Although essentially landlocked at their location on Spring Street, the University of St. Francis has grown dramatically in recent years, thanks to their involvement and collaborations with one major local business and several area arts organizations. Their acquisition of the former Scottish Rite (now the USF Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center) has provided them with their own presence downtown, and partnerships with Sweetwater Sound, Fort Wayne Ballet and the Fort Wayne Museum of Art have expanded their programming options academically as well as their potential as a significant arts provider in a busy community.
The man who has put all of this in motion is Rick Cartwright, the dean of the School of Creative Arts at USF. Having recently received the Arts United Award for Outstanding Educator, Cartwright’s attachment to Fort Wayne came unexpectedly, as many others have discovered too. Fort Wayne can seem like a temporary stop, but something usually convinces you to throw down anchor permanently.
“I really didn’t expect to stay in Fort Wayne,” he recalls. “But I fell in love with a wonderful lady who was from this area, so I ended up staying. I’ve loved every minute of it. Fort Wayne is home to me now, and I’ve invested a lot of energy in it. Everyone has been very supportive of me internally at St. Francis and in the community, so I have no plans for leaving. It’s home.”
Originally from the coastal town of Bath, North Carolina, Cartwright found a passion for drawing and art early on. Supported by parents who were also of an artistic bent (his mother was a dressmaker, his father a cabinetmaker) he was encouraged to follow his joy which he quickly knew would be art. He chose an unlikely place to get his education after he graduated from high school.
“I chose to go against the Cartwright path of attending Eastern Carolina University and chose [University of North Carolina] Pembroke which was primarily attended by American Indians and had a very small percentage of Caucasian students. I wanted to know what it was like to be a minority, and they had a very good art program. I found a very special place at Pembroke, and it was enormously supportive of myself and my talents.”
He attended Bowling Green University for his graduate work and found his first position as a professor of art at the University of St. Francis in 1975. Cartwright had always studied both art and education in the hopes of teaching at a college level, but he says he never imagined himself in the administrative positions which would await him several years later.
“I always knew I wanted to teach, that I wanted to give back,” he says. “There were a lot of people along the way who helped me, and it’s part of my makeup to want to do the same. It was as much of a passion for me as art was. But no, I didn’t imagine myself as chair or dean. It happened naturally over the years. I was named department chair in 2000 and then dean in 2004. Things just happened. I never thought I’d be in a position of raising money or creating a complex for St. Francis.”
But that’s exactly what he’s done. He understood that the university, which was noted for its art program but lacked other areas of creative study, needed to expand to provide a full range of artistic expression and development.
“The programs were limited to art and art education. We didn’t have music, theater or dance, and art students need a broader background. That was one of my concerns. The other was that I wanted to dispel the notion of the ‘starving artist.’ I wanted our students to know they can make a living out of this even if they have to write their own job description.”
One of his first efforts was to bring in a music program, but he knew it had to be something unique to St. Francis.
“St. Francis isn’t going to compete with IU’s School of Music, but music technology was a very natural option, especially with Sweetwater Sound being such a major part of this city. So I began exploring options with Sweetwater, and it’s been a very successful addition to the university.”
Cartwright then turned his attention to dance.
“I made a real push to bring in a dance program, and I wondered how I was going to do that in a way that would work as well as our partnership with Sweetwater had. So I talked to Fort Wayne Ballet to create a partnership there, and with the help of [FWB executive/artistic director] Karen Gibbons-Brown we worked out a program in line with National Association of Dance standards, and now we have a B.A. program in dance.”
This year he forged yet another partnership, this time with the Fort Wayne Museum of Art, launching a B.A. program in museum studies. With a presence in downtown Fort Wayne, thanks to their Performing Arts Center, St. Francis is finding these partnerships a way to not only educate students but put them in the heart of the arts campus downtown. The music technology program is moving in to the west wing of that building, providing them dedicated practice studios as well as access to performances in the auditorium, a means of recording anything which takes place there.
Connections through these projects and with area businesses and organizations have allowed many students to find jobs quickly after graduation. Sweetwater currently employs 31 USF graduates. The numbers for St. Francis since Cartwright became dean are equally impressive.
“It was one of my goals to grow the arts at the university and in the community. When I began, there were 32 art majors at St. Francis, and now there are 250, so obviously a lot of growth has taken place.”
And now with the addition of the Performing Arts Center, the University of St. Francis can be part of the community beyond its educational contributions, and Cartwright’s longtime vision for the university can be fully realized.
“I certainly want to use the auditorium to become a major player in providing entertainment in northeast Indiana. I want it to be a hub for entertainment and cultural events in Fort Wayne. This is really a great opportunity to provide all kinds of entertainment and cultural opportunities and to be a magnet to downtown Fort Wayne. I’m happy that St. Francis can be part of that.”
Thursday, April 27
Click on the headings below for full calendars
Click header for complete Things To Do calendar
Community Unity — Community dinner, games and prizes, and neighborhood safety forum, 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, Jennings Recreation Center, Fort Wayne, free, 427-6028
Issues and Ales — Panel of experts discuss important issues in the community with audience Q&A , 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, Calhoun Street Soups, Salads and Spirits, Fort Wayne, free, 456-7005
Click header for complete On the Road calendar
Click header for complete Music & Comedy calendar
Chris Worth — Variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Fort Wayne Comedy Connection — Comedy at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at River View Tavern, Decatur, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 724-3500
Open Mic — Hosted by Mike Mowry at Pedal City, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 415-6167
Click header for complete Karaoke & DJs calendar
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., no cover, 490-9464
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Karaoke at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 422-5055
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., ,
Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at By: Belle Haven, South Whitley, 8 p.m., no cover, 866-716-9243
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Shut Up and Sing — Karaoke at Duesy's Sports Bar, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 483-5681
Three Rivers Karaoke — at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-1311
Click header for complete Stage & Dance calendar
Little Shop of Horrors — IPFW Department of Theatre performance of Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical comedy, 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, April 26-29, Williams Theatre, IPFW, Fort Wayne, $5-$18, 481-6555
Click header for complete Movie times
Click header for complete Art calendar
37th National Print Exhibition — Juried exhibition featuring contemporary printmakers from around the nation, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
41st SOCA Student Exhibition — Works from students currently enrolled at USF’s School of Creative Arts, daily thru April 30, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Jan Krist-Finkbeiner — Exhibition of ceramic reliefs, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Kathy Funderburg & Diane Schafer-King — Acrylic paintings (Funderburg) and works in marbled paper and fabric (Schaefer-King), Monday-Saturday thru April 29, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
SOCA Graduate Program: Student Highlights — Juried exhibition of works by students enrolled in USF’s School of Creative Arts graduate program, Monday-Friday thru April 30, Lupke Gallery, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Exhibition of works by IPFW graduation seniors, daily thru May 3 , Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, Main Library, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Senior thesis projects from Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Brenda Drayer (sculpture), Derek Hibbs (printmaking), Ellen Mensch (painting), Nathaniel Morris (sculpture) and Kyle Snodgrass (sculpture), daily thru May 7, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring Palette — New original works by more than 50 nationally recognized artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru April 30, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568