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Artistic Endeavors

‘Off the Walls’ exhibit premieres
talent of Indiana Artisan Project

Five local artisans have
juried into exclusive program

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(February 2009) – Matt Hicks has a fondness for architecture and landscapes. He also has a real talent for photography. When Hicks decided to combine his interests, the results rendered beautiful pieces of art.

Indiana Artisan Logo

A construction contractor and fine arts photographer, the Madison, Ind., resident is one of a handful of local artisans recently juried into the state’s exclusive Indiana Artisan Project. His work will be among that shown in the Indiana Artisan Project’s premiere exhibit, “Off the Walls: The Indiana Artisan Premiere.” The exhibit opens Feb. 13 at the Indiana State Museum, located in the White River State Park in Indianapolis. It will run through March 22. A special gathering of artisans will take place on Feb. 21 in conjunction with the museum’s art fair. The exhibit got its name because visitors can buy the artwork right off the wall.
Hicks, who finished his bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Indiana University in 1999, moved to Madison seven years ago. He became distracted for several years from his photography passion but has recently begun shooting again. He enjoys photography architecture, landscapes and rural scenes. “I look for scenes that give a feel for the rural countryside or that show the pace of life there,” said Hicks.
In addition to the Indiana State Museum exhibit, his work has been shown in several exhibits around the area. “This exhibit for the Indiana Artisan Project will help bring about awareness for it,” he said. “People will start to look for it in the future.” Indiana Artisan Project wares and food products are labeled with an exclusive logo.

Matt Hicks photo

Photo provided

This work by fine
arts photographer
Matt Hicks is one of
the pieces premiering
at the Indiana Artisan Project’s “Off the
Walls” exhibit at the
Indiana State Museum.

Jeana Dallape, the exhibit curator and fine art collection manager at Indiana State Museum, said the exhibit will feature 35 works in various media, including everything from traditional oil painting to recycled fiber textiles.
“Some of the show highlights include work by Jefferson County, Ind., artisans, including a hand-made guitar by Clint Bear, a colorful oil by Lawrence Rudolech and a finial jar by ceramicist Darlene Yarnetsky,” she said.
The exhibit will also display a slideshow depicting other artisans from the program and a map of Indiana indicating their presence across the state. Each piece of art and craft will be available for purchase “off the wall,” and food and other artisan products will also be for sale in the Indiana State Museum gift shop.
Dallape said the museum first got involved with the artisan program through the gift shop manager, Kristin Peterson, who sat on the first jury for the program and started carrying some of the artisan products at the museum shop. Dallape chose work for the show from the original images that the artisans submitted for their jury process.
“Because it is such an eclectic mix, the real challenge for me now is to mount the show in an interesting way while making it look cohesive,” she said. “I also have to keep the artwork safe but still accessible. I have never tried to display a chair on the wall before.”
In 2008, the Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs, the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, the Indiana State Department of Agriculture and the Indiana Arts Commission formed a joint venture to create a program with the primary goal of helping artisans, especially those in rural areas, get their work to markets around the state.
“Indiana has a great tradition of both arts and foods, and this program is serving as a way to bring them together and create strong momentum that will develop into a high-quality brand, said Eric Freeman the program’s manager.
He said there were two rounds of jurying last year in which artisans applied to the program. More than 450 artisans applied to the program, but only 85 were selected for their high-quality work. They represent 41 counties throughout the state.
There will be two rounds of jurying in 2009, in May and October. Any artisan who may not be quite ready is eligible to attend workshops offered by the program. Last year, three workshops were offered and close to 100 artisans attended them.
Freeman said the focus for the project in 2009 will be on helping artisans in the program expand their markets, to sell on the Internet and to continue to develop arts trails that will bring the market to the artisans.
Two of those arts trails are in our area: the Creative Spaces-Rural Places cooperative between the Indiana counties of Switzerland and Ohio, and the By Hoosier Hands trail being developed through a $10,000 grant from Indiana Artisan. By Hoosier Hands will include artisan studios, retail shops, galleries, wineries and confectioners in the Indiana counties of Dearborn, Decatur, Franklin, Jackson, Jennings, Jefferson and Ripley.
“At this point, the project is going great,” said Freeman. “Interest in the program from artisans has been exceptional and participation in the program from other organizations has, too.”
Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Linda Lytle said she is thrilled that five area artisans – Hicks, Yarnetsky, Rudolech, Bear and the Thomas Family Winery – have been included in the Indiana Artisan Project. “We already have five of the top artisans in the state,” she said. “I know there are others in the area that could get into the project, as well.”
She said any area artisans who need help with the applications for the Indiana Artisan Project or for the By Hoosier Hands project should contact the Madison Area CVB at (812) 265-2956.

• For more information about the “Off the Walls” exhibit or the Indiana Artisan Project, visit: www.indianaartisan.org.

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