Tucked up in a $3 padded chair scavenged from a recent GE auction, I leaned close to a tiny space heater, hoping that my chilled red nose would go unnoticed as I listened to local artist and curator, Dan Swartz, divulge his master plan to introduce Fort Wayne to the edgy side of contemporary art. By the end of that day, electricians were expected to flip the switch, sending juice through a web of brand new wiring and heat blasting out of shiny air ducts.
Swartz, with the disproportionate strength of an ant, has worked the past several months filling eight dumpsters with crushed drywall, crusty carpet and other remnants of the old Casa D’Angelo’s restaurant. The building at 3402 Fairfield Avenue has been transformed into the home of Swartz’s nonprofit brainchild, Wunderkammer Company.
Swartz’s mission is to “revitalize communities through contemporary art.” At first the tag line may pass through one ear and out the other, with a quick mumbling in between of “whatever, art guy. Good luck saving the world.” After a few minutes of listening to Swartz enthusiastically explain his plans for Wunderkammer, I couldn’t help being sucked in and soon found myself fist-pumping and chanting “art power.” Okay, so there was no fist-pumping, but there was discussion – lots of discussion. Swartz’s head spews ideas faster than my pencil could collect.
Unlike many 20-somethings, Swartz has a clear vision and a mission. He has a strong passion for community development and intends to use the nonprofit as a vehicle to push his ideas forward.
“We want to reclaim Fort Wayne, look at the neglected and forgotten resources and make those places cool again,” Swartz explained. “We have lost our identity, whatever that may be, and we need to reconnect with that.”
Bringing a new identity to an old building, Wunderkammer plans to open its doors on December 15, with a four-exhibit gallery show. The first exhibit, a project called 1x1, is a photo essay representing the full city limits of Fort Wayne. The project stems from Swartz’s contemplations of Fort Wayne’s identity and a deep love for the city’s history.
“It’s a 16-month project showing 16 segments of Fort Wayne,” said Swartz. “The project shows one chunk of Fort Wayne, one month at a time. We want to showcase the visual identity of our city.” Photographers were asked to capture the essence of each slice of the community. Swartz hopes that the project will put a spotlight on some of the forgotten spaces and allow photographers to jump into the city planning conversation.
“Photographers aren’t involved in city planning, even though they are actually walking through the city and taking intimate shots of areas that have been forgotten by the general population,” he said.
Swartz hopes that the exhibit will provide an honest representation of our city and uncover some of the cool things that exist in unexpected places. As with all his projects, Swartz hopes to spark a fire in the hearts of others who wish to brighten our community. Wunderkammer will show one chunk of 1x1 which will include about 56 photos. The show, juried by Karen Thompson, former professor of photography at Saint Francis, was funded by a grant from Arts United.
Investigating the identity of our city will lay the foundation for similar projects to follow. Swartz hopes to host exhibits that are produced by members of the community. The Saint Francis University photo club will produce his first group show.
“Group shows offer viewers many perspectives and takes on different subjects,” Swartz explains. “Unique interpretations will help the community become familiar with contemporary culture.” Saint Francis students prepare to offer their tongue-in-cheek responses to what some believe to be the day the world will end. The project is open to interpretation and promises to be quirky, unusual and perhaps shocking. A well-prepared patron will come equipped with a roll of duct tape and a few bottles of water, just in case. The opening is scheduled for December 15, just before the end of times.
The End of Times show will run parallel with a perfectly placed exhibit titled EX, meaning exquisite corpse. The show questions the idea of control, as the usual relationship between artist and curator is turned inside out. The concept removes the curator’s usual function, which is to choose the work to be included in a show and narrate the display with his or her own vocabulary. In the case of EX, curators were given a collection of finished works and asked to bring meaning to the pieces by strategic placement. On the opposing end, artists were directed to create work of a certain subject, in this case a human body. The artists were also stripped of their voice to direct how the work should be displayed. The role reversal presents an entirely new set of problems for the creative team while at the same time opening a wide range of new conversations. The show first opened in March 2012 in New York City, then traveled to Chicago in May.
“With each show being curated by a different person, it changes completely in each city,” says Swartz, who will curate the Fort Wayne show that will include 27 images. EX opens on December 15.
