Nestled in the heart of downtown – along Main Street – is a fine-arts mecca: Fort Wayne Civic Theatre, Fort Wayne Ballet, Fort Wayne Youtheatre, FAME, festivals, and even artwork by local, regional and national artists that are displayed in two venues across the street from one another at Artlink and the Fort Wayne Museum of Art.
Since Artlink's move to Main Street and the Fort Wayne Museum of Art's expansion, both have been able to showcase more art and offer more services to visitors.
Artlink is a nonprofit art gallery founded in 1978 in Bruce Linker's apartment on Broadway, and it has moved five times. The last move in October 2011 to the Auer Center for Arts and Culture has proved the best for the organization, which has had a 25 percent increase in attendance, according to Executive Director Deb Washler.
The move not only has created more visibility, but the larger space – now all on one level – allows Artlink to host more exhibitions – three to four at a time, Washler said.
Artlink's exhibitions consist of three methods: open call in which nonmembers may participate, juried exhibitions in which participants compete for cash awards and invitational exhibitions.
“It allows us to reach out to new artists,” Washler said.
Artlink, which has 780 members, also reaches out to budding artists – children and adults – by offering art classes and events, such as drawing, charcoal and pastels; peer-to-peer critiques; a Business of Art Series, which is offered in the fall and spring for artists who want to market themselves; Bring Your Own Brush, which offers a fun night of drawing in a private or public setting; and an upcoming Lego Exploration class in which 9- to 12-year-olds will build a kit of the Auer Center.
“It's another side of creativity we haven't touched before,” Washler said.
Fort Wayne Museum of Art
When the Fort Wayne Museum of Art expanded in 2010, the number of its galleries increased to nine and its yearly shows to 30. It also increased its attendance by 20 percent, according to Amanda Martin, deputy director of administration and programs for the museum.
“We had to step up to be a museum that meets and exceeds expectations,” she said of the expansion.
The museum, which has 1,200 members, offers lectures, school tours, specialty workshops and gallery tours. About 100,000 people visit the museum a year, and another 30,000 enjoy outreach – or traveling – programs.
Martin leads a gallery tour the first Thursday of the month to educate visitors about the museum's exhibits.
“I make the show relevant,” she said. “It's not relevant until someone knows something about them (exhibits).”
Additional business collaborations have resulted in more national exhibits, such as the upcoming Dale Chihuly glass exhibit June 29-Sept. 29, on loan from the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio.
“We can use resources to go beyond the region,” Martin said.
For local artists, the museum's Paradigm Gallery showcases locally made jewelry, artwork and ceramics, which also are for sale.
The expansion provides flexibility while presenting art exhibits to the public, which now can include multiple themes – social/political, historical, contemporary, mixed media and more.
“I hope they continue to see the value of the arts in Fort Wayne,” she said.