A neatly trimmed building topped with green shingles sits just off the intersection of Columbia and Tecumseh. Inside what used to be a gas station, a private eye office and, most recently, a labor union headquarters is Hedgehog Press, home base for artistic printmaker Julie Wall Toles. Toles bought the building and ripped out its insides.
“Everything needed to be redone,” she said. “If you can imagine, this small space was divided into four little rooms.” She opened up the walls, painted and made use of every inch with tidy efficiency. The charming and functional space serves as a workshop, classroom and a gallery that features her intricate, limited-edition prints that illustrate Tole’s high level of skill.
Beyond offering intimate-sized printmaking classes, Toles often runs prints for artists in town who prepare their own plates but don’t have the time or equipment to do the actual printing themselves. She also does custom wedding invitations and sometimes loads up her small, antique letterpress and hits the road to visit groups at area schools.
“I like to tell the kids that this machine is the first form of social media. They are amazed at the mechanics of the press,” said Toles, as she explained how she lets the kids set up the typeface and operate the machine.
Toles is just as fascinated by her equipment as are the students she visits. When she talks about the antique machines, a smile spreads across her face and she quickly jumps into action describing the functions of the press and how she uses each one to produce her own exquisite pieces of art.
“I like that you have to create an image then change that image to print it. When printing, you don’t know exactly what it will look like until you are finished. There is an element of control that you have to give up. Because I am kind of a control freak, that part of the process appeals to me,” Toles explained.
Toles integrates multiple printing techniques to create contemporary work that comments on the role of humanity in society. To execute the most basic form of printing, relief printing, Toles carves a design into a block of wood, linoleum or other hard surface. She adds a thin layer of ink to the block with a roller then runs it through a press.
Intaglio involves the chemical etching of a copper plate that is first covered with a layer of wax. Toles carefully scratches a design into the wax, which exposes the copper. The copper plate is dipped in a chloride solution and the acid dissolves, or bites, the exposed areas leaving a permanent image engraved in the copper. Ink is smeared into the tiny void spaces and the excess is removed. When run through the press, the paper pulls the ink out of the plate to transfer the image.
Toles often combines multiple techniques in her work. One specific piece titled, “An Observation,” unites both relief and intaglio processes. The work evolved from a trip the artist took to Egypt and includes iconic symbols such as the lotus flower, an Egyptian pyramid and a lace bra, an image that is repeated throughout Tole’s work.
One might assume the bra is a mere nod to female strength, but the image actually refers to who is now known as the “girl in the blue bra”. On December 11, 2011 a young female protestor was publicly beaten in Cairo. Her clothes ripped open to reveal her bright blue bra, a symbol that has swept the world as a reference to the young woman’s bravery.
The Egyptian pyramids Toles added to the same piece point to that nation’s civil unrest. According to Toles, many Egyptians resent the amount of money that is poured into the preservation of the ancient artifacts when the nation’s own people are left to starve and suffer. Toles is an artist who wants to give a voice to those who often go unheard.
“I wouldn’t say I’m political. What attracts me to political struggle is the human element,” she explains. “I want to talk about the horrible things that are happening in the world. I want my images to be beautiful, but at the same time I want people to be aware that there are terrible things happening all over the world.”
Another inspiration to Toles is Chinese artist Ai Wei Wei whose work exposes government corruption and gives voice to the common citizen. Wei Wei designed the incredible Bird’s Nest Stadium for the 2008 Olympic games but was later infuriated by the realization that his work had been used to promote Chinese propaganda. His public admonishment brought on a sentence of house arrest.
Toles visited China in April 2011 when one morning Wei Wei’s image flashed across the television. As she leaned in to listen to the coverage on the admired artist, the TV signal went dark. The clerk at the hotel explained that TV blackouts were common occurrences in China. The experience was eye-opening to Toles as she reflected on her own work and realized,.
“My art wasn’t saying anything. Ai Wei Wei says things that are meaningful to people and I really don’t have a voice.” She went on to create the piece “Silence is the Virtue of Fools” which illustrates the Birdnest Stadium trapped under a red birdcage, tagged with the phrase, “I will not be silenced.”
Toles travels as a tourist but learns about humanity along the way. She and her husband form relationships with the people they meet, and rather than let the memories fade, their long-distance friendships remain strong. The connections she makes keep Toles personally invested in places on the other side of the globe.
“My travels have made these places and people real, not just images that brush past on the evening news.” Travel also pushes Toles to reflect on the vastness of our world and the magnificence of the places she sees.
“I like how things make me feel insignificant. The pyramids have been here for so long, they remind me how short each human life span actually is.” Perhaps it is this realization that keeps Toles moving at a high-paced speed, using her art to share what she has learned along the way.
Toles is both finding her voice and gaining momentum in the local art scene. A recent show at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art featured her work along with a few other artists who printed images at Hedgehog Press. The printing process was detailed in a step-by-step display that showed the progression of an image moving from idea to plate to press to print.
In addition to the museum show, Toles recently participated in the Old School vs. New School exhibit at Wunderkammer Company and also has work hanging Wunderkammer’s current, On Paper show. Toles has been part of the Fort Wayne art scene for years, but she is certainly turning up the volume. Her shop is gaining popularity throughout the community and neighbors who welcome the new business often stop by with their dogs simply to take a peek at the artist’s current projects.
Toles says of her frequent visitors, “It motivates your work when you know people will be stopping by looking for signs of progress.”
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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