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Fall Review: Strong season.

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


While Fall tends to be a strong season for local arts and cultural venues, 2010 is proving to be an extremely active and strong year overall. Not only have we begun to feel the effects of a larger established art community in the way of new artists and new opportunities, but now organizations outside of the traditional art world are taking notice.

Over the last 6 months, the Fort Wayne Cultural District was formed as a partnership between the Downtown Improvement District (DID), Convention and Visitor's Bureau (CVB), Arts United, and the City of Fort Wayne (we covered it in FWR #141). This relationship resulted in an application for state designation through the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC) as well as approval by the Fort Wayne City Council. This whole process was a direct result of the more and more visible arts scene in Fort Wayne, and the ability for our city to capitalize on it through economic development. One example of this development can be seen in the Indiana Arts Educators Association (IAEA) conference held downtown in the Grand Wayne Center which brought teachers and students from throughout Indiana, and other visitors from throughout the nation. As our arts community continues to expand and becomes better know, we can expect to see a stronger, more connected, and larger downtown arts scene over the next few years.

All of this development can be seen in the great Fall line up that is currently near its end. From the University of Saint Francis' School of Creative Arts Gala, to the Fort Wayne Museum of Art's Contemporary Realism Biennial and Trolley Tour, to the particularly strong Halloween set of exhibitions on Calhoun Street at Ryan Hadley's and Pint and Slice, Fort Wayne's art scene has been strong in the first half of the Fall. You can find a wide variety of artistic genres at our local Universities. The University of Saint Francis' "National Ceramics Invitational" which hosts over 50 artists from around the United States, "The Universal Landscape: Paintings and Prints by Tom Keessee" which proves that Keesee is one of Fort Wayne's hidden gems by highlighting his Midwest and Southwestern landscapes, or study a great local collection by catching the end of "Works on Paper from the University Collection" in the Lupke Gallery. IPFW's Department of Visual Communication and Design (VCD) recently presented "Cuban Film Posters," a collection of 50 silk screen printed film posters on loan from the Cuban Art Space of the Center for Cuban Studies in New York City. IPFW will also be hosting its Senior BFA Exhibition at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, the opening, including an awards ceremony, will be Friday, December 10th.

The Fort Wayne Museum of Art, now over 6 months since after its grand reopening, is continuing to expand its programming by working through its new home. After the Contemporary Realism Biennial, the 2010 Museum Members exhibition and "Common Threads: Quilts from the Collection" will take up the main galleries, creating a strong dichotomy, exploring Fort Wayne's current contemporary art scene, as well a tradition craft which is still practiced by a large number in Northeast Indiana. Currently however, FWMoA has had the rare and impressive opportunity to be the first location for the first ever traveling exhibition of The Scholastics Art & Writing Awards, presented by the Alliance of Young Artists and Writers. This exhibition is a response the amazing Scholastics programming in our region, which has been developed in no small part due to the tireless work of Max Meyer and Joslyn Elliot, the director and associate of K-12 education respectively. This exhibition was curated from award winning works by students around the country, which has been judged even further, deeming it a representation of the best work being made by teenage artists in America. After Fort Wayne, the exhibition continues of to Dallas, Seattle, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Finally, the FWMoA presents Wunderkammer Company's, "Not Tony Smith", part of which was seen earlier at Club Soda, as the first project to inhabit the newly added sculpture courtyard. This readymade sculptural installation is a set of three Tony Smith sculptures, created in a human scale, and made of multiple pieces, allowing an incredibly large number of possible compositions. During this exhibition, "Not Tony Smith" is being shown in the form of the three Tony Smith sculptures, "We Lost," "Free Ride," and "Marriage."

Last but not least, Artlink currently has the "Toy and Book Illustration" exhibition up and running through December 1st, and will be hosting the "8th Artlink Regional Biennial Exhibition" next, opening on December 10th. Artlink, one of Indiana's only non-profit galleries independent of a university, has also expanded their normal programming and has presented an artist studio, gallery talks, and will host Cinema Center's "Artament" fundraiser in December. All of these Artlink programs are adding more depth to our visual arts community, allowing artists new opportunities to engage the public. Artlink's Fall line up of exhibitions is a perfect example of these artist opportunities, by focusing on marginalized niche artist groups and providing a space for critical judgement of our regional artists.

While Fort Wayne, specifically our newly minted downtown Cultural District, still lacks the amount of gallery space and the active market to absorb the large number of skilled artists locally, the Fall of 2010 has proven to be another incremental step toward a stabilized, growth oriented arts community. As the economy finally begins to slightly grow, and our local institutions find new opportunities over 2011, Fort Wayne artists will need to be even more ambitious and find ways to work with each other and other organizations to spread artistic and cultural experiences throughout our city, and further into our public discourse.

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