Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Art Crawl puts spotlight on city artists, musicians

Live music, food, artwork at various spots during Art This Way fundraiser

The Art Crawl will be in downtown Fort Wayne on Sept. 23.

Sam Rohloff

Whatzup Features Writer

Published September 21, 2022

Murals and other public art are often featured backdrops on social media posts. Others walk right past these beautiful pieces on their way to work. But Art This Way, a special Fort Wayne initiative, delves deeper than the aesthetic Instagram reel and ignites interest and conversation among individuals about what they see.

Tour the city’s streets, alleyways, and open building spaces during this year’s Art Crawl, a limited-time event that showcases downtown Fort Wayne’s finest and most memorable public art. For one night only, on Friday, Sept. 23, from 5-9 p.m., guests can enjoy this talent across its variety of mediums.

The ticketed event will include live music, artists at work, local food, cash bars, multiple gallery presentations, and art for sale.

Behind the program

Program director and developer Alex Hall explained that Art This Way is “a public art program that operates underneath the Downtown Improvement District.” The district encompasses a whopping 99 blocks at the heart of Fort Wayne’s downtown area.

Hall is also involved in creating artistic and visually interesting outdoor spaces, or “public realm projects,” as she put it. Adding tasteful outdoor seating for restaurants, hanging lights, and planting colorful flowers, for example, provide an experience like no other.

The Art Crawl in particular is a fundraiser for the Art This Way directive, Hall said, with 100 percent of proceeds being delegated toward downtown public art, like the fantastic and ever-growing number of murals dotting building façades and alleyways. Other main sources of funding for Art This Way include corporate sponsors and DID.

The program conducts four to 10 projects annually, which means downtown boasts several new, permanent public art installations on a rolling basis.

An accomplished artist and painter herself, Hall became involved in this art setting because she “wanted to see some of the creative energy that we have in downtown expressed in our public spaces.” Hall has been an active part of the program since its nascency in 2016.

Behind the spaces

“We partner with downtown businesses, which aren’t traditionally open to the public in the sense that anyone could walk in,” Hall said. “But in this case … they open up their doors that evening, and we get to basically turn that space upside down.”

Each of these spaces will provide a different gallery show to spotlight a particular artist’s works. Architectural firm Hoch Associates, coworking office space Start Fort Wayne, ice cream shop Sweets On Main, and popular diner Dash-In are just some of these hosting locations.

According to Hall, Dash-In will host about 25 of the more than 50 artists that are expected to appear for the Art Crawl. What’s more is that Bread & Circus, a Fort Wayne art gallery and residency program for artists, represents all 25 of these artists.

“They’ll be showing work and then also doing some demos throughout the evening,” Hall said. “Everything from sculpture all the way to traditional painting, pastel work, we’ve got it all.”

Scattered throughout the event will be live music, cash bars, and free food from local caterers like Copper Spoon and The Deck at the Gas House.

The addition of a “silent disco” will allow for a one-of-a-kind experience of music. Through select channels and headphones alone, people can enjoy audio that seems silent to passersby, Hall said. Listeners can dance underneath streamers, balloons, and lights, which will add even more artwork and ambiance to the overall event. The goal, Hall continued, is to provide an audio and visual experience.

Behind the artists

“We tend to celebrate Fort Wayne artists for this event because so much of our programming is both a combination of local, regional, and also internationally renowned talent,” Hall said.  “We really hope to celebrate the talent we have here and introduce the public to those artists.” 

Participating artists are generally full-time and fairly accomplished.

Looking at artwork is interesting, but watching an artist at work becomes an experience. Hall explained that Art Crawl artists will be performing live outside as they create such pieces and work as chalk designs, graffiti, and music, the latter of which consists of roughly 14 acts and showcases buskers to bands.

The 2022 Art Crawl welcomes back featured artist, Theoplis Smith III, a Missouri-born painter and Fort Wayne local who goes by Phresh Laundry.

Artist Hilarie Couture will also be featured, said Hall. Another Summit City resident herself, Couture will showcase a sample from her “Unity With Variety” collection, which is an amalgamation of portraiture works representing Fort Wayne immigrants that will be on display at the Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery at the downtown library beginning Oct. 1. She, too, will paint live on the spot, providing a unique peak into her specific creative process.

This entire exclusive meet-and-greet welcomes roughly 2,500 to 3,000 visitors annually, but the program itself functions year-round. 

“We exist as an entity to continue to install artwork but also keep up with maintenance” in the decorated public spaces, Hall said.

Fort Wayne can thank Art This Way for providing it with revolutionary beauty and style as well as a massive support system for local artists.

“We wouldn’t exist as a public art program without local artists,” Hall said as a matter of fact.

In addition to broadcasting great traits of Fort Wayne, the Art Crawl is a “way of giving back” to the local artists, she said. 

Participating artists are paid to be there, and accommodations like gallery spaces, food, and drinks are provided for the artists to allow them to show off their amazing talent in a friendly, professional environment.

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