Dialogue Blog: A User’s Guide to the Indiana Art Fair

by Katy Creagh, Art & Culture Program Developer, and Eric Todd, Program Specialist

ERIC: Alright Katy, here’s the deal. This year will be my third Art Fair as an employee at the museum. I can honestly say that it’s one of my favorite weekends of the year — there is so much going on, it’s visually stimulating, and it’s fun to talk with the artists about their work.

KATY: Well yes, but do you have a point here?

ERIC: I was getting there. You have an art degree …

KATY: And a masters in Art Education.

ERIC: Nice subtle drop-in. As I was saying, you have an art degree, so I was thinking you could help me out. Even though I love the environment and excitement of Art Fair, I have to admit, I don’t really think I understand art.

KATY: Now that’s a very complex statement. What do you not understand? How it’s made? Why it’s made? Basically, artists create to express thoughts, feelings, or even just to create. And the viewers are then able to relate to their work.

ERIC: That’s a good answer. You could be a valuable resource for me. Can I ask you some questions about art and try to learn from your … how do you describe it … infinite wisdom?

KATY: Well of course, I’d be happy to share my wisdom with you.

“Cat," Eric Todd, b. 1984, colored pencils on paper

ERIC: Okay, the first question is personal: How would you, as a former art teacher, rate my work?

KATY: You have the skills, but I think you fall back on old habits. My favorite is your cat with four legs on one side of its body … perspective my friend. But I do really like your line work, very expressive. On the other hand, the craftsmanship could use a little work. Why are you rushing to finish? Take your time!

ERIC: Hmmm, but I thought the beauty of art lies in the eyes of the beholder? You shouldn’t be so critical, maybe.

KATY: Maybe.

ERIC: You do pottery right? Why do they call it throwing? You don’t actually throw anything; if you did, you would ruin it.

“Bowl,” Katy Creagh, b. 1983, stoneware clay

KATY: It has to do with the Old English word for turning … kinda. Anyway, throwing on the wheel is just using the centrifugal force of the spinning wheel to create perfectly round and symmetrical pottery. Sometimes it’s functional and other times it’s not. You can check out Carol Bell, Larry Spears and oh! You should check out the Unzicker Brothers Pottery … they make HUGE pieces! And guess what? They’ll all be at this year’s Art Fair!

ERIC: Cool, I will check them out — and now I can even sound educated about their work. Another question: I like contemporary art, but I’m not sure I know how to talk about it. What are some good questions to ask an artist?

KATY: Contemporary art can have many different expressions and many different meanings, like I mentioned before. It’s more about how the viewer relates to the piece. Now some modern art you might like is created by incorporating found or recycled objects. I know how you feel about recycling. You should check out Carolyn Aylward and Anita Hopper. They both reuse objects. And while you are talking to Anita, check out Megan Winn’s booth. I know how much you love books … she makes books from scratch! Great present for moms, girlfriends or people who like journaling.

ERIC: Oh that reminds me! Another thing I like about Art Fair is that it conveniently occurs a couple days before my girlfriend’s birthday, so it’s perfect for finding a gift that seems thoughtful even though it’s last minute.

KATY: Of course it’s last minute. When did you get your friend’s Christmas present? The day of the party, right?

ERIC: No comment. But my question is, picking out the perfect piece of art for myself or as a gift is kind of intimidating. Any tips?

KATY: Well consider the person. Are they a decorator? Do they like photography? Or are they a person who enjoys fun and personal gifts (that would be me)? Now you might check out one of the 15 jewelry artists that are featured. There are also several great painters who would have wonderful work to decorate someone’s living room.

ERIC: You’re a pro. You know, my birthday is in April, you should show off your skills by buying me an awesome piece of art.

KATY: Ha! So last year’s birthday present wasn’t enough? Ok well I can look around a little. Maybe hit up some of the woodworkers booths. Or maybe the photographers … I’m sure I can find something that just screams “ERIC!”

ERIC: In all seriousness, you’ve been quite a help, thank you. I feel bad though, I’ve been asking so many questions to help make my own experience better, I haven’t even asked you: what is your favorite thing about Art Fair?

KATY: Well, this will officially make me an art nerd, but I like seeing all the artists’ work. I also love talking to people about their artwork and finding out new and fun ways they create. And for some reason I always seem to walk away with some new item for myself.

ERIC: That doesn’t make you an art nerd, it makes you more of an art … well, nerd I guess. But that’s not a bad thing. Now I’m really getting into the spirit and, after this conversation, I feel prepared to have my best Art Fair experience ever!

