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Artistic Endeavors

Rising Sun townspeople meeting to explore ways to promote the arts

Recruitment effort brought
many artists to town years ago

RISING SUN, Ind. (August 2013) – Looking at the landscape around Rising Sun, it is easy to see how this is an inspiring location for an artist to live and work. The small river town provides the beauty and serenity that makes many painters reach for their brushes.
However, what has drawn many artists to Rising Sun is not only the special look of the light on the river but the deeply committed community of artists who have made this town their home.
“I moved here from Seattle over 13 years ago to become part of this arts community,” said artist Vera Curnow. “We have a strong group of professional artists who network with each other. While artists, by and large work in a vacuum, we need to share, critique and encourage each other.”

Rising Sun

Photo provided

The Pendleton Arts Center has become a focal point of the town of Rising Sun while promoting the arts.

Curnow has been a full time, professional artist since 1984. The founder of the Colored Pencil Society of America, she is nationally recognized for not only for her personal art but also in the work that she has done to help raise awareness and respect for her medium.
“The society is now in its 21st year. I started the society in 1989 because the medium was rather obscure and not recognized by the art world at large. People were predisposed to think of it as a children’s medium. The goal of the society is to promote the medium and the artists who use it. To date, we have over 1,600 members internationally and 28 District Chapters around the country.”
She says that the customers in the area have encouraged her to work in a variety of different styles. “Living in a small Midwest town, an artist has to do a little bit of everything – from traditional realism to impressionism. My passion is directed at narrative works and whimsical subjects that I often make up.”
Andrea Grimsley, coordinator for Rising Sun’s September Art Festival, is painter and sculptor who also was seeking “a place that would be supportive of the arts.” She has lived in the community for 12 years, moving in from Northern California at a time when the town was offering a variety of financial incentives for artists to relocate to the area. “I think we’ve always had a wonderful setting,” she says.

Andrea Grimsley
Andrea Grimsley

In recent years, the economic downturn has challenged Rising Sun and the artists who live there. Art is a luxury to many people, and Lane Siekman, Executive Director for the Ohio County Economic Development Corp., says, “If you don’t have the money, you aren’t going to do it.”
As a way to look to the future, the town is holding a series of community meetings. The first meeting, “Let’s talk about art,” drew 15 people who worked to identify opportunities for and threats to the Rising Sun arts community. The discussion brought together a diverse group of people from artists to business owners. The next meeting is planned for 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 7, at 120 Main St. and is open to the public.
Siekman explains the impetus behind the meeting saying, ”It’s been going on for a while, talk about re-thinking and re-booting. We’ve got to get people back together.” He says that even in a small community, there are many different groups and organizations active and that it is important for people to “cross network” to share information and ideas.

Lane Siekman
Lane Siekman

Curnow describes the gathering saying, “This was a preliminary meeting to review the arts in Rising Sun. We discussed strengths and weaknesses. Every ongoing program needs to be re-evaluated from time to time as a reality check to where we are and where we’re going.”
Adds Grimsley: “I think probably the most important thing about that meeting was to arrive at a consensus about what our concerns were.”
One of the points of pride highlighted during the meeting is the Pendleton Arts Center. The art gallery served as a test case for the first Pendleton Arts Center to be located outside of Cincinnati. The center works to create an environment for artistic creativity and provides studio and gallery space for artists. Today, there four Pendleton Arts Centers across Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
Siekman says that while the Pendleton Arts Center in Rising Sun did see a drop in occupancy some months ago, it is “on the rise again.”
Grimsley points out that the recent addition of the coffee shop Java Bean Too “really enhances the whole gallery environment.” She believes that the fact that the center is home to businesses such as a book store and a finely crafted jewelry shop helps “create a reason to go in” and draws people to the artists who have work on display. The Pendleton is important for a variety of reasons.”
Serving as a site for artist studios and several businesses, “it created kind of central point for people to gather,” Grimsley says.
Siekman said he hopes that the artists of Rising Sun can establish even stronger bonds that will help the community capitalize on the area talent. He explains that in previous years, the community advertised nationally to encourage artists to move to the area and provided stipends and loan packages as incentives and that he would like to see such a program re-instated. He says that when Rising Sun was initially focusing on its arts community, many other towns, such as Paducah, Ky., looked to them for ideas and examples. He hopes that Rising Sun can again provide a model of a successful arts town.
“We have to be the leader again.”

• For more information, visit: www.ArtsInRisingSun.com.

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