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The Artlink Visual Awards
Artlink honors local artists… and throws a big party
By Michael Summers
Fort Wayne Reader
The inaugural Artlink Visual Art Awards — the AVAs — has two important objectives.
The first: raise funds for Artlink, one of the only major arts organizations in the area that doesn’t have a massive, signature fundraiser to its name.
The second: consistent with Artlink’s mission, the AVAs want to spotlight local and regional visual artists and honor them for their work.
But true to Artlink’s focus on area artists and the organization’s more down-to-earth approach to promoting and supporting the arts, Deb Washler, Artlink’s Executive Director, prefers to focus on the more celebratory aspects of the program: “With these awards, we’re able to do what we do best, which is throw a really great party.”
She’s joking, of course — Artlink plays an enormously important role in the region’s arts community. Since 1978 it’s been showcasing work by local and regional artists with several shows each year, as well as offering art classes and serving as a sort of unofficial “referral service” for anyone interested in the area’s arts community. An organization like Artlink is actually kind of unusual… but I’ll let Dan Swartz, FWR’s arts columnist, tell us about it. "Artlink is an incredibly unique feature for Fort Wayne's art scene,” Swartz says. “A city our size rarely has a non-profit art gallery independent of a University. With the likes of the Regional Biennial and National Print Exhibition, Artlink is not only bringing pieces of superb quality into our city, but also allowing local artists to take part in these contemporary dialogues."
That said, Washler’s statement is, indeed, accurate: Artlink does throw a great party, and the AVA ceremony that takes place on February 17 promises to deliver the sort of atmosphere and “feel” that anyone who has attended an Artlink opening seems to enjoy. “I think that what people like about Artlink is that we’re pretty casual,” Washler says. “When you come to an opening, you don’t need to dress up, it’s really friendly — kind of like a giant family is how someone described it to me at the last opening.”
Besides, though the AVA ceremony is a fundraiser, Washler adds that Artlink’s mission doesn’t translate into a black tie event with a formal dinner. “A gala doesn’t really fit our membership at all,” she says. “And we didn’t want to have any kind of silent auction, because we didn’t want to ask artists to donate work to us again to sell.” Artlink already asks artists to donate for the organization’s wet paint auction and its postcard show, which will now take place every other year. “We appreciate it when they donate stuff to us, and we don’t want to take advantage.”
The party itself takes place on February 17 at the Hall Community Art Center in Artlink and Fort Wayne Cinema Center. There will be a cash bar, heavy hors d’oeuvres from Club Soda, raffles, and music by the Possum Trot Orchestra. Rich Lee serves as Master of Ceremony. Tickets are $20 for Artlink members and $25 for non-members.
To gather nominees, Artlink sent out ballots to around 30 area arts organizations and business that work with artists, including university programs, school systems, galleries, businesses like Glass Link and Great Panes, frame shops and advertising and design companies. Artlink’s artist panel had the opportunity to nominate, too, though Artlink’s staff wasn’t involved in the process. “We did no nominating whatsoever,” Washler says. “We compiled.”
Organizations and relevant business outside Fort Wayne and Allen County — places like Angola and Bluffton, just to name two — also received ballots. “We’re trying to make this a truly Northeast Indiana event,” Washler says, adding that she hopes participation from outlying areas will increase in the future.
The nominations were quiet: artists didn’t know they were being nominated. “It’s controlled by all of the folks that create exhibits or work with artists,” Washler says. “Basically the Fort Wayne Museum of Art might say “what have I noticed this year?’ Or IPFW can look back and say ‘who has really put in an effort this year?’ It’s rewarding those artists that are out showing.”
The public chooses the winners — ballots listing the four nominees in 11 categories are available in the Fort Wayne Reader (see the back page) and on Artlink’s website (artlinkfw.com). The Artlink site also features an on-line gallery, so visitors will be able to see an image from each artist in each category. “Some of the artists have websites so we’ll have links to those, too,” Washler says. “And if any of the nominees have works currently showing somewhere, that information will be up.”
The plan is to make the AVAs an annual event — Artlink’s signature fundraiser — but in an effort to make sure the awards stay fresh and new talent also gets recognized, Washler says that one of the rules of the nominating process is that if an artist is nominated and wins in, for example, the painting category, that artist can’t be eligible for the category the next year. “That way, it stays interesting, it doesn’t become a repeat process and we can really highlight different artists.”
And that has been the other exciting component to organizing the AVAs — meeting new artists and helping to pull the arts community together a little bit more. “It’s not just about visiting Artlink,” says Washler. “If any of the artists have works in other galleries we’ll certainly be recommending people stop in. Basically, we’re hoping people will get excited about this in January and they’ll go and visit galleries. It’s about saying ‘so-and-so is at the Castle gallery, so maybe we should stop there.’ So we also wanted to educate the public and connect everybody. To me that’s the broader reach of the program.”
Public Voting - January 7 - February 9, 2011
The public will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite artist in each category. The ballot will run on the back page of the Fort Wayne Reader in January 2011. It will also be available as an online form at www.artlinkfw.com and at local partner establishments listed on the website.
AVA Awards Party - Thursday, February 17, 2011 – 7-10 pm
Location - Hall Community Art Center in Artlink and Fort Wayne Cinema Center
Tickets — $20 for Artlink members and $25 for non-members
Party features - cash bar, heavy hors d’oeuvres from Club Soda, Rich Lee as Master of Ceremony, music from Possum Trot Orchestra.
Raffle baskets from: Lotus Yoga, Lotus Relaxation & Massage, Cardinal Tattoo gift certificate, Firefly Coffee House Basket; Fort Wayne Civic Theater tickets; Fort Wayne Cinema Center Movie pass package.
Reception kicks off at 7. Band stars 7:30ish. Awards program begins at 8.