The writing on the window leaves no question. There is a new gallery in town.
The tiny building that shares a wall with the popular Phoenix restaurant on Broadway now reads, Ratliff in large, white script letters that span the front reflective window. Terry Ratliff fans are streaming in like rats following the piper.
It seems that whenever one turns a head in a restaurant, public building or even the homes of a friend in this city, there is a Ratliff signature scrawled across a canvas. His work hangs on walls all over town. The standout, bright colors Ratliff applies with an energetic but well-tuned hand are easy to spot. His range in style proves he is, to say the least, versatile. He is an “order up” painter who can fill just about any need for any collector who wants to fill a wall.
With such a large following, one would assume Ratliff would own a puffed up ego. Not so. An inviting handshake welcomed me into his gallery, a long, narrow space flanked by exposed brick broken up by sections of deep purple walls. Large mirrors paired with a row of hair-cutting stations in the building that was once a barbershop make the gallery look brighter, as the reflections of his bold work hit visitors with eye candy from all sides. The floors are warm and wood-covered, and a few cozy pieces of furniture easily shift positions to accommodate lively conversations.
Those who know Ratliff know that conversations with him are upbeat, intelligent and spiked with a bit of edgy wit that reflects the range of experience, both good and bad, he has had over his long career as an artist. He has worked in a variety of studio spaces all over town, but finally feels he has found the just-right location. Many readers will remember the house on Jefferson Boulevard from which he worked and hosted many a Trolley Tour stop. He has since outgrown the small house once used as both a studio and a gallery.
Ratliff says of the space, “After a while it got kind of tiring to be painting in a dining room all day long. It just got to be too much. The lighting was terrible.”
The Jefferson location still holds stacks of his work; he estimates it contains over 1,000 pieces. From now on, it will serve as a holding area for work waiting to be edited or sold.
Even without a gallery to fill, Ratliff keeps working. His recent focus has been on a variety of commissioned works, and he explains, “For a while it didn’t really matter that I didn’t have a place to show because I’ve been working with clients. I recently did 67 pieces for Indiana Tech.”
Ratliff is so highly esteemed by locals that commissions often come with few parameters. He says of the Indiana Tech project, “I didn’t have many guidelines. They said they trusted me, which put on a lot of pressure. They gave me a color scheme and let me run with it.”
Even being well seasoned by experience, Ratliff can feel a bit apprehensive about the work produced for commissions.
“When you try to do something for someone else, it’s never as good. It’s not coming from your soul. When I paint a painting for myself, I don’t worry if anyone is going to like it,” he says.
Ratliff recently stepped back into the studio with the goal of painting for himself. He paints nearly every day and explains, “It’s a scary job. I’m not assured of a paycheck. Even after a commission like Indiana Tech, I have to get right back to work. You can’t be lazy or take the day off. It’s a job for me.”
Setting up his new space took time and focus away from his studio routine.
“When I was getting this place ready, I didn’t paint for at least two weeks and it was getting into my head,” he says. “I missed it. Now I have about 20 pieces going at a time.”
Between working on a tidal wave of commissioned pieces and developing new work that follows his own passions, one might wonder how Ratliff keeps the momentum of consistent sales going? After all these years, it seems his spark would fade. The answer to his success is his fireball personality, dedicated work ethic and polished marketing skills.
Ratliff can whip pieces out in just a couple hours. “The faster, the better,” he says, yet his quality remains high and his pieces express the passion that he holds. “That’s what selling art is about. You have to be enthusiastic.”
Enthusiasm and relentless energy are what makes showing and running his own gallery a sensible choice for this artist. Ratliff questions why he would want to split the commission with another gallery and says, “I want to sell myself. I don’t want someone else to sell me. I would feel like I’m missing out on something if I wasn’t there to meet the people who buy my work and take it to their place to install it.”
For Ratliff, the stars often align to guide him to the next client or phase of his career. Just as the Casaburos kicked started his success by filling their restaurants with his work, the opportunity to open his own gallery on Broadway just sort of, according to Ratliff, “fell in my lap.”
He talked to Matt McCoy, the owner of the building about having a place to show his work.
“The walls were yellow from cigarette smoke. The floor was almost non-existent,” says Ratliff, “but Matt did everything he could to bring this place up to par. The sign on his restaurant reads, “music, food and art.” It’s going to be a perfect fit.”
Filling the gallery with inventory won’t be a problem.
“At my studio on Jefferson I have stacks and stacks of paintings,” says Ratliff, but he won’t just be digging out old pieces to hang on the walls. “I’ve found 10-year-old paintings that I rework. Now that I know a bit more about myself as an artist and what I’m trying to say, I have more direction.”
He quickly whips out his phone to show a photo of a piece he reworked just that morning. “I completely revised this one,” he says. “I primed an old work and pumped out this painting of two people eating spaghetti.” The piece shows a whimsical, yet stylish couple slurping a strand of pasta, very reminiscent of the Disney scene shared by two runaway mutts.
Ratliff warns other artists not to destroy old pieces that have become stale. “Don’t throw it away, you can pull something out of it,” he says.
He also enjoys looking at the progression of his work and says, “I like the vintage ones because they are more raw. I can’t do raw anymore. I’m more calculated. I’d like to have that rawness come back into my work.”
While Ratliff has spent years developing his own career, he now searches for and supports young artists with potential.
“There’s a couple of artists who I really admire,” says Ratliff, “and I’m trying to help them as much as I can. I try to help them get shows and teach them about marketing. It’s important to develop a brand.
“It’s all about hanging your art. I tell young artists to get your work out there. You might have to sell your work for next to nothing but if you keep doing it, it will happen for you.”
For Ratliff, it is happening again. “Fort Wayne is getting better and better, especially here on Broadway,” he says.
That’s 1124 Broadway, to be specific, open Friday and Saturday from 4 to 8 p.m. and Sunday 2-7 p.m. Certainly this new gallery will keep things moving forward for both the city and for Ratliff.
Click on the headings below for full calendars
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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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Click header for complete Music & Comedy calendar
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
Click header for complete Karaoke & DJs calendar
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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Click header for complete Art calendar
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