Artlink stays focused on its mission as it marks 40 years of serving the Fort Wayne art community
Artlink has gone through numerous changes in leadership and a few changes in address during its 40 years.
But what has kept the nonprofit art organization vital and relevant has been its commitment to its original mission — serving Fort Wayne’s creative community, said Matt McClure, Artlink executive director.
The local art gallery and organization will celebrate its milestone with a new exhibit, “Encores: 40 Years of Artlink,” which opens 5-8 p.m. today at the gallery in the Auer Center for Arts and Culture, 300 E. Main St. The exhibit features the work of 40 artists who have been influential in Artlink’s history.
The organization also will hold a “birthday bash” from 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 8 at the gallery.
Back in the early 1970s, local emerging artists didn’t have anywhere to display their work and connect with audiences, said Maddie Miller, Artlink’s gallery coordinator. The Fort Wayne Museum of Art focused on exhibiting works of established and nationally known artists.
So in 1976, local artist Bruce Linker opened Linker’s Gallery in his apartment on Broadway, Miller said. Two years later, in 1978, he and other local artists came together to form Artlink, which opened in space at 1126 Broadway and tried to create awareness about emerging local artists and art forms.
“I would argue it was completely revolutionary for its time,” McClure said.
The organization went through frequent leadership changes in the early years and moved to a second location on Broadway.
Things stabilized when Betty Fishman joined the staff about 1990 and later became executive director.
“The early directors were kind of figuring it out as they went,” McClure said. “When the early founders talk about Betty, they say she brought structure” — in both traditional and unique forms.
Artists sought and valued her opinion, Miller said.
“She would always give artists time,” McClure added, noting she once took time to teach an artist how to properly frame artwork after the artist showed her a poorly framed piece.
Though Artlink has evolved and moved twice more since that time, the organization continues to stay focused on its mission.
McClure said its funding comes from Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne, foundation grants, corporate and individual memberships, and unique, self-sustaining fundraising events, such as the Art Market.
During the past couple of years, Artlink created a commission to examine what the organization needs to do to continue meeting the needs of today’s creative community, McClure said.
That exploration pointed Artlink toward offering next-level resources to emerging artists, such as exhibits, creative resources, professional development and outreach programming, he said.
The help can range from showing artists how to prepare a resume, complete a grant application or apply to enter work in an exhibit to hosting an arts incubator program for artists, helping them find mentors and connecting them with other artists.
“There is a big focus on continuing to listen to the creative community and trying to respond with tangible, applicable resources,” McClure said.
CELEBRATING 40 YEARS
WHAT: The art exhibit “Encores: 40 Years of Artlink” features the work of 40 artists who have been influential in Artlink’s history.
WHEN: Aug. 10-Sept. 14. Exhibit opening 5-8 p.m. Aug. 10. Regular hours are noon-7 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays and noon-4 p.m. Sundays
WHERE: Auer Center for Arts and Culture, 300 E. Main St.
COST: Free, but donations are welcomed.
NOTE: Artlink will hold a free “birthday bash” from 7 to 10 p.m. Sept. 8 at the gallery. The event features free desserts, a cash bar, music by the Legendary Trainhoppers, art activities and more. No reservations needed.
For more about Artlink, go to its website.