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Historic Inspiration

Harrison’s barn plaques
are gaining quite a following

He is pushing to establish a
statewide barn photo contest

SCOTTSBURG, Ind. (July 2014) – What inspires an artist to create? Surely, there are many answers to this question.
For Dorrel Harrison, the answer is simple. His desire to preserve the historical integrity of local structures drives him to design his barn plaques. These handcrafted depictions are made with wood from actual barns. This wood may otherwise have been discarded or destroyed. However, Harrison prefers to give the material a “new life.” The plaques are done in a style that is 3-dimensional and need to be seen in person to truly experience and appreciate the meticulous attention to detail.

Dorrell

Photo provided

Dorrel Harrison creates
unique barn plaques made
from wood. They are on
permanent display in
Scottsburg, Ind.

These one-of-a-kind artworks and their creator are bringing recognition to southern Indiana and especially Scott County. In fact, Scott County is so proud of its local artist that the county is now being referred to as “the home of the barn plaques.”
Harrison began making the plaques in 2004. By 2008, he had become the first and only Indiana artisan in Scott County to be designated by the Indiana Art Commission. An Indiana Artisan is an artist who has been classified as one of Indiana’s best in the artist’s particular field.
Harrison was at the forefront in the founding of the Scott County Heritage Center and Museum Barn Project. The Mid-America Science Park, also in Scott County, boasts a permanent exhibit of 20 barn plaques that depict local structures made especially for the display. The featured plaques took Harrison six months to complete. Included in the show is a map that will lead the curious to the actual barns that served as Harrison’s inspiration. The Science Park is located at 821 S. Lake Rd. in Scottsburg and is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The exhibit is free to the public. 
Harrison has also been awarded the Best in Show award at the Barton Reese Pogue Poetry and Arts festival in Upland, Ind., for two consecutive years.
“Everyone was just fascinated by the plaques,” Festival Director LaRea Slater said.
Attendees of the two-day festival voted on their favorite exhibiting artist and Harrison has claimed the prize every year that he has entered. Slater went on to report that many of the festival’s attendees went on to commission Harrison to create a personalized plaque of a barn, home or other beloved structure for their own collections. Slater said the nostalgic subject matter paired with the precise work of each piece combines in a way that speaks to individuals that grew up and live in our area. The poetry and arts festival is currently a regional event but plans are being made to take it statewide.
Harrison’s work can be seen from the Indiana State Museum in Indianapolis to the Artisan Gallery in the Madison Table and Light Co. and Bear’s Furniture Gallery in Madison. He has also been invited to exhibit at the Indiana State Fair in the past and did so for a few years.
Harrison has no plans to stop trying to bring more recognition to Indiana barns. He and a group of like minded individuals have formed a committee that will be submitting a proposal to various organizations in an effort to gain support for a possible statewide barn contest in which photos of significant barns will be evaluated by a panel of judges. Among these groups are the Department of Historic Preservation, the Indiana Department of Tourism, the Indiana State Fair, and Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance. In addition to recognition, winners would be presented with a Harrison framed barn plaque as well as possible other prizes. The goal of such a contest would be to gather support in all Indiana counties in time for the event to be held in 2016, which is also Indiana’s 200th birthday.
Meantime, Washington County Tourism, the Destination Bed and Breakfast, and Handcrafted Barn, Mill, and House Plaques are sponsoring a county wide classic barn contest this summer. Harrison will provide a framed barn plaque for the winner. Results of the Washington County barn contest will be announced at the Old Settlers Days in Salem, Ind.
In addition to barns, Harrison can also be commissioned to create replicas of homes, churches, mills and covered bridges. These plaques make excellent gifts for someone who wants to present a loved one with a shared memory that can continue to provide enjoyment for generations to come.
Harrison typically crafts two types of plaque. The traditional in which the miniature, handmade structure sits on a 24-inch base and the shadow box framed in which the structure is placed on a painted background that depicts the surroundings of the building and can also include 3-dimensional trees, animals and other objects. Many different art techniques are applied in the construction of these plaques. It begins with photography, includes precision woodworking and moves on to painting both the building and the landscape for the framed pieces. Finally, each piece is finished with a story of the subject matter attached to the back.

• To schedule a visit to Dorrel Harrison’s showroom, call (812) 889-3369 or visit: www.barnmillplaques.com.

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