Creative Spirit

Meet, celebrate your community artists in a stellar, new location


Community workers appear among us in many forms: maybe you’ve helped a neighbor with a yard sale, helped build a Habitat house, taken a meal to a neighbor in need, delivered Meals on Wheels, donated to FISH Food Pantry. Maybe you have bought a Sunshine Certificate or gone to a Boys & Girls Club fundraiser. Our community thrives because hundreds of people make it their business to help out.

Sometimes we forget that among our most valuable community helpers are our local artists who bring beauty, color and whimsy into our daily lives. Scientific studies have shown that the “Vitamin C” of creativity is as vital to human flourishing as is the nutrient Vitamin C. The artists of Athens Arts stand tall among our community builders and volunteers. They not only display their skilled art attractively in the heart of downtown Crawfordsville, they make it possible for all of us to freely partake of art as gallery goers, collectors and as students in their classes. These people, along with the director and the board of directors, maintain and make Athens Arts a gem of our downtown for residents and visitors alike. Everyone can visit free at 216 E. Main St. during the gallery’s open hours (10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday) and sign up for classes of all sorts and for all ages. Athens Arts also welcomes volunteers.

As Director Diana McCormick notes, “These talented artists whose work has qualified them to display in the Gallery then choose to be artist members. This is invaluable. By paying a fee, serving on active committees, and helping out with the physical space, the artists themselves literally made it possible to move into our clean, new space on Main Street. They walk the walk! It’s high time to celebrate the fine artists who quietly make serving our community part of their artistic lives.”

On Friday, the community is invited to the public opening of “Come Celebrate the Artists of Athens! exhibition. Between 6-8 p.m., the member artists and a guest glassmaker artist will be on hand to greet visitors. Refreshments will be served and one of central Indiana’s well known guitarists, Ryan Foxworthy, will perform solo sets of original music along with folk, rock, country, Americana, blues and R&B covers. The new sound system at Athens Arts will make this a special treat.

Your community Athens Arts artists bring us a remarkable range of arts and styles. Work on display ranges from cards, earrings and tidbit décor to large canvases with wide-ranging subjects in several media. Here are your Athens Arts artists in thumbnail sketches:

Dr. Alice Harper held her childhood passion for drawing at bay as she developed a dis-tinguished career in education. Then she turned her formidable talents to painting. Her brilliant, colorful landscape work frequently draws the judge’s eye at plein air competitions. Her bold landscapes make her one of the most collected artists in the area.

Come and see “Splash 2.”

Anne Viray Sipahimahani was entirely immersed in
art growing up. She’s a
multi-media artist who for years operated creativeLAB in downtown Crawfordsville. She works with fibers, clay, leather, metal and even digital art. Come see her jewelry.

Nina Cunningham’s “heart-centered” work pulls down awards from national competitions. She has had full exhibitions in Lafayette and beyond. Nina creates stories and moments of life in her work. Whether an assemblage of pink metal roses and mouse-traps, cans and light sockets that challenge a viewer, or a delicate fabric-stitched heart, or a drawing of hennaed hands, Cunningham’s works always explore. Her work flew off the shelves for Valentine’s Day. Come see “Hope.”

Judith Lynn Smith has been a teacher and a business executive who now has turned her wide-ranging talents more fully to art. Her oil paintings of sunsets and water into which a viewer gazes have attracted a fanbase. Judith’s renderings of a pelican or a fistful of gathered lilies or a quiet mountainscape carry with them the mystery held deep in nature itself. Come see “Distant Mountains.” Judith Lynn also runs the popular Athens Arts art book club.

Dr. John Zimmerman is a fine arts photographer widely known for capturing majesty and intimacy with equal skill and grace. Whether a slice of cake on a Viennese café table, bikes leaning on a bridge, or the steaming cauldron of Iceland’s geysirs, John’s eye renders it flawlessly. Perhaps nothing trains a photographer’s eye like a career in chemistry that John had at Wabash College. Come see his 2023 calendar.

Gary Edwards has written a novel and had a distinguished career as a university administrator, but he’s always been most at home with tools and wood. He can lean toward the practical and has by building kitchen cabinets, all sorts of furniture, decorative boxes, rolling pins … But his ability to see “the beauty just waiting to be exposed” in fallen wood sets his breath-taking work apart. Come see his “Dizzy Bowl.”