Wunderkammer’s opening will be topped off with the remnants of a show that occurred in 2010-11. Not Tony Smith, is a project that involved the placement of moveable sculptures in a variety of public spaces. The project was a covert effort to engage an atypical audience in the creation of art. In simple terms, people were tempted to move chunks of sculpture to make new sculptures, the same way a kid knocks over another kids block tower, then makes a new block tower that stands until a third kid comes along, and so on.
The social experiment produced interesting results. Collaboration occurred between the homeless and the random. Curious creative types stacked pieces while occupy campers tore them down. The pieces endured weather and a few beatings, but the damage was justified. Just as a favorite toy may lose an arm or an eyeball, Not Tony Smith earned its scrapes and scars with purpose and flaunts them with pride.
The installation will be reconstructed in time for Wunderkammer’s opening and dismantled and retired on January 31 as the gallery clears its floors and walls in preparation for Fort Wayne’s first official Fringe Fest.
What’s a Fringe Fest? In Swartz’s words, a Fringe Fest is a “glorification and expression of performance art of any kind.” Typically large, elaborate events, Fort Wayne’s first attempt will be small, using two spaces within the Wunderkammer building. Swartz expects 10 artists and 20 performances to occur over a four-day span. Wunderkammer has received applications from artists from Chicago, Ann Arbor, Columbus and Atlanta.
Before the doors have even opened, Wunderkammer is getting attention from artists in cities across the region. During the past six months, Wunderkammer construction has raised the curiosity of surrounding neighbors. Swartz states that he has had a “flow of random people, curious about what’s going on inside stop by,” so many visitors that he habitually locks the door behind him so he can work without interruption.
Working to gut and revitalize a building while planning and setting four exhibits has left Swartz feeling, “emotionally and physically void … leaving me unable to be creative.” I have to disagree. This guy’s brain is a bubbling pot of magma, waiting to blow. His conversations are speckled with lessons in art history, politics, societal reform and passion for making the world a better place. He wants people to realize that contemporary art is made for and by people that could easily, and likely do, live in the house next door.
“Most of us are just normal people who care about expressing ourselves and sharing new ideas,” says Swartz. “I just want the community to open up to contemporary art a little bit.”
There are people out here, Mr. Swartz, who are drooling over your menu of contemporary culture. We are waiting for a taste of an art scene typically reserved for big cities. Ding-dong. Unlock the door. The restaurant may be closed, but Wunderkammer is open for business.
by Heather Miller
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Art on Broadway — Tours of 5 downtown venues featuring art from Alexandra Hall, Julie Wall, Peter Lupkin, Daniel Dienelt, Knotodday, Kay Gregg, Terry Ratliff and St. Monci, 5 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Broadway Street, Fort Wayne, free, 417-5925
Beer, Bourbon, Bacon Festival — Unlimited beer sampling from national and regional craft breweries, fine bourbon sampling and bacon inspired treats, 6-9 p.m. Saturday, March 25 (5-9 p.m. VIP), Marquis and Three Rivers Ballrooms, Hotel Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, $35-$75, 484-0411
An Evening with Author Tom Frank — Author of What’s the Matter with Kansas talks about his new book; hors d’oeuvres, lecture and book signing included in admission, 6 p.m. Saturday, March 25, CS3 Hideaway, Fort Wayne, $15 plus donation, 602-1008
Puttin’ on the Ritz —Active 20-30 club fundraiser with live music from Chris Worth and Company, gourmet edibles, wine and beer, live and silent auctions; black tie optional, 7 p.m. Saturday, March 25, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne, $50-$90, 450-2844
Shipshewana on the Road — Food, craft and primitives show and sale, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, March 25 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, $4, 483-1111
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Big Dick and the Penetrators — Classic rock at Navy Club, Ship 245, New Haven, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 493-4044
Brat Pack — Rat Pack/variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at Vinnie's Bar, Decatur, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, 729-2225
Ellsworth Sharp — Neofolk at Friendly Fox, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8:30 p.m., no cover, 745-3369
FBC Band w/Sheba — Variety/Music and Memories benefit at C2G Music Hall, Fort Wayne , 8 p.m., $7-$15, 426-6434
Fireball Matinee — Rock at Hideaway Lounge, Bluffton, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 824-0455
Fleshwounds — Rock at Hamilton House, Hamilton, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 488-3344
Fort Wayne Funk Orchestra — Funk at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., cover, 483-1311
Fu5ion — Variety at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $3, (260) 387-5063
The Illegals — Rock at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 422-5896
Joe Stabelli — Jazz at Don Hall's Gas House, Fort Wayne, 5:45-9 p.m., no cover, 426-3411
John Curran & Renegade — Country at Alley Sports Bar, Pro Bowl West, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-4421
