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Renaissance in Roanoke

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


The small town of Roanoke, IN is seeing a Renaissance in more ways than one. Not only has it become home to some of the widely respected and critically acclaimed small businesses of Joseph Decuis' and Vorderman Photography, but it has also embraced the arts enthusiastically and created an annual festival, "A Renaissance In Roanoke," which takes place Saturday, October 10th, and runs from 10am to 5pm. The event is being sponsored by The Roanoke Arts Council, the formerly mentioned Joseph Decuis, and other local sponsors.

This arts festival takes place on Roanoke's beautifully restored Main Street which is lined with quaint, historic, brick buildings flower planters and period street lights. With live music by different groups, and both invitational and juried regional artists participating, attendees can expect a diverse showing of the traditional arts throughout the area. The festival will include over 35 artists booths, from local and regional art veterans to University of Saint Francis students like Claire Wiedman, and many others, and is being being organized by ceramics artist Linn Bartling.

Other features of this year's festival include the Plein Air Painters, who will be painting every aspect of life in Roanoke from 8am to 3pm. This popular type of "live painting" is a great way to the see the talent of the painters, thinking on their feet and producing quality works of art in very limited time frames. The Plein Air Painters will have their works on display later in the day along with the works of young artists from Roanoke Elementary School. Attendees should make sure to vote for the People's Choice awards which will cover both the booths and the works on display. Charles Sheppard, executive director of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, will be judging the Plein Air work. One of the more exciting sections of this year's festival will be the College Art Exhibition which will be on view at the Steve Vorderman Gallery, and is being organized by Cara Wade, the University of Saint Francis photography professor. The styles of art represented in the college exhibition are very diverse, from various forms of realism, to more abstracted figures and printed graphic representations. This large combination of artistic events will create a very pleasing and somewhat less traditional art festival experience certainly worth experiencing.

Some of the artists included in "A Renaissance in Roanoke" are Terry Armstrong and Ash Smith, both of whose work deserves a great deal of attention from the attendees. "Winter on the Greenway" by Terry Armstrong is at first, a very traditional, finely detailed watercolor painting. Like many of his images, upon closer inspection, Armstrong's work becomes a small battle between realism and abstraction with slashes of paint and the masterful play of color and form to create near-photorealistic images. Because of this dynamic form of creation, these simple, usually nature based images become somewhat fiery and evocative.

At the other end of spectrum in certain ways, Ash Smith's prints gain their strength from their simplicity and crudeness. With "Print of Staci", Smith creates an image with just too many colors to count on one hand, but commands to the viewer into a curious position. Because of the heavy composition predominantly made of thick black lines, the viewer becomes a voyeur, looking through a keyhole into a room what looks to be a young adult woman who is bending over with long striped socks and a somewhat high cut skirt. With the addition of the words "Peep Show" with an arrow pointing down toward the image of the woman and a magenta colored sign saying "Live" near the bottom of the image, the viewer now because conscious that they are indeed both watching and committing an act of voyeurism. Smith's forethought terms this petite image into a very interesting and complex piece.

With the Greater Fort Wayne area’s population, income, and embrace of the arts, we have a fairly good number of festivals and events like "Renaissance," and it is very refreshing to see that the directors of this festival are taking chances and playing around with the format, including all aspects/age groups of the art scene, and using the arts as an economic development tool, bringing people to this small but robust town to the Southwest of Fort Wayne proper.

More information on "A Renaissance in Roanoke" can be found at www.discoverroanoke.org.

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