Loading five kids into a van and zooming down the road to drop daughters off at ballet class, then turning around to race to the soccer field for another child is something Frank and Marcia Bougher, and most other parents in the Midwest, are quite familiar with. Frank Bougher, a local hidden talent, wakes at the crack of dawn and divides the rest of his day between serving his five children as chauffeur and keeping the family business, Riegel’s Tobacco, stocked and full of satisfied customers.
His day-to-day life sounds rather common: attending his children’s ballet performances and soccer games between rectifying a plumbing crisis that triggered a waterfall cascading through the kitchen. When Bougher piles the family into the van, he may appear quite ordinary, but the artistic talent contained in his mind is something that shouldn’t be taken for granted.
While the life he spends above ground with customers and family may seem ordinary, Bougher leads another life in an underground world. A visit to Bougher’s basement is a trip to an artist’s lair. Like a mad scientist who surrounds himself with beakers and flasks bubbling over Bunsen burners, Bougher’s basement is a sculptor’s lab, filled with old drawings of brilliant ideas, clumps of modeling clay waiting to be formed and empty plaster molds that once held molten bronze. An assortment of unattached clay arms and wax heads fill the background of the photos I snatched of Bougher as he chatted, sharing his life history, artistic evolution and spiritual journey. A visit to this man’s basement reveals a talent that is overshadowed by the everyday responsibilities of life – earning a buck and caring for a cherished family.
Bougher attended St. Meinrad seminary from 1984-1988 where he prepared to become a priest. While he was there, he spent empty evenings and spare hours developing an amazing talent for drawing. Countless hours with a pencil in solitude resulted in some crazy drawing skills.
“My drawing style mimics etching,” says Bougher. But the personality of line created by his hand adds a layer of humanity that tends to be removed by the etching process. His drawing of Lakeside Park, which Bougher created for a fundraising effort back in 2001, captures the beauty of the park and surrounding foliage with a clever use of negative space, pointillism and thousands of tiny hash lines, some crossed, some faint and others bold. If you weren’t looking for it, you may not notice, but the drawing contains a reference to one of Bougher’s sculptures: a lion’s head fountain that spews water from the mouth into a half-circle bowl that connects directly to the face of the wall. The sculpture fits into its surrounding so perfectly, one may pass it without noticing the detail of the piece or giving thought to all the energy it took to create the piece. How complacent we have become, assuming beautiful things somehow form themselves miraculously with little effort.
As easy as Bougher’s skills appear, he has spent over two decades developing his craft. Drawing during his free time at the seminary later led to his attending classes at Fort Wayne’s Saint Francis University. Within six weeks of attending his first sculpture class, Bougher’s skills caught the eye of Sufi Ahmed, a renowned local sculptor. Ahmed hired Bougher as a studio assistant where the 20-something student worked alongside his mentor, learning as much as he could from the experience. Throughout his training, Bougher’s work habits were unmatched by other students.
“I had a different work ethic than most students,” he recalls. “I was the first to class and the last to leave, even while holding a job at the same time.”
After working with Ahmed for three years, Bougher spotted an opportunity to branch out on his own. The Allen County Courthouse had removed the Lady Liberty sculpture from the building’s pinnacle for cleaning and repair. Bougher asked if he could use the opportunity to study the piece. Courthouse officials agreed and allowed Bougher to work in the rotunda for three weeks. Scrambling to make a small-scale replica of the piece, Bougher became a curiosity for passing attorneys, visitors and community officials who observed the miniature Lady Liberty take shape. Bougher shared that during the night, “security guards would have fun with the piece and add their own details to my work, usually something to do with breasts.”
Despite the lack of respect by some, Bougher was able to finish his work before Lady Liberty was hoisted back to her perch atop the city. He sold four castings of his piece to local business people and caught the attention of others. The project led to more work: a commission for two busts of physicians for the Brooklyn Medical Center; a bust of Samuel Huntington; and cluster of three large figures including Christ, a monk and a student, which hang together at Bougher’s alma mater, Saint Meinrad. Most recently, on May 24, 2012, Bougher installed a piece titled, “The First Step Toward Salvation,” outside of Saint Jude Catholic Church at 2130 Pemberton Drive in Fort Wayne.
While Bougher’s list of work includes many significant pieces (the above description is only a partial sampling), he is still widely unknown. Most of his work has been completed at cost, meaning Bougher has made little or no money from his effort. While he may not be motivated by profits, he says that “cash is often a demotivational factor for me. I look for pieces that come from inspiration.” He does dream of one day being able to support his family through his work as an artist.
Witnessing such fine talent is yet another confirmation that Fort Wayne is in no way void of artistic talent. We are a community of uncovered and under-appreciated treasures. Bougher is just as committed to his work as any artist. He is a spiritual, passionate thinker, devoted to his work.
“You bring everything to your art. I bring my spirituality,” says Bougher. “When I finish a major piece I shut down for a while. I go through a period of separation anxiety from losing the piece.” Those aren’t the words of a man who simply tinkers in his basement; it is a statement from an artist who is at his core, consumed by the energy to create.
Bougher’s current work in progress stands like a pinnacle in his basement. Descending the narrow wooden steps, it was the first thing I noticed. Rising above the collection of clay sketches and molds, a great arm extends from a life-sized figure, gesturing upwards, leading me to conscious realization of my hopes, prayers and dreams for the future. Saint Anthony, a figure standing 6 feet tall, dominates the space. Constructed with help from a student intern from Saint Francis, Rebecca Till (can you say what goes around comes around?), the piece “is a combination of life casting, solid clay and foam, layered and sandwiched with glue,” said Bougher.
Without further prompting, Bougher took off with a whirlwind of vocabulary explaining his technique, inspiration and plans for the piece. Words like “posturization” and “triangular motion” spewed from his mouth faster than I could capture. No doubt, Bougher is on fire with passion for this piece. The work depicts a young boy offering his prayers to the saint, who receives them and ultimately sends the child’s wishes to the heavens via the flame of the Holy Spirit. With plans to finish the piece with a flame cast from red glass and etched with the symbol of the Spirit, one can’t help but join Bougher in his enthusiasm for the massive work in progress. It is the culmination of decades of practice, divine inspiration and interpretation of a complex religion by a man who treads around the earth unassumingly. For now, Saint Anthony is homeless, but with any luck he will soon be claimed by a buyer and can look forward to life outside of the basement.
If monetary value were based strictly on ability and skill, Bougher would have overflowing pockets. He is a talent that should be cherished. Luckily for us, Bougher still finds time to pursue a labor of love that decorates our city. It would be nice to see more of his work raised from the underground and shared with the general masses of surface dwellers.
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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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