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31 Years and Counting

Retired jeweler Bear credited with
starting event to stimulate
business on Main Street

By Don Ward and Ben Fronczek
Staff Writers

MADISON, Ind. – This month’s Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art has unique beginnings that reach as far back as 1901. But the festival this year is celebrating its 31st anniversary, a span of continuous annual events that began in 1970, according to local newspaper reports of the time and memories of the man who started it all.
Madison jeweler-optometrist-clockmaker Oscar C. Bear visited an arts and crafts show south of Philadelphia in the late 1960s and from that trip created the seed that would eventually grow into today’s Madison Chautauqua. The juried arts and crafts show attracts about 70,000 people to town, according to tourism officials.

Schedule of Events

Thursday-Friday, Sept. 21-22:
At St. Michael the Archangel Church.
7 p.m. “Down in the Valley,” an American opera of tragedy and romance by Kurt Weill, presented by the Madison Performing Arts Foundation Inc. Free. (502) 268-6261.

Saturday, Sept. 23:
On the north lawn of the Lanier Mansion.
10 a.m.: Music Valley Singers (four-part harmony women’s barbershop)
11 a.m.: Kentuckiana Dance Center (a variety of jazz, tap and ballet performed by ages 3 and up)
Noon: Allyn Ehlert (solo pianist performing Big Band, Solid Gold and show tunes)
1 p.m.: Sycamore Concert Band (50-60 piece concert band performing marches, musicals, classical and patriotic music)
2 p.m.: Hanover College Street Theatre (At Vaughn Drive & Vine Street)
3 p.m.: Mark Glasmire (original love songs in a contemporary style)
4 p.m.: Glory Bound (four-man bluegrass gospel band)

Sunday, Sept. 24:
On the north lawn of the Lanier Mansion.
10 a.m.: Ladies Godiva (instrumental & vocal duo of traditional and Celtic music)
11 a.m.: Chautauqua Awards Ceremony
11:20 a.m.: Mark Glasmire
Noon: Blues Devils (four-piece blues band)
1 p.m.: Tamara Dearing (light alternative music originally written and sung by Hanover College student)
2 p.m.: Madison Consolidated Choir (60-member high school concert choir singing choral standards)
3 p.m.: Randy Reed (contemporary Christian singer based in Madison)
4 p.m.: Pam Wells (Jazz vocalist)
Information: (812) 265-2956 or 1-800-559-2956.

Bear returned from Philadelphia that year and immediately began exploring the possibilities of such an event taking place downtown Madison. The end result was a sidewalk art show on Madison’s Main and Mulberry streets on Oct. 2-4, 1970. The show was planned to coincide with the Tri-Kappa Tour of Homes and the Antique Lore Club’s flea markets on the courthouse square.
Lou Knoble and Gary Chapman, two Madison art teachers at the time, and Ileia Newman from the local radio station, helped Bear organize the first event.
There were 56 entries in that inaugural show, according to newspaper accounts. Artists lined the sidewalks on the Main Street blocks between Central Avenue and Jefferson Street. Participating artists were local as well as from the nearby cities of Columbus, Ind., Indianapolis and Louisville.
Prizes were awarded to the top-rated artists in the categories of painting and sculpture. Junior High and High school students participated and were in a separate category of judging.
“Everybody seemed pretty happy with it,” recalls Bear, 72, who retired in 1992 and closed the store his father, Oscar Bear Sr., handed over to him at 208 E. Main St. Oscar Bear Sr. opened the family’s first jewelry store in 1907 on Madison’s Main Street. The elder Bear died in 1975.
“The idea was to get business into the downtown area,” said the second-generation jeweler.
Bear’s son, Chuck, now runs a family jewelry store on the Madison hilltop at 525 Clifty Plaza. He recalls the excitement of the show as a 14-year-old in 1970.
“I remember they used to store the winning paintings in the back of our store. There was some pretty cool stuff,” said Chuck Bear, 44.
For the next two years, the sidewalk festival was held the same weekend in October and grew slowly but surely. It wasn’t until 1973 when changes came in the form of expansion by a group of local art teachers and volunteers. The result was a new name, the Madison Chautauqua.
Harold “Hal” Davis, an elementary school art teacher in Madison, and his first wife, Elaine, joined up with Bob and Merry Fourhman and local florist Emmett Wood, now deceased.

Fourhman had met Wood at the 1972 art show and asked how he could become involved. Together, the group formed the first Chautauqua committee, which included local volunteers Judy George and Sally Wurtz.
The Madison-Ohio Valley Arts Council, a not-for-profit organization, served as an umbrella for the new emerging festival.
“We wanted to market a name that would be ear-catching and eye-catching,” recalls Fourhman. “The vision was that we could invoke all arts instead of just two-dimensional.”
“It was more of all the arts,” adds Davis.
The newly structured 1973 Madison Chautauqua included visual arts as well as dance, theatre, music and magic. Featured attractions included Spanish and square dancing on Central Avenue, a dinner theatre at the Knights of Columbus, a bluegrass concert and workshop on the Lanier Lawn, a magic show at the Ohio Theatre and the art show with painting and crafts contest that extended all the way from Mulberry to Mill streets.
More than 100 visual artists set up displays, ranging from watercolor and oil to ceramics and pottery. Approximately 40 volunteers contributed to the success of Madison’s 1973 Chautauqua.
“The obvious notion was to bring people downtown,” says Fourhman. “But the true concept of it was the sharing of art with each other. We did it for the betterment of the community.”
Over the next few years, the Chautauqua organization began to grow and flourish under the direction of a Madison pottery shop owner, Dixie McDonough, now deceased. She operated a shop on Vine Street at the time.
The Madison Chautauqua of the Arts that emerged in the 1970s was a newer, more metropolitan version of the 10-day event that took place annually between the early years of 1901 through 1929. Next year will mark the 100 years since a Chautauqua was first held in Madison.
The event has grown over the years as Madison’s business community has grown. Bear, meanwhile, believes the event continues to stimulate downtown business, the original goal he had when he started the current run in 1970. His family’s jewelry business legacy, however, may end after Chuck, since Chuck’s 21-year-old son, Josh, is in Sarasota, Fla., studying art and his 17-year-old daughter, Ashley, has shown little interest in it.
Art lovers, on the other hand, have come to know Madison as a place to be every September. And as the largest single event in the region, the Madison Chautauqua Festival of Art has come to represent the cultural life in Madison.
“It started as just something fun to do,” said Wurtz, a Madison-based Realtor. “We never thought it would be this big because it started off as a local endeavor. The flavor of the event has changed, and it has evolved over the years.”

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