Story and Photos by Kendal R. Miller
Equipped with a map, a full tank of gas and both a love and curiosity for the arts, I ventured out on a journey that exposed me to the winding roads and scenic views of both Switzerland and Ohio counties in rural Southeast Indiana.
It wasn’t just one location that I was in search of – it was over 30 – and it was going to take the entire weekend to complete my mission.
There was plenty to see and nearly 40 artists to meet.
I was on a personal pursuit to visit every location listed on last year’s inaugural edition of the “Creative Spaces Rural Places” Art Tour map.
This year’s bi-county event takes place on April 25th-26th, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The free art tour took me along the Ohio River Scenic Byway and to galleries and businesses located in the downtown shopping districts of Vevay and Rising Sun, and through the rural towns of Patriot, Florence, Fairview and Lamb. I ventured onto second floors of town buildings, meandered in artist’s kitchens and living rooms and explored home studios and garages.
There were rooms of colorful supplies, exclusive aromas of various art materials and unusual components unique to each artist’s specialty. I noted both customary and unique tools and instruments abound including storage containers filled with artists’ materials, books and drawings.
The artists were as individual as their creations, sharing not only their techniques and accomplishments but a bit of what inspired them and what life as an artist is like. Throughout the tour I became more than a casual observer, feeling more like a student or next door neighbor who dropped by to see what was new.
Along the way I met some incredibly talented individuals who worked in mediums including colored pencil, photography, sculpture and ceramics, pottery, stained glass, jewelry, needlework, oil and acrylics, watercolor, jewelry, American crafts, fiber, steel and wood, pen and ink and instrument design.
Beginning my trip in Switzerland County, I drove to Lamb and visited an artist who specialized in wood sculptures and paintings, watching as he used saws to create his next masterpiece. Down the road I observed artist Vickie Althoff creating her dried floral creations; and checked out Debbie Reisenback’s hand-crafted jewelry and painted signs outside Stonehouse Creations – a historic location that holds as many stories as the artists and guests that I met there that day.
In downtown Vevay, business and studios housed several photographers and woodworkers, sculptors working in clay, metal and fabric and painters working in oil and acrylic.
Tony Catanzaro from Tony’s Gallery on Liberty Street creates life-sized metal sculptures and tables in his studio alongside his historic home. Not only did he welcome guests to enjoy his outdoor sculpture garden but to sit a spell and enjoy a cool beverage and engaging conversation. Working in her studio that overlooks the downtown district, Meredith Luhrs of Luhrs’ Studio and Fine Art Gallery explained her sculpture technique and later invited guests to join her for a glass of wine at her outdoor sitting space.
On day two I headed to Ohio County to visit artists located in home studios, galleries and businesses in and around downtown Rising Sun.
Artist Jan West of Jan West Studio gave me the grand tour of her home studio and a glimpse at the creations that graced both her front and back yards – a macramé donkey and a near life-sized chess set constructed out of clay pots. She explained that her previous profession was a stressful one and that she could now relax and spend her time creating her art.
Working artists in pottery, stained and fused glass, oil, colored pencil and jewelry were found at the Pendleton Art Center along Main Street in downtown Rising Sun and at individual galleries nearby.
Luthiers and musicians William Rees and eldest son Bryant at Harps on Main were busy working on a handcrafted harp that would eventually be purchased locally or through its customer base that spans not only Midwest outlets but international ones as well.
Perhaps one thing I didn’t figure on was how far off the beaten path I would venture – the exact location I found artist Jim Day.
“Over the river and through the woods” came to mind as I crossed a drivable stream and drove up into the woods to Talon Wildlife Creations. It was well worth the trip.
Specializing in avian re-creations, Jim Day is a world renowned re-creation artist whose designs are so life-like that they have been included in natural history museums, private collections and retail establishments such as Bass Pro Shop. His work has been featured on PBS television and has been used in several motion pictures.
If you consider yourself a bit directionally challenged (like yours truly) you need not worry. The artists’ locations were clearly marked with additional signs posted along the way. If need be, both the artists and the locals were more than happy to clarify the course along the way. Not only were the participants a tight knit group who supported and networked amongst themselves, but it didn’t take me long to find myself comparing notes with them and the other guests that I was either leading or following along the trail.
Before venturing out, a few tips will make the experience even more enjoyable. Begin early, allowing yourself to enjoy each artist at every location and dress comfortable. Bring along a little spending money for a quick bite to eat along the way and a treasure or two that that you just can’t go home without (which there will be plenty.)
For more information including requesting a copy of the 2009 “Creative Spaces Rural Places” Tour map, log on to www.creativespacesruralplaces.com. Information can also be obtained by contacting Switzerland County Tourism at 427-3237 or www.vevayin.com; or from Ohio County Tourism in Rising Sun at 888-776-4786 or www.enjoyrisingsun.com.
Both offices can provide information about local accommodations.
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