Downtown Bloomington is home to many local businesses, including a variety of art galleries. A majority of these galleries exhibit eclectic mixes of paintings, photography, jewelry, pottery, and more.
To stand out in a crowd this broad can be a difficult task. However, David and Martha Moore, owners of Pictura gallery, make it look easy. Pictura is a fine art photography gallery located on the corner of Sixth Street and College Avenue. It offers some of the best local and world photography.
"You can go to New York," David says. "You can go to San Francisco. But you don't have to. You can come to Pictura."
Television shows are reruns. Most of the college population fled Bloomington for the summer. The Comedy Attic isn't having open mic nights every Wednesday. But Bloomington's downtown comedy club has found a way to provide entertainment, laughter and good popcorn.
Formerly the Funny Bone, located on Fourth and Walnut Streets, the Comedy Attic this summer features the 2nd Annual Bloomington Comedy Festival every Wednesday night from June 2 through July 28.
"There's good popcorn," Tom Brady, the 2009 Comedy Festival winner, says. "It's not much different from the rest of the year, but I think they add a little bit of extra salt. I could be wrong, but it's good popcorn. And they give you a little extra soda. It's a good combo."
"Is the guitar too loud?" "Nope." "Should it be louder?" "Yeah!"
Tim Harmon, local singer/songwriter, questions the audience on the noise level of his guitar at the Monday Night Songwriter Showcase on May 17 at the Player's Pub, located at 424 S. Walnut St. People continuously trickle through the door to enjoy food, drinks, good company and great music.
Suzette Weakley, one of the showcase's founders and a main organizer, says the weekly gig's reputation has grown so much in the past four years that touring songwriters from across the country looking for filler gigs find it a perfect opportunity.
Just outside the door of the Wandering Turtle Art Gallery & Gifts sits a table with refreshments and a smiling young woman to make sure patrons get what they need. Mellow, groovy, jazzlike music greets customers as they walk through the door. Their eyes instantly flood with colorful paintings, pottery, jewelry and more.
Outside, limited parking, crowded sidewalks and people of all ages are signs it's First Friday again in downtown Bloomington.
First Friday is a version of GalleryWalk, which started around 2002, according to Miah Michaelsen, the city of Bloomington's assistant economic and sustainable development director for the arts, when nine downtown galleries came together to coordinate events and exhibit openings to help each other out.
"I think it's a great example of what appear to be competing businesses coming together and promoting each other," Michaelsen says.
Joanne Shank doesn't remember the moment she realized that she wanted to create environmentally conscious art. A life-long lover of both nature and art, she can't imagine one without the other.
"I've always just enjoyed looking at nature as my resource for expression and inspiration," she says. "I've always enjoyed art, and I've always enjoyed nature, so I don't think there's a beginning point to either of those things in my life."
Shank is one of a number of Bloomington artists who have decided to work in environmentally sustainable ways. Whether artists choose to use recycled or organic materials or to create pieces that focus on environmental issues, the recent surge in interest in the green movement is a natural fit within the local arts community.
Editor's note: The following guest column was submitted by Ashley Fisher from the Bloomington Area Arts Council in response to criticisms leveled by local artists in The Bloomington Alternative and other local media.
Fallout from the past
The new (Bloomington Area Arts Council) Board's 10-month story starts with the realization at the beginning of 2009 that the organization was failing -- again. Sensing this, both Ashley Fisher and Rob Hanrahan, who had recently joined the BAAC -- Fisher as a new Board member in October 2008 and Hanrahan November 2008 as a fundraising consultant -- took up the challenge as President of the Board of Trustees and Executive Director respectively in March 2009 to address the long-term sustainability of the arts council, despite its weakened state at that time. Both believed that the organization could be transformed -- and still do.
Editor's note:A group of area artists have banded together to resist management changes and fee increases at the John Waldron Arts Center. On Nov. 23, they sent the following letter to Bloomington Area Arts Council Board President Ashley Fisher and Executive Director Rob Hanrahan.
Dear Ashley and Rob,
We the undersigned represent 21 performing arts organizations in Bloomington who have come together to form the Bloomington Performing Arts Coalition (B-PAC). The primary concern of our organization is the recent increase in the rental rates and fees of the Waldron Arts Center, a building donated to the BAAC by the City of Bloomington for use as a "community arts center."
As Paula Ionescu explains the themes behind her paintings on display at City Hall, she can’t help but smile. Her art utilizes the colors of spring, the time of the year she enjoys most. One of her pieces, “Daffodil,” depicts her favorite flower. But as vibrant as her paintings are, Ionescu hasn’t always been in such good spirits.
Her paintings are the result of art therapy sessions held by Centerstone, an organization that provides mental health and addiction services to more than 18,000 Indiana residents annually. Ionescu says the paintings, which are being displayed as part of this year’s Centerstone “Art of Mental Health” exhibition, have aided in coping with depression. She is not the only person who has found relief in the unconventional sessions.
Shallus Quillen, another Centerstone artist, says the sessions have helped reduce her anxiety. Quillen, who engaged self-destructive activities, says the Centerstone art sessions are the only effective form of therapy she has found. Becoming involved with the sessions has been “the best thing ever,” because it has given her an alternative to self-harm. “It’s easier to paint than hurt myself,” she says.
In 2008, Shu-Mei Chan earned her Masters in Fine Arts at IU and, like most graduates, had to decide the next step in her career. When contemplating this next step, she noticed an inconsistency in the Bloomington art community. According to Chan, though IU has one of the top ceramics programs in the country, Bloomington has few facilities to support these artists after graduation.
“We wanted to stay in Bloomington and saw that missing in the community,” Chan says.
Alongside her husband and fellow accomplished ceramic artist Daniel Evans, Chan made plans to change this inconsistency. The two founded the Bloomington Clay Studio (BCS) with the intent of building a community-based facility that allows artists to continue their education through clay and other mediums.
The First Annual Chubby's Reunion Fest was a two-day gala event held May 9-10 at the Indianapolis East Side music club Zanies Too, a most worthy event to honor a most worthy person, Chubby Wadsworth. The Chubster, as he's affectionately called, is the grand dean of Indianapolis original music, which he spotlighted, encouraged and actively supported at Chubby's Club LaSalle.
While no one seems to be sure when Wadsworth took over the reins of Club LaSalle, it was an active music venue in the 1990s right up to the last live performance there, the Bluesapalooza jam on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, 2003 (Club LaSalle closed its doors permanently in February 2004, and the building was demolished earlier this year).
Club LaSalle is remembered fondly by musicians and fans alike as a place where both were always welcome, and where creativity and original voices were cultivated and encouraged. Unfortunately, while an artistic triumph in culturally starved Indianapolis, Club LaSalle was always touch-and-go financially, in part due to its location on the rough Near East Side in the "heart of Indianapolis's murder district." But inside the club it was always safe, and far too many now mourn the passing of Club LaSalle when they themselves didn't patronize it during the time its doors were open.