Johnny Freakin' Xcitor — Country rock at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
The Orange Opera w/Mickyle James — Rock at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., $5, 267-5303
Prime Suspects — Variety at American Legion Post 499, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 483-1368
Quincy and the Q-Tet feat. Phil Potts — Rock/variety at Downtown Eatery & Spirits, Warsaw, 10 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, (574) 267-6000
Second Nature — Pop at Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 8-11 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Shannon Persinger Quartet — Jazz/variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at American Legion Post 148, Fort Wayne, 7 p.m., no cover, 423-4751
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Ambitious Blondes Karaoke — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Beat Karaoke & DJ — Variety at American Legion Post 296, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m. , no cover, 456-2988
Bucca Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Corner Pocket Tavern, Fremont, 10 p.m., no cover, 495-9255
Classic City Karaoke w/Tobin — Karaoke at Toad's Tavern, Monroeville, 10 p.m., no cover, 623-6226
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Karaoke at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., , 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 557-1563
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-4748
House DJ — Variety at Early Bird's Ultra Lounge, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 483-1979
House DJ — Variety at Flashback on the Landing, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., cover, 422-5292
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Live DJ — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Pike's Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 478-6200
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ — Karaoke at Kville Pub, Kendallville, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 348-1677
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The Children’s Hour — Lillian Hellman’s seminal drama about bigotry perpetuated against the LGBT community and how easily a lie can spread, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 25, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
Getting Sara Married — Comedy about an unmarried lawyer in need of a husband (according to her aunt), 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Saturday, March 25, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
One Foot in the Gravy — Howard Kingkade’s comedy and winner of Fort Wayne Civic Theatre’s Northeast Indiana Playwright Festival, 8 p.m. Saturday, March 25; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 26, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 422-4226
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22nd Annual Valentine’s Invitational — Works from local and national artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru March 31, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568
2017 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards — Award-winning works from northern Indiana and northwest Ohio middle and high school students, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Afros: A Celebration of African Hair by Michael July — Contemporary photography exhibit by Brooklyn author/photographer, daily thru April 14, D’Agostino Art Gallery, Indiana Tech, Fort Wayne, 399-8626
An Artful Spring — Works by Gwen Gutwein, Patricia Weiss, Austin Cartwright and more, Tuesday-Saturday thru March 31, Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
Decatur Sculpture Tour — 31 original sculptures and 15 permanent exhibits on display, walking tour maps available, thru April 1, Decatur, free, 724-2605
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Entropy — Daniel Swartz solo exhibition explores relationship between death and mourning through combinations of mythology, mathematics, multi-dimensional physics and pop culture, Monday-Saturday thru April 1, Jennifer Ford Art, Fort Wayne, 740-1309
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, $5-$7 (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
Garden Party — Garden-themed works in a variety of mediums from over 30 local artists, Monday-Saturday thru March 31, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Generations: A View of Who Was Who — Works by Romare Bearden, Kara Walker, Alma Thomas, Jacob Lawrence and other African-American artists, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
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
A Mary Poppins Garden Party — Child-oriented garden exhibit, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 1, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Moments in Time: Reflecting on the Human Spirit — Elizabeth Opalenik photographs from her recent Amish series A Journey Home and her Reflecting on the Edge exhibition, daily thru March 26, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
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
RAW. Untamed. Unashamed. Visions of Freedom. — Abstract romanticist works in acrylics and epoxy from Kristy Jahn, Fridays and Saturday-Thursday by appointment thru March 25, The Gallery at Pranayoga, Fort Wayne, 423-9642
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, $5-$7 (members, free), 422-6467
Wabash County Schools Exhibition — Works by high school art students, daily thru April 16, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102