If you've walked around downtown Fort Wayne lately, passing brick alley after brick alley, a splash of color might have caught your eye.
“Hey, that's art!” you might have thought as you took a second look at the side of 816 Pint & Slice or peered down the alley connecting Washington Boulevard to Wayne Street at Double Dragon.
On Saturday, Art This Way's Art Crawl will raise money for more such projects in downtown's walkways.
“What we're kind of doing is something similar to what Pint & Slice has done with the side of their building,” says Alexandra Hall, a member of Art This Way. “It's just an unexpected something to see. People stop and take photos there because it's starting to become a destination location and not just another alleyway.”
Hall is among artists with work in the Washington/Wayne alley, which helped inspire the larger project. The first piece in that walkway, a 16-foot guitar sculpture built by Alex Mendez and painted by Hall, was installed last October. At the time, she remembers thinking that the alley project could go bigger.
“I think that Fort Wayne is ready for some really neat, functional public art pieces that really change the scene and give us a unique look,” she says.
Three new “impact pieces” on the scale of those outside Pint & Slice will be completed in October, Hall says. Money raised from Saturday's art crawl will go toward future public art projects, and additional funding has been provided by several local organizations.
Agreements have been signed by a number of downtown property owners that would like art on their buildings, Hall says. A call for art instillation or mural designs will be put out before the end of the month and the University of Saint Francis School of Creative Arts will help jury the entrants for the three October projects. National and local artists will be considered.
The crawl will include live painting by Jared Applegate, Terry Ratliff and Theoplis Smith; live body painting by Kay Allday; and live drawing by Frank Louis Allen. Other work will be on display and music will be performed by local musicians such as the Hope Arthur Orchestra, Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra and Soul35. There will be free appetizers and cash bars.
Hall says the art crawl is open to all ages, but parents should be aware of the mature atmosphere.
Art This Way is hoping for a speakeasy vibe with the stops on the crawl, which are Caliente Cuban Cafe, MKM Architecture, the City Exchange shops, the Thirsty Camel Ballroom and The Atrium, according to the event's ticket listing on Eventbrite.com.
The three public art pieces are expected to be completed in the same areas next month and exact locations might be unveiled during the art crawl.
“In theory, if we are able to keep momentum behind this, it would grow out of the area we are focusing on right now and into other areas of Fort Wayne,” Hall says.
She says the mural Jerrod Tobias recently finished on the railroad elevation along Columbia Street is helping change the way local residents view public art, but the city is behind the curve when it comes to these sorts of projects.
Hall travels the country and has seen how other cities are embracing public art projects. Even towns near to Fort Wayne, such as Decatur with its sculpture tour, have seen a boost.
“I think that this is what Fort Wayne needs to understand, that investment in culture can create these economic booms,” she says. “We always talk about staying power and the young people coming here, or what makes the young people stay. And I think that we have neglected how important it is to have a really unique culture, and part of that culture is artistic expression.”
– Corey McMaken,
The Journal Gazette
If you go
What: Art This Way Art Crawl
When: 5 to 10 p.m. Saturday
Where: Various locations in downtown Fort Wayne; check-in kiosks at Auer Center on Main Street from 5 to 9 p.m. today and beginning at 4:45 p.m. Saturday on Wayne Street
Admission: Advance discount of $25 each or $40 for two until the start of the event; $30 each at the event