Come to the 2012 Indiana Art Fair on Feb. 17, 18 and 19 at the Indiana State Museum and feel free to ask Katy for advice, or help Eric in his quest to learn more.

Unique, fun and full of surprises

The eighth annual Indiana Art Fair is just around the corner. This unique show of fine art and crafts will feature 75 artists from around the state, representing 22 counties. You will see as many new faces as well as show regulars.

Signature Artist Lee Cohn, Jewelry, Monroe County

Signature Artist Lee Cohn, Jewelry, Monroe County

Always a favorite is the Signature Artist. For 2011, it’s fine jewelry maker Lee Cohn of Bloomington! Cohn creates very unique geometric gold jewelry with fine gems. Each Signature Artist is asked to create a piece that emulates Indiana or the museum. This allows the artist to create a one-of-a-kind piece that truly reflects their point of view on Indiana. Cohn has created a bracelet based on the double mobius strip, a geometric configuration that only has one side. For Cohn, this shape represents Indiana’s iconic state nickname “Crossroads of America.”

For this event, the Indiana State Museum is bringing back its evening reception on Friday, Feb. 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. where you can get a jump on buying that next piece for your collection. Admission for Friday is $5.50, or free for members. The event continues on Saturday, Feb. 19 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; tickets for Saturday and Sunday are $3 per member and $10 per non-member (museum admission is included in your ticket price).

Download a list of exhibiting artists!

Charlene Marsh, Painting, Brown County

Charlene Marsh, Painting, Brown County

Pam Niccum, Glass, Hamilton County

Pam Niccum, Glass, Hamilton County

T.C. Steele’s Remote Studio

Written by Davie Kean, master gardener at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site

The remote studio, framed by a pair of trees along T.C. Steele Road.

Breathing in the winter air — and inspiration — en plein-air …

One of the less frequented features of T.C. Steele State Historic Site is the remote studio, a roughly 10 x 10 foot structure reconstructed in 1994 by members of the Brown County Rotary Club. Although at a distance from the site’s main buildings, it actually sits quite near a county road. For a closer look, you can hike (or cross-country ski!) a 1/4-mile easy-access trail to this not-so-remote spot.

In winter, a glimpse of the painter’s shack can be seen through the trees as you approach the historic site. Mr. Steele used the original shelter for painting many of his winter scenes. I thought it made a nice picture itself, framed by two large trees that were much smaller in Steele’s time. Not wanting to paint the little outdoor studio from outside its protective shelter, I settled for a photograph instead.

Three young women visit the remote studio (in warmer weather) around 1919. Courtesy, Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Frank Hohenberger collection.

More familiar to visitors is the site’s Large Studio, reputed to be the largest private studio in the midwest at the time it was built in 1916. Seeing this space, it’s surprising to learn that most of Steele’s Brown County paintings were done en plein-air — or outside. The Large Studio was designed primarily as a gallery for Steele’s many works, while his preferred painting location was outdoors.

In her memoir, The House of the Singing Winds, Selma Steele illustrates her husband’s dedication to the plein-air method:                                                           

“Finally there arose a need for distant shelters to serve as studios when inclement weather made it impossible to work in the open … the painter built a well-lighted one-room studio on the top of the high hill overlooking the Schooner and Hunnicutt valleys. There were extensive views from these windows … Here many of the winter subjects were painted that are so splendid in their delineation of wintry snows and sunshine.”

The Steele’s didn’t let a little bad weather stop them from enjoying the beauty of their Brown County home, as indicated in this second excerpt from The House of the Singing Winds:

“It followed then that on a morning in early February of 1912, with temperatures hovering near the zero mark, we left the city for some deep winter experiences in the country.”

Since T.C. Steele State Historic Site is now open year-round, there’s nothing to stop you from experiencing that same beauty today. Maybe you’d like to try out the Remote Studio during the next cold snap — or do like I did and just snap a photo.

T.C. Steele State Historic Site is open for building tours Tuesday through Sunday. We’re closed on Mondays, but the grounds and trails aren’t. Call ahead for road conditions: 812.988.2785.

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The Ever Popular Tulip Poplar

Tulip-poplarI first knew Indiana’s state tree by the name Tulip Poplar. Years later, I learned that it ‘should’ be referred to as the Tulip Tree or Yellow Poplar. All these are just common names for Liriodendron tulipifera, a member of the Magnolia family — and anyway, how can a ‘common’ name be incorrect?

Our state tree could do double duty — its blooms are as spectacular as any state flower I know of. As a state tree it’s pretty popular — Kentucky and Tennessee have chosen it as well. We did in 1923. Continue reading