New gallery focuses on community involvement

The new ArtWorks is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to serving artists, with a focus on those from East Central Indiana.

The ArtWorks gallery in downtown Muncie began as an idea thought up by the chamber of commerce late last summer.+â-è

Ann Johnson has been with the program from the beginning. She started making calls and used the Internet to contact artists.

The response was resounding. "I wasn't aware of the great need for this," she said.

Finding the right location was essential, and eventually the Mitchell Building at 301 S. Walnut St. was selected.

"Everyone fell in love with the building," ArtWorks vice president Tom Farris said.

With its hardwood floors, patterned ceiling and sunlit windows, the location is ideal for a gallery.

Ball State architecture students, guided by professor Beth Wood, designed the displays for the art.

Twenty-four artists are currently involved, along with a board of directors and officers. Community leaders make up an advisory board.

"They are our legs, arms, ears and eyes," Farris said. "They'll bring opportunities and momentum as a resource for ideas."

A goal of the organization is to involve the community with its activities. Grants will fund projects to teach students how art is made with sculpture techniques, painting and papermaking.

"We hope to have a lot of different phases of community involvement," Farris said.

ArtWorks is unique because of its policy towards artists. For a one-time membership fee and smaller monthly fee, an artist can display his or her work for sale. The gallery does not take a commission on sales.

Another reason the gallery is unique is because of its visitor friendly atmosphere.

"People worry about going to galleries and asking the wrong questions," Farris said. "We hope to break that down and make it a fun place to be."

The group hopes to accomplish this by featuring an artist each month. A special corner is set up where an artist can create his or her work in front of visitors.

Preparations for the Thursday gallery opening are going strong. The nearly 100-year-old building probably hasn't been exposed to this many enthusiastic, smiling faces in a long time.

Laughter and talk fills the air as members adjust lighting and set up glasswork and sculpture in anticipation of the gallery opening.

"If you had seen this place last week, you would have said there was no way," said Farris. "We're working on adrenaline and enthusiasm."

Big plans in store for the organization. Farris hopes to create an apprenticeship for college students. One apprentice would be accepted for every 10 members.

Members will make the major decisions about establishing the apprenticeship program at the first meeting following the gallery opening.

"It's not easy to find a gallery to display your work," Farris said, "and it's nearly impossible for students to show their work, interact with other artists and experience the inner workings of a gallery.

"It's an opportunity to be around artists who have been working for years."

Members of ArtWorks are, according to Farris, an "eclectic and diverse group." Some are former or current art teachers.

Farris said, "It is kind of energizing being around other artists, it pushes you to do more, and we challenge and push each other.

"If you have a dream of working with some kind of art, pursue it."

The gallery's opening is Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. with a reception and an opportunity to meet the artists. Admission is free. Students can call the gallery at 288-2221 for more information or to express their interest in the apprenticeship.


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