Carol Baird works in many media, especially oil, watercolor and recently, in alcohol inks. Come see her lovely, gauzy landscapes, animal forms, and flowers like the peony in “Blush.” She captures evanescence — how fleeting beauty can be — and solace.

James Hubbard exhibits in shows all over the world, working out of his Thorntown studio. His stunning block prints transform patterns in land, water, the sky, and, even the universe itself, into lines and colors that speak (through lightning-bolt strokes) to the heart of things. James’ focus on etching and printing has released his deepest muse: etched lines “become soul sanctuaries where viewers can quietly contemplate the pulse, po-etry and riot of nature.” Come see his “Midwest Maize.”

Kathryn J. Houghton’s work is widely known for its brilliance all over our state. It is regularly selected for Hoosier Salons, Indiana’s most competitive art show. She is a full-time studio artist whose exquisite rendering of flowers, gardens and fruit make her work widely known throughout the Midwest. Come see “A Cottage Garden.” Houghton is also a stone artist and does hand engravings of artwork on headstones. She accepts commissions.

Kenya Ferrand-Ott has a world-wide web presence and does commissions and sells around the globe. Her inspiration too is the natural world, but she most often turns her eye toward the glory and action-packed ferocity of the animal kingdom. Wild animals are her deepest passion. Kenya is popular among young collectors: her work sometimes sees the world through a roar and an open jaw; she can also render a majesterial bison in a snowstorm. Come and see “This Is Not a Monster” and “Silver Bison.” Kenya was responsible for the first-of-its-kind Wild Pride show in 2021.

In addition to these fine artists, visitors can also see the glowing glasswork of Sharon Owens, Visiting Artist. Owens is a Lafayette native who studied in Germany and Italy, in Florida, Illinois, Washington state, and North Carolina. In her studio she produces unique hand-blown furnace glass vessels and sculpture. She promotes local artists, offering them this rare, super-heated workspace.

A final special feature of “Celebrate the Artists of Athens!” is some of the work of for-mer Athens Arts artist Mike Abney (1941-2019). He was a gifted and beloved wood-worker. He seasoned his own wood and made many of his own tools. Upon his death, his widow gifted 20 of his beautiful bowls and other work to Athens Arts. All proceeds from their sales goes to support children’s programming at the gallery. Abney often worked with knots, burls, spalted wood and crotch pieces, things others would have tossed away. Maybe Abney was the inventor of live edge wood working.

Overall operation of Athens Arts is under the capable and innovative direction of McCormick, and of a talented board of directors chaired by president Elaine Chase. Chase has been an invaluable leader and “community helper” during the move and remodeling of the new space. After the ribbon-cutting at the new location on Sept. 30, 2022, even more major upgrading has taken place.

During January, Athens Arts was (except for a few classes) closed to the public while UV light-filtering film was installed on the front windows to better protect the art. In the interior of the space, the kitchen area was relocated and remodeled, opening up and freeing additional classroom and display space. A new counter workspace, built in storage for art supplies, and new art library shelves create a more functional and elegant space for artists, students, and visitors alike. The improved state of the new hanging system offers welcome flexibility. All the gallery walls are freshly painted and the new sound system is a game-changer.

Looking around the gallery, Elaine smiles, her eyes gleam: she can see not only the completed, fresh space, but also all the coordinated details that hundreds of community helper hours put in to make this elegant remodel possible. She commends especially two lead volunteers, Teresa Huxhold and Rick Chase, for much of the core design, the construction, and the painting. Both gave untold hours of time, talent, professional and problem-solving skills to bring this transformation to fruition. “So now come and see the gallery and our wonderful artists’ works,” she adds. It’s certainly as striking as any “No Demo Reno” on television.

Athens Arts is a not-for-profit offering vibrant opportunities to engage the community in the arts. Check out the Athens Arts website and Facebook pages — and visit often. Athens Arts is located at 216 E. Main (across from Little Mexico) and is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 10 a.m. 2 p.m. Saturday or by appointment.å


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