They come from Grabill and Goshen, Hicksville and Huntertown, and Churubusco and Columbia City.
They are lawyers and teachers, graphic designers and fiber artists, professional painters and self-taught woodcarvers.
They work in leather, cloth, oils, watercolors, pen-and-ink, metal, acrylic and graphite, and they share a common love for artistic expression.
They are members of the Fort Wayne Artists Guild, and many have been accepted into the Guild's annual “Ventures in Creativity” art show opening today at the University of St. Francis and continuing through Aug. 17.
“This is our 35th year” for the show, says Darlene Selzer-Miller, who co-chairs the event this year with Nancy Longmate. “We're very proud of the level of art that we are able to showcase.”
Giving to the community
According to a document compiled by historian Mary Clohessy in 2001, the guild traces its origins to 1959 and well-known watercolorist Jim McBride and a cadre of Fort Wayne Art School alumni.
Prior to formal organization, the group had experimented with art fairs at the Barr Street Market and Eavey's supermarket and had participated in the Fine Arts Festival at Franke Park during the late 1950s, the history says.
In 1964-65, the guild painted scenic backgrounds for numerous animal displays in the newly opened Diehm Museum of Natural History. Following a 1975 fire, the museum was rebuilt, with the guild again donating their talents to paint 63 additional backgrounds.
Members have participated in art exhibits and shows at IPFW, local shopping centers, businesses, hospitals, churches and restaurants, as well as in festivals and fairs. They have designed Christmas cards and calendars using members' original artwork and presented workshops with well-known artists.
Their Kids Create program in conjunction with the Fort Wayne Museum of Art provides activities for the children in the community.
Fellowship of artists
Selzer-Miller worked in graphic design with local advertising agencies before starting her own freelance commercial art business, concentrating on product and technical illustration. She joined the guild in 2008 and “felt right at home.”
“My enjoyment with the guild comes from sharing ideas with fellow artists, (obtaining) information about learning opportunities, and the overall support we get from other members,” she says.
Longmate, a self-taught artist working in watercolor, pastel and oil, agrees. “It's all about the journey — growing in our abilities, sharing ideas and knowledge ... .”
Doug Runyan, a local attorney and guild member for seven years, credits high school French classes that emphasized French art and culture and the Indiana University law school with his eventual immersion into the world of art.
“I discovered the Indiana Impressionist painters through the collection of paintings in the IU Student Union by T. C. Steele and others,” he recalls. Runyan purchased his first painting while a student and began taking art classes after age 40.
“The guild provides me access to a great network of people who share my love of art,” he says. “It has provided me with many very fine friends ... (and) places to show and sell art — an important thing for an artist.”
Creativity on display
In 1977, the guild established “Ventures in Creativity,” the first juried art show open to all artists 18 and older within a 150-mile radius of Fort Wayne. For 2012, artwork was judged by David Slonim, who also lectured and presented workshops.
“It is the guild's primary yearly event,” says Longmate. “It gives artists the opportunity to enter a juried art show to win cash awards and gift card awards. We give Fort Wayne and surrounding communities the chance to view an art show of high quality and diverse styles.”
“Juried shows are an important part of the growth of an artist,” explains Runyan. “They provide feedback. Creating art is a very solitary and personal process. Putting your art out before the public and before a judge is both exciting and terrifying. It is exhilarating when you make the show and crushing when you don't.”
“The competition ... can be overwhelming,” he continues, “but it also provides goals for improvement. Artists can learn from each other.”