When she arrives she appears in a color-coordinated outfit: red and black cardigan sweater over a black blouse with tailored black slacks and ox-blood leather shoes. It's the sort of casual business attire, accented with understated jewelry that signals style and good taste. The ensemble is of a kind not typically associated with Value City and at the same time doesn't conjure up a reference to Talbot's. She finds a middle ground, more like a Bloomingdale's girl, sophisticated, comfortable and classic.
When she speaks it can be in the languages of the "suits" or of the "streets." Her ability to barter is widely acknowledged and respected across the board. She is valued and sought after for her talents as an appraiser, not simply in judging a piece’s place in the art continuum, which she routinely does in curating Artlink’s many shows, but in assigning a work’s worth for an estate sale. That ability, to flutter back and forth between business and culture, between banker and artist, to live in both worlds at the same time, is the hallmark of Betty Fishman, the almost-octogenarian Executive Director of Artlink, one of the few not-for-profit art galleries in Indiana not associated with a university, housed since 1991 at 437 East Berry Street.
Driven by a passion for the arts (not only the visual spectrum - she indulges in them all: cinema, theater, dance and music, even opera), she derives a source of energy most younger people struggle to find. If she is guilty of being myopic or headstrong in one area it has to be in championing local artists.
"I've for many years visited New York City, and when I'm there I'm just going from gallery to museum to gallery," Fishman said. "Obviously, I make mental comparisons with what I see there versus what I know is being produced at home. There is an enormous amount of solid work being made by local artists that isn't being offered up to the general public through conventional means. Artlink provides that vehicle."
Fishman conceded time for this interview between a visit to her bank and an Artlink financial committee meeting in the midst of a typical, tightly scheduled day-timer day. Quick to speak of the quality of the current exhibition, “Key Strokes,” she shortly turns to plans for the upcoming regional printmaker’s show which opens in May (“It is undoubtedly one of the best anywhere.”) and then rattles off the 20 artists who are to take part in what she hopes is a blockbuster mixed-media exhibition tentatively titled 'Growing Up in Indiana' which is slated for the fall of 2005.
From whence cometh her knowledge and wherewithal to accomplish her revered place in the local scene? Fishman can only speculate.
“I read lots, looked and sometimes even studied,” she explained. “I grew up in an environment that was nurturing. My grandmother crocheted, made hook rugs, and my mother read. I was exposed to books and ideas. I was obviously conditioned that way, and I've just continued along that path. Just being around and involved for so long may also have helped.”
After high school in Hicksville (an ironically named alma mater), Fishman pursued art and education at both Ohio State and Miami University then returned to pick up her Master's at Saint Francis from where she was later awarded an honorary Doctorate. In the midst of all that Fishman also studied at the old Fort Wayne Art Institute, the Penland School of Arts in North Carolina and the Arrowmont School in Tennessee.
As an artist Fishman has worked in numerous media. Known mostly as a printmaker, she has at various times also expressed herself in drawing, painting, cyanoprinting and jewelry. "I somehow always seem to lose interest in a particular medium once I play with it. I then just move along to something new, another interest. Collage is probably my favorite form." Her works have been the focus at a variety of venues throughout the region.
After school and for the next near-quarter-century, Fishman taught at both middle and high school levels in the East Noble County school system ("Believe it or not, I actually preferred the middle-school students.").
A certain pride exudes when she speaks of the successes of some of her former students as well as her own daughters who followed artistic careers in painting and dance and ultimately engendered grandchildren with artistic bents.
Fishman toyed with notions of operating a gallery several years ago when in partnership with a friend, Ellie Golden, she established the Goldfish Gallery, first on an upper floor of the Fishman's women’s apparel store and later in a similar spot in Golden's men's wear outlet both in downtown Fort Wayne. (The Goldfish name would resurface later when it was appropriated by St. Francis as part of its Ian and Mimi Rolland art complex. It currently offers a year-round space for student work and also serves as a laboratory for students in gallery and arts administration.)
But it wasn't until much later that Fishman was to return to the gallery business when she encountered Bruce Linker and his upstart “Artlink” gallery on the second floor of a Broadway building located across the street from the recently vacated 3 Rivers Food Co-op. Eventually the small gallery moved across the street and shared space with the Co-op before moving to its current site.
When Fishman took charge there wasn’t enough money to cover payroll, but now that’s not a problem even with a largely expanded mission and more frequent exhibitions.
That’s not to say the facility operates problem free.
"These are tough times for the arts," explained Fishman. "We're experiencing cuts like other non-profits. We learned recently we’ll have a shortfall from our Arts United allocation. In addition, some of our corporate and foundation sponsors have told us they’re holding off their commitments until later in the year which doesn't help in our planning."
"It makes the picture for the coming year a question mark. Any classes or projects that don't pay for themselves we can't do. We may also have to cut back on shipping costs for art exhibits and honorariums for artists and exhibit judges. Well pull our horns in and see how the rest of the year goes," Fishman recently told another writer.
In spite of her successes at the helm of Artlink, Fishman's name is also conjured up for her role as President of the former Fort Wayne Art School in the 1960s, when she helped empower that institute to a height some consider as the “golden era” of Fort Wayne art education and activity.
Local artist Don Kruse along with the late painter/professor Noel Dusenchon and Russell Oettle, painter/teacher/department head (who was once married to Fishman) formed a vanguard of art enterprise and were seen as the “Three Musketeers.”
“Those were exciting times when it seemed the arts and people were flourishing,” recalled Kruse recently. “Russell gave us free rein to teach and explore, and Betty somehow found the money to provide us with the tools and the environment to allow for lots of creativity.”
“She wasn't the “society lady” rubbing elbows with the art crowd. She understood the creative process and was really good (and remains so) at recognizing what was good and honest in people as well as their artwork. There are some great stories and some great art that came out of that period. She deserves credit for helping engender that.”
Fishman has received a number of honors and awards from her honorary doctorate from St. Francis, to her “Betty Fishman Day” in Fort Wayne and was recognized for her contributions to arts and culture with a Sagamore of the Wabash distinction from the governor’s office. You get the impression however that it is her own sense of pride and accomplishment that means the most to her.
"I often wonder what it would be like to choose a few pieces, somehow store them away, then come back in 50 years or so and judge their relevance," Fishman pondered before darting off to her financial committee meeting.
"I happen to know some of the pieces Fishman has in her home: George McCullough, Tom Keesee, Russell Oettle, Norman Bradley and Don Kruse. It is a group that has certainly held up well and adds credence to her status as taste maker. I also know some of the artists on her short list, her picks to click as it were. If you’d like to know more just ask her, she’s not shy about sharing her views, never has been.
by David Tanner
Friday, April 28
Click on the headings below for full calendars
Click header for complete Things To Do calendar
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
Click header for complete On the Road calendar
Click header for complete Music & Comedy calendar
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
Click header for complete Karaoke & DJs calendar
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
Click header for complete Stage & Dance calendar
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
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
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