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From Rustic to Refined

4th Annual Rural Studio Tour

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


One of the largest coastal misconceptions about the midwest is that we are all farmers.

One of the largest misconceptions that urban midwesterners hold is that all rural inhabitants are farmers also.

The artists and art lovers who have created and supported the Rural Studio Tour over the last four years are concertedly trying to change these viewpoints. Since the inaugural tour in 2010, the event has steadily grown both in sales and artists support as well as in the general audience. With most of the artists being full-time professionals, it is great to see how these artists work and live, and to know that they exist within our community. By opening up artist's studios throughout Northeast Allen County, the Rural Studio Tour allows patrons and families free first hand access to art and great way of building up a scene to support the work both socially and financially. This unique perspective and experience also allows the general public to learn This kind of simple collective gesture is a perfect way to grow audiences on the slow but steady road toward creating a local art market to support all of the work being done.

With a small budget, the support of eight artists and sponsors, and a lot of work, organizer Kristy Jo Beber has made the Rural Studio Tour a key event in FW's annual line up. This year, the event grows a bit with new artists and the inclusion of a food truck at the Art Farm (Lisa Vetter's amazing venture). While Beber sites good sales and increased visibility as being reasons for the artists to join in, she also mentions a tie to the community echoed by most of our arts community, "Of course, this is a family of 100% free entertainment to some. And that is fine… kind of a ‘public service’ we are offering, I guess." This "pay if forward" mentality is a staple of the art world and is refreshing to see more often within our community. This is apparent with several of the artist studios, including demos and interactive projects to tempt the attendees. This year Sue Davis and Steve Vachon will be doing "rake" firing demonstrations from 12:30-3pm, Kristy Jo Beber will be doing pottery wheel demonstrations, Audrey Riley will allow guests to watch her distinctive encaustic painting!

April Knox, an accomplished plain aire oil painter, compliments the contemporary essence of Riley's encaustics with an elegant cacophony of texture, color, and form. Knox's scrawled images of both the urban and rural environment are particularly captivating in their simultaneously rustic and refined nature. While Riley's work is not comparable to Knox's in composition, they both have a vibrant sense of color. Knox and Riley, as well as Gwen Gutwein, as guest at Frame Art & Design, have the burden of representing painting on this Tour, existing on both ends of its spectrum. In the same way, Kristy Jo Beber and Steve Vachon carry the mantle for ceramics, and BJ Jordan, Sue Davis, and Lisa Vetter and Paul Siefert round out the genres with jewelry and mixed media pieces. Holly Heath, a staple among Fort Wayne's photography community, is the only photographer on this tour and is opening up her studio in Leo. This well-rounded group of artists allows the viewer a glimpse of the diversity of the work being down in the greater Fort Wayne area, and highlights the quality of work that can be expected from our arts community.

Steve Vachon's work, which is shown regularly throughout the area, will stun the viewer with its incredibly crisp lines, simplified forms, and a distinct mixed style somewhere between Meso-American and Art Deco with its antiqued finish and air of modernity. Vachon's raku fired slab built vessels carry an almost ceremonial feeling. Others works which are essentially large jars with ornamental lids are both turned on the potters wheel and include hand built pieces.

Greg and BJ Jordan's mixed media jewelry work at first holds a firm grasp on a naive style, but upon further reflection is a rather detailed exploration of primitivist design and composition, harkening something between the early 20th century exploration of tribal culture and certain South African artists working with recycled materials. This intricate design lineage is then paired with an excellent knowledge of metal working and jewelry construction. This mixture of influences results in an body of work which mixes the spiritual with the architectural, and incorporates a number of materials including sterling silver, brass, polymer clay, and others.

These artists have found success both in their personal work, refining their skills and finding a wellspring of inspiration to last through their careers, and in marketing their work to the point where they can create careers, opportunities like the Rural Studio Tour are vital to their continued growth process. Thankfully, there are more and more opportunities opening up both from our city's institutions and from the artists themselves.


Rural Studio Tour
Saturday, April 27

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.