Meet The Gallery: A new art experience at The Bradley, focused on Fort Wayne artists

Fort Wayne has achieved a few growth milestones in recent years, and a recent one is elevating the work of local artists.

The city's first boutique hotel, The Bradley, which opened in July, features many attractions, including a rooftop bar and ground-floor restaurant with a Utopian Coffee bar. Now, a dynamic on-site gallery of local art, also on the first floor, is the first of its kind in Fort Wayne, too.

The new revolving PFW gallery at The Bradley features work from students, alumni and faculty at 204 W. Main St. in downtown Fort Wayne.

In partnership with the Purdue University Fort Wayne (PFW) Department of Art and Design, The Gallery, as it is called, showcases an inspired collection of works from the students, alumni, and faculty through semi-annual exhibitions. Twice a year, new themed exhibitions will be displayed so guests can enjoy fresh, creative perspectives at every stay—and even purchase works if something speaks to them.

The new revolving PFW gallery at The Bradley features work from students, alumni and faculty at 204 W. Main St. in downtown Fort Wayne.

This new gallery is a win-win situation if you ask Rebecca Coffman, Chair and Professor with the PFW's Department of Art & Design. She says her team was approached about a year ago by Provenance Hotels staff, as the owners and operators of The Bradley, who expressed their interest in a partnership gallery of some kind in their space.

“I was really excited about this because I'm always looking for opportunities to engage the Fort Wayne community with the talented work of our students, alumni, and faculty,” Coffman says. “We began the conversation.” 

PFW Professor Rebecca Coffman and recent PFW graduate and artist Johnny Min walk through the new revolving gallery featuring work from Purdue Fort Wayne students, alumni and faculty at The Bradley, 204 W. Main St.

The concept evolved into a dynamic gallery space that displays the work of three cohorts of artists curated by Coffman and her staff. Coffman says the inaugural exhibit featured photography work by recent grads, though they’re open to displaying all types of media in the future.

In the meantime, Coffman says The Bradley has elevated the school’s status and its greater community at the same time. 

“It's a beautiful addition to Downtown Fort Wayne, “she says. “I think it’s really going to be a nice asset for people coming and visiting our city. And it really plays into this new kind of rebirth of the arts that you see happening in downtown Fort Wayne.”

PFW Professor Rebecca Coffman and recent PFW graduate and artist Johnny Min walk through the new revolving gallery featuring work from Purdue Fort Wayne students, alumni and faculty at The Bradley, 204 W. Main St.

In other words, The Gallery gives residents another reason to embrace civic pride and find new and different ways to support segments of Fort Wayne's community. She notes that no commission fees will be taken out of any art sales at The Gallery. In this way, it gives artists a platform and another highly rewarding outlet to sell their work.

“I believe in really supporting the artists to be able to make a living from their work," Coffman says. "They're critical members of our culture; although sometimes, they're not seen that way.”

Haley Moore, BFA Graphic Design, Imaging & Photography, 2020, has this piece hanging at The Gallery.

Johnny Min is among the artists who are shaping the cultural landscape in Fort Wayne. A Burmese immigrant and recent graduate of Purdue University Fort Wayne, he currently has his photography work on display at The Gallery. Though only 22, his resume is impressive.  

“I've been internationally displayed in the Blank Wall Art Gallery numerous times in Athens, Greece, and will be exhibited in Teizhou, China, Photography Gallery as part of the Fort Wayne Sister Cities,” Min says. “My work has also been displayed in the Garrett Museum of Art, as well as the Purdue University Fort Wayne art gallery, as part of the juried art exhibition twice. I am currently working as an Art Director at Creative Cat Marketing agency right after I graduated with my BFA in Visual Communication and Design from Purdue University Fort Wayne.”

PFW graduate and artist Johnny Min in the new revolving gallery featuring work from Purdue Fort Wayne students, alumni and faculty at The Bradley.

Despite these accolades, Min says every time his art is displayed somewhere, the experience is “surreal.” The current exhibit is a more journalistic or documentary style in nature, and it touches on heavy themes, like the absence of a father.

“There’s one piece that features kids—they are my cousins," he says. "And it's called “Fatherless,” because their dad kind of left the family. It was an 'in the moment' shot. I went over to their house and saw them playing around and fooling around. So, I thought that would be a great opportunity to take a photograph.”

The new revolving PFW gallery at The Bradley features work from students, alumni and faculty at 204 W. Main St. in downtown Fort Wayne.

Speaking of opportunity, Min considers himself in good company at The Bradley's gallery. 

“There are so many great artists—photographers, designers, painters, and more," he says. “There’s so much art Fort Wayne has to give to the world. And I think everyone's amazing, and I think that their work deserves to be shown… for people to get to know (it).”

The new revolving PFW gallery at The Bradley features work from students, alumni and faculty at 204 W. Main St. in downtown Fort Wayne.

That’s the vision of the hotel’s owner and operator, Provenance Hotels. Katherine Durant, President and CEO, says they make a point to get to know the local communities where they have a presence and play on the local flavor and elements. 
 
“Within each of our 14 hotels, you’ll find a different art story,” she says. “Across our collection, an array of works from renowned international artists like Dale Chihuly in Tacoma, WA., at Hotel Murano and Andy Warhol at Hotel Max; plus, collections from local artists who live in our communities are on display. We curated a bevy of experiential opportunities for guests from revolving galleries and artist exhibitions to partnerships with museums and arts-focused businesses like Where Y’Art in New Orleans.” 

Excited about the potential of The Gallery, Durant encourages community members to get an up-close look at local art. The inaugural exhibition is available through December 2021. 

Read more articles by Lauren Caggiano.

Lauren Caggiano is a Fort Wayne-based writer. A 2007 graduate of the University of Dayton, she returned to Northeast Indiana to pursue a career. In the past 12 years she has worked in journalism, public relations, marketing, and digital media. She currently writes for several local, regional, and national publications.