What do artists think of Fort Wayne's creative community?

Artlink started in 1976 when Bruce Linker opened his downtown Fort Wayne apartment as a gallery space for new and emerging artists in the area. He even let artists run the gallery, so they could express themselves in the fullest form. The idea was to inspire a creative community that was by-artists and for-artists in Fort Wayne.

One of the ways Artlink continues to help artists connect, grow, and amplify their presence in the city is through its Artist Panel, a group of regional artists who help direct the nonprofit's decisions.

Input Fort Wayne surveyed five members of Artlink's Artist Panel to learn more about their work and their take on the city's evolving creative community.


Monika Meler

Age: 37
Creative concentration: Printmaking and installation

Monika Meler

Describe the type of art you typically create?

I make abstract, colorful prints and paper-cut collages exploring memory, architecture, and the intersection of space and memory. I support local artists by providing workshop opportunities, serving on the Artist Panel at Artlink, and being an active and enthusiastic member of the Fort Wayne arts community.

What inspired you to join Artlink’s Artist Panel?

I wanted to be involved in the Fort Wayne art community. It is important to be a part of the panel to serve local artists. I also want to be in a room with other artists, and the panel allows me to make that happen. There are always brilliant minds in the Artist Panel room, and while I want to serve, I also (selfishly) want to be a part of the conversations we are having.

Why is art important in cities like Fort Wayne?

I think Fort Wayne is experiencing growth in public arts, and this is crucial to expanding the role of art in the city. Public art makes art makes available to everyone, and I think it makes people who typically don’t go to galleries or museums understand how beneficial art is. I also think art is important everywhere—in all situations, for people of all ages. It helps us understand the world around us and provides an important outlet for contemplation, communication, and collaboration.

What is something people should know about Artlink?

I wish people knew that Artlink provides free entertainment! It is an interesting place to visit; the staff are always helpful; and it is an important community resource.

What is the creative community like in Fort Wayne right now?

The community of artists here is strong, varied, and inspiring. There is a very typically Midwestern identity to the community. Everyone works hard, is friendly, and is helpful. I have only been here for just over a year, and the community has embraced me with open arms. This is unique. I’ve lived in many different regions in this country, and this is the only place where I have not had to work hard or extend myself unnaturally to be a part of the community. It’s been a relief and joy.

What is your hope for the future of Fort Wayne's creative community?

My hope is that Fort Wayne can eventually build art-making spaces and studios to serve the public and local artists. We need a printmaking shop (selfishly), a papermaking studio, individual artist studios, more galleries, and of course, we need to continue to build the patron base, so that artists are supported.
 


Katie Schroeder

Age: 26
Creative concentration: Video projection and installation

Katie Schroeder

Describe the type of art you typically create?

My work explores contemporary relationships between the mind and body. A lot of my research comes from disembodiment and new media studies. I focus on the space between the mind and body, trying to describe it, and question whether it even exists. I am mostly a media artist that uses video documentation of myself and found media.

The way I support other creators is through participation and listening. I like to provide space for other artists to talk about their work, and I want to actively listen to them and their concerns. When I can, I provide them with resources, readings, and/or other artists for reference. I also try my best to advocate for the arts and the importance of it in the community as often as I am given a platform to do so.

What inspired you to join Artlink’s Artist Panel?

I grew up in Fort Wayne, and coming from Snider High School, I was so intimidated by Artlink that coming back I wanted to join and be a voice that says, "Hey, this isn’t scary." These places can be intimidating, but nothing makes me more excited than to see young faces in the gallery as well as donors and collectors. It's a space that is to be enjoyed by a huge and varying demographic of people. I joined because I want to be a community resource and encourage everyone to come hang out, ask questions, and get inspired.

Why is art important in cities like Fort Wayne?

Art fosters communities within cities that can exist because of a common interest. Punk Spaces, or what I like to call Garage Galleries and Bars, create conversations between folks that would have never happened otherwise.

After returning to Fort Wayne from Seattle, I was re-acquainted with local artist Jasmine Christensen at Radical Galleries first Tiny Print Show at the Brass Rail. This wouldn’t have happened if both of us hadn’t shown up to support that endeavor.
Artlink and the Museum of Art in Fort Wayne are providing the institutional groundwork for the community that people will grow from and form their own opinion on what “art” is. Creating an art ecosystem in a city the size of Fort Wayne is healthy and is a necessary step in finding the city's unique culture.

What is something people should know about Artlink?

The focus on education provides all audience members the chance to ask whatever questions they want. Often in galleries with big walls and windows, there is a pressure to have a certain amount of exposure to art and knowledge about it, but when an institution holds education at its core, it's obligated to answer and be open to all the art curiosities. The access to art and the conversation surrounding it must defy the idea that art is only to be enjoyed if you understand it. The thing more people need to know about Artlink is all creative questioning is welcomed, and we are all still curious and asking.

What is the creative community like in Fort Wayne right now?

At a rolling boil, and yes, I really mean that. This scene has a lot of grassroots, DIY arts energy that feels really mature for the size of Fort Wayne. Since I’ve only been back for a year, I hesitate to give credit to any effort besides the artists themselves. With affordable living costs, an effort to rekindle the downtown and urban spaces, and institutions that are still dedicated to the arts, I would say that we are at an exciting point. The Midwest has a voice in contemporary art, and the dedication I see with the local artists is undeniable. Through more and continuing support and places like Artlink, I believe Fort Wayne will continue to hold and grow magnanimity.

What is your hope for the future of Fort Wayne's creative community?

