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By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
The art neighborhood has become an international metric by which a community can determine the strength of its arts scene and market, as well as its ability to garner international tourism and capital. This phenomenon began organically, but was originally codified and emulated in the 1980's and 90's, and grew at a tremendous rate during the first decade of the millennium, spreading even in the third world, and cities as small as Marfa, Texas — a community of 2,000 people — proving that this is not only a trend found in major metropolitan areas.
Interestingly, Fort Wayne developed an arts neighborhood completely by chance in West Central through the first half of the 20th century with the development of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art and the Fort Wayne Art Institute, inhabiting a number of the large Victorian homes within the neighborhood, and symbiotically growing off of the success of our downtown. Sadly, as the century continued, and the death of our downtown began to set in, the arts neighborhood stagnated, and ultimately ceased to exist with the moving of the Art Institute to the IPFW campus, the moving of the Museum into downtown's Eastern edge, as well as the moving of Artlink and other arts organizations to an area without a dense residential population, and the moving of the Three Rivers Co-Op to the near-North urban neighborhoods.
Because of this break down, Fort Wayne's artists and appreciators have spread out, mostly inhabiting the 46805 and 46807 neighborhoods as well as West Central/Downtown. The 46807 neighborhoods have specifically gained a large creative community due their long heritage to a cultural appreciation with its educational and religious institutions, formerly being the home of the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, and its rich stock historical and modern architecture. More recently, as prices increase in the city center, the 46807 neighborhoods are seeing an influx of younger residents and residents new to Fort Wayne. The neighborhoods' proximity to great parks and schools, diverse dining and entertainment options, as well as downtown amenities has been seen as ideal.
Many of the more recognizable artists in Fort Wayne like Terry Ratliff, Julia Meek, Art Cislo, Todd Harold, Don Kruse, and Suzanne Galazka all call these neighborhoods home. In addition to these more seasoned artists, dozens of emerging artists and art “hobbyists”fill in the gaps to create an incredibly strong community within a defined geographic area, which allows for the creation of a new art neighborhood for the City of Fort Wayne. In recent years, institutional growth has occurred, from the Friendly Fox and the Philmore on Broadway, to new life in the Rialto building, and Wunderkammer Company in the former Casa D'Angelo's, and most recently the relocation of the Karpeles Museum from Piqua Ave to the former Hope Center building on Fairfield.
One of the formerly mentioned institutions, Wunderkammer Company, is currently hosting an exhibit "Open Wall: 46807," dedicated to the artists in the neighborhoods surrounding its new home. Artists included in the exhibition needed to only be within the geographic boundaries. These artists include Suzanne Galazka, Greg Coffey, Tim Burns, and Dominick Manco, names which have been around town for a while (some returning after a long period away like Coffey) as well as our local publications. Fort Waynians who are newer to the arts scene include Sara Osbun, Rachel Loechner, Teresa Stephens, and Jessica Tobolski. The exhibition also includes a few younger and emerging artists who have moved to or moved back to Fort Wayne recently, including Cory Heimann, Ashley Beatty-Kopang, and Julia Guerin. Their ages range from 20's-60's, their media include everything from paintings on canvas to retrofitted found objects. This wild mismatch of artistic styles and experience is the definition of diversity, and part of what makes this part of town so unique.
"Open Wall: 46807" includes some very interesting work including Ashley Beatty-Kopang's image from her "Skirt Series" of photographs, printed in a faux-C-print fashion, with the image bonded to plexi glass creating a great depth of image and seaming internal light to the piece. Beatty-Kopang is a South Side graduate who then left Fort Wayne for the last decade or so, to return within the last year. Her photography has taken her around the country, under water, through mountains, everywhere in between. Coming back to her roots in the '07, Kopang-Beatty is determined to quickly establish a name for herself locally, and continue to emerge nationally.
Another piece of interest is Sarah Osbun's painting "New Orleanian Vibe," a colorful painting that seems purely abstract until one hears the origin of its inspiration. Osbun's husband is part of "COP a Story," a story-telling group which meets at the Friendly Fox, and develops its stories by choosing a Character, Object, and Place to then fill in the gaps. Osbun attends as well, and sometimes takes the COP and produces a painting from it instead of a traditional story. This particular pieces inspiration happened to be a transvestite, a violin, and New Orleans. The resulting abstraction produced by this untrained artist is choir of colors, a mix of organic shapes, and a hovering violin that is almost trapped within the chaos of the image, camouflaged by Osbun's use of so many colors.
With so many artists inhabiting such a small space, and with a space which is so diverse in inhabitants, structure, and history, the 46807 neighborhoods have perfect blueprint for becoming a significant "art neighborhood.” These areas have proven in city after city to create a snowball effect once invested in and have to the ability to attract more creative individuals and businesses-something that any neighborhood and any group of residents can agree is a great thing.
For more information:
"Open Wall: 46807"
3402 Fairfield Ave
FW IN 46807