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
Friday, April 28
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Concordia Comedy Festival — Concordia Lutheran High School presents a showing of comedy films from middle and high school students, 7 p.m. Friday, April 28, Room 101, Neff Hall, IPFW, Fort Wayne, free, 483-1102
Tapestry: A Day for You — Day of inspiration, renewal and education for women in all stages of life with keynote speaker Ann Curry, 7:30 a.m. Friday, April 28, Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne, $75, 483-1111
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Blooze Faktor — Blues at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., cover, 483-1311
Chris Worth & Company — Variety at Arena Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 557-1563
Classic Voice — Variety at The Venice Restaurant, Fort Wayne, 7-10 p.m., no cover, (260) 482-1618
Cougar Hunter — 80s glam rock at The Venue, Angola, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, 665-3922
Expanding Man — Variety at Club Soda, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 426-3442
G-Money Band — Blues at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Hubie Ashcraft & Travis Gow — Country at Billy's Downtown Zulu, Monroeville, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 623-3583
The Illegals — Rock at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., no cover, 483-5526
IPFW Bands & Choirs w/Fort Wayne Children's Choir — Classical at Auer Performance Hall, Rhinehart Music Center, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., $4-$7, 481-6555
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 American Legion Post 241, Waynedale, 8:30-11:30 p.m., no cover, 747-7851
Kat Bowser — Variety at Don Hall's Guesthouse, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 489-2524
Rebecca Rego — Americana/country at Two-EE's Winery, Huntington, 7:30-9:30 p.m., no cover, 672-2000
Secret Mezzanine — Variety at Deer Park Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 432-8966
String Theory — Acoustic variety at Friendly Fox, Fort Wayne, 6:30-8:30 p.m., no cover, 260-745-3369
Todd Harrold & Nick Bobay Duo — R&B/blues/variety at O'Sullivan's Italian Irish Pub, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 422-5896
Trichotomous Hippopotamus w/Trackless, John Fishell — Rock at Brass Rail, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., cover, 267-5303
The Why Store — Rock at Mitchell's Sports Bar & Neighborhood Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., $5, (260) 387-5063
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Big Dawg Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Bucca Karaoke w/Ashley — Variety at Tower Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-6310
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 490-9464
Dance Party w/DJ Rich — Variety at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 10:30 p.m., cover, 422-5055
DJ dance party — at Rum Runners, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., ,
DJ Shawn — Karaoke/variety at Club Paradise, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 833-7082
Fort Wayne Karaoke — Variety at Tap Haus, New Haven, 9 p.m., no cover, 493-6622
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Jay — Variety at Coconutz @ Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Scott — Variety at JR's Pub, Leo, 9 p.m., no cover, 627-2500
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., ,
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 w/DJ Chuck — Variety at DW Bar & Grill, Churubusco, 10 p.m., no cover, 693-8172
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at Portside Pizza, Columbia City, 9 p.m., no cover, 691-3333
Karaoke — Variety at Coconutz @ Crazy Pinz, Fort Wayne, 9-11 p.m., no cover, 490-2695
Karaoke — Variety at Hamilton House, Hamilton, 9 p.m., no cover, 488-3344
Karaoke — Variety at Beamer's Sports Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 625-1002
Karaoke — Karaoke at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Karaoke — Variety at Crooner's Karaoke Bar, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m.-3 a.m., no cover, 486-1979
Rockstar Karaoke & DJ w/Scotty — Karaoke at Backway Lounge, Angola, 10 p.m., no cover, 665-5081
Shooting Star Prod. w/Barbie — Variety at Uncle Lou's Steel Mill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 436-5787
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ — Karaoke at 4 Crowns, Auburn, 10 p.m.-2 a.m., no cover, 925-9805
Sidecar Gary's Karaoke & DJ w/Kevin — Variety at Danny's Italian Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 484-4444
SureShot Karaoke w/David — Variety at The Green Frog Inn, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m., no cover, 426-1088
Three Rivers Karaoke — at Bottle and Bottega, Fort Wayne, 8:30-10:30 p.m., no cover, 494-1020
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Funny Little Thing Called Love — Romantic comedy by Jessie Jones, Nicholas Home and Jamie Wooten, 7 p.m. dinner, 8 p.m. curtain, Friday-Saturday, April 28-29 and May 5-6 and May 12-13, Arena Dinner Theatre, Fort Wayne, $40 (includes dinner & show), 424-5622
The Little Mermaid — Fort Wayne Civic Theatre musical based on the Disney movie, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 8 p.m. Friday, May 5; 2 p.m. & 8 p.m. Saturday, May 6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Arts United Center, Fort Wayne, $17-$29, 424-5220
Little Shop of Horrors — IPFW Department of Theatre performance of Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical comedy, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29, Williams Theatre, IPFW, Fort Wayne, $5-$18, 481-6555
Next to Normal — Tony Award- and Pulitzer-winning musical about coping with mental illness, 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29; 2 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, May 4-6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7, Three Rivers Music Theatre, Fort Wayne, $10-$20, 498-2270
The Taming of the Shrew — William Shakespeare’s now somewhat controversial comedy about the battle between the sexes, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29 and Friday-Saturday, May 5-6; 2 p.m. Sunday, May 7; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 12-13, First Presbyterian Theater, Fort Wayne, $12-$20, 426-7421 ext. 121
A Wrinkle in Time — all for One productions’ adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s young adult science fiction novel, 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, April 28-29; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, April 30; 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, May 5-6; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, May 7, PPG ArtsLab, Auer Center for Arts & Culture, Fort Wayne, $11-20, 422-4226
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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
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
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
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
Juxtapoz Magazine: 25 Years Under the Influence — A chronicle of the iconic magazine’s evolution into one of the most influential magazines of art of the counterculture, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 9, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
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
Norman Bradley and Friends — Exhibition of works by friends and colleagues of the late Fort Wayne artist, Tuesday-Saturday thru May 20 , Crestwoods Frame Shop & Gallery, Roanoke, 672-2080
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
Perspectives Live Butterfly Display — Up close and personal perspectives of the Conservatory’s newest collection of live butterflies, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 25, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
Robert Williams: SLANG Aesthetics! — An exhibition of new work by the artist considered the godfather of the lowbrow, pop surrealist and colloquial realism art movements, Tuesday-Sunday thru July 23, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
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 May 20 (Cinco de Mayo Fiesta featuring mariachi music by Mark Meussling 6-10 p.m. Friday, May 5), Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568