB: Both of my parents are from West Virginia. My mom is from Wetzel County and my dad is from the east side of Fairmont. Dad was in the army so we moved around until he retired as Major. I was 13. We came back to West Virginia and I went to high school at West side’s Fairmont Senior High School I spent a couple of years at Fairmont State College for voice, moved to Cleveland, Ohio, for two years and then came back to West Virginia, to Morgantown and went to WVU as a non-traditional, mother of three, for a BFA, studying a double major in sculpture and painting.

Z: How did you come to be an artist?

MGB: I decided it was for me at age eleven, and started practicing. I have been compulsively making art since then. At a certain point, I found that I could supplement my income with portraiture, which helped me practice as well.

Z: How did this exhibition come about? Why is this important for the Morgantown community?

MGB: One Sunday after a 00Bagel brunch at 123 Pleasant St., Lisa Guliani invited me to include work in the Empty Bowls show. I think any exhibition is an important one in Morgantown. The local artist community is strong here.


Z: How do you think the environment is for the arts in Morgantown? How do you think it could improve?

MGB: In the past few years, opportunities to see and show work have expanded. More folks seem to be showing up to local art events and the public has been responsive. John Michael Barone, Robert Summers and I have devoted the last two years to creating and organizing shows as the Artist’s Collective of West Virginia and along with some 30 incredible and motivated local artists, it’s been rewarding to experience a growth in anticipation of a living art scene.

Z: What is your favorite thing about being an artist in Morgantown?

MGB: From sculpture on the rail trail, to covers for electrical housing boxes downtown and mural projects, I’m excited to see more art visible around here.

Z: Any advice for young artists in the area?

MGB: Choosing to be a full-time working artist can be a terrifying prospect. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s a lot of self-motivated work and no guarantees, but for me, there’s no alternative and I will do it for as long as I am breathing. Through work I am constantly learning, approaching information and subject matter in my own way and exercising the freedom of choice in how I talk about those things. It’s the most addicting and satisfying feeling in the world. I may learn and do many things in my life but three hats I will always wear are Mother, Wife, and Artist.

To young artists, however hard you are working now, push yourself to work harder. When you are ready to quit, try one more time. No one in the world is going to do your work for you and I promise, there are tons of people prepared to take your place. So if you want it, go get it. I’ve always had the Chuck Close advice in mind that Inspiration Is for Amateurs—The Rest of Us Just Show Up and Get to Work.

Z: What would people be surprised to know about you?

MGB: Something that people might be surprised to find out about me is that I can hear their thoughts.

Find more of Malissa’s art on

Empty Bowls Invitational opens Friday, Feb. 3, with a reception, 6-8pm, at Arts Monongahela, 201 High Street in Morgantown, and runs through Feb. 24. For more information visit

Sally Deskins is an artist, writer and curator based in Morgantown. She is gallery facilitator for Arts Monongahela. For ideas and inquiries email her at






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