To continue to flourish and to offer space for diverse creators. Right now, I think we are in a community that is doing wonderful things because they want to do great things. There is a beautiful mindset of "making for the sake of making" that's happening, and I’m really hoping it continues, and that there is support developed for those who want to make, but feel like they do not have the means. I want to see this city support the arts in ways that larger cities do because we can. Fort Wayne has the supportive community to become a haven for makers and thinkers. It’s exciting to be here now, and I feel incredibly grateful to be seeing some of that unfolding.

 

Teri Marquart

Age: 68
Creative concentration: Everything

Describe the type of art you typically create?

I’m not sure about a particular medium that I am partial to, but I do lean toward abstract expressionism; modern; contemporary; and/or post-impressionism, whether it’s painting, sculpture, ceramics, or any fine art or craft.

My personal mission statement is “to promote, support, and recognize local and regional artists (both established and emerging) through the development of professional venues/events that provide quality exhibition, performance, educational, and selling opportunities; to engage the community in the experience of improving one’s quality of life through the expression of art and music; and to recognize how art and culture enhances personal lives and improves livability of our community.”

I work toward that end by volunteering for multiple arts organizations/projects. I founded and currently direct the Fort Wayne Arts Festival (and Concert) at Jefferson Pointe Shopping Center. The festival celebrated its 11th year in September 2019.

What inspired you to join Artlink’s Artist Panel?

I joined the Panel because it offers me the opportunity to fulfill my mission to make a difference by being involved.

Why is art important in cities like Fort Wayne?

Public art is important to any city, but it’s important especially to Fort Wayne because it’s our city! Art enhances the social and intellectual fiber of the community. It offers a venue for people who might otherwise have nothing in common to relate to one another without confrontation.

What is something people should know about Artlink?

Just one? For more than 40 years, Artlink has been serving our community by promoting the work of incredibly talented local, regional, and national artists. It’s an obligation which is taken very seriously by staff, volunteers, as well as panel and board members. I wish more people were aware and recognized how difficult it is, however. Calling it an “art gallery” sounds like it’s just fun all day long. There are wonderfully enjoyable times and exciting moments, but it is extremely challenging work!

What is the creative community like in Fort Wayne right now?

Fort Wayne has an abundance of talent, but a moderately knowledgeable buying public. Traditionally, Fort Wayne has lagged current trends by decades, but giant steps have been realized in the past several years. We have a renewed downtown; a minor league baseball team and stadium; new “green” designed and constructed buildings; professional venues for internationally recognized entertainers/artists; revitalized neighborhoods; proposed cultural centers in the works. A thriving town will support a creative community.

What is your hope for the future of Fort Wayne's creative community?

It would be wonderful if more artists could make a decent living doing their art. Collectors need to buy more!!

 

Matt Plett

Age: 39 
Creative concentration: Everything

Matt Plett

Describe the type of art you typically create?

I am a freelance graphic designer, muralist, and artist. I am a frequent collaborator throughout the city with other artists I admire.

What inspired you to join Artlink’s Artist Panel?

Wanting to connect more deeply within the creative community and help bring more diverse work to Fort Wayne.

Why is art important in cities like Fort Wayne?

With the idea that Fort Wayne is “growing” and “changing,” there can be a feeling of inauthenticity throughout some parts of the community due to a focus on monetary/commercial growth and improvement to certain parts and spaces in a city. Art can connect people and places in a way that feels honest, unlike some other things do. Art can go anywhere and can speak for things that commercial ideas cannot. Art is the soul of a community, in some respects.

What is something people should know about Artlink?

Artlink has been a connector for artists for years and can help individual artists with opportunities, information, and wisdom to help their projects succeed.

What is the creative community like in Fort Wayne right now?

Just like society, we are growing and becoming more respected within the community at large, but there’s also a feeling of disconnection to each other in a way. This city is full of creatives of all kinds trying to hustle to put their stamp or voice out there, and our creatives really hustle hard to make a creative career. We keep it moving.

What is your hope for the future of Fort Wayne's creative community?

That the public as a whole would become more and more ready and willing to collaborate and share opportunities and vision with our creative community as we support each other and work together to create Fort Wayne’s voice heard by others and also by the rest of the city. I also hope that all the local creatives can connect to each other in an authentically deep way to support each other and give more opportunities to each other.
 


Bonnie Fortune Bloom

Age: 39
Concentration: Social relationships and ecology

Bonnie Fortune Bloom

Describe the type of art you typically create?

My artwork is done in service of communities. It focuses on social relationships and ecology.

What inspired you to join Artlink’s Artist Panel?

I wanted to connect and support my adopted arts community after I moved here in 2015.

Why is art important in cities like Fort Wayne?

Art is important to Fort Wayne because it builds communities. It allows people to explore different aspects of themselves and reconnect to the place they call home. It also sparks ideas for improving the city.

What is something people should know about Artlink?

That it is free and open to the public. That it is a place to learn and talk about art with others.

What is the creative community like in Fort Wayne right now?

It's growing and generating energy. It's really a place that is cultivating a ton of innovative ideas and continually developing on those ideas.

What is your hope for the future of Fort Wayne's creative community?

That it can grow to a stronger and more progressive community. That it will challenge itself to improve and grow. That it can become a Midwestern hub for art and artmaking, where artists are challenged and make challenging work. That art is seen as a necessary and vital part of community development.

This story is part of a partnership between Artlink and inputfortwayne.com, focused on reporting about catalytic talent shaping "what's next" for northeast Indiana's art scene.
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