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Bread & Circus gets surreal with exhibition

10 muralists lend skills to create Exquisite Corpse

Amber Cox paints the first portion of the Exquisite Corpse mural at Bread & Circus Art Gallery.

Published January 25, 2023

Bread & Circus Art Gallery has never shied away from standing out, and their upcoming exhibit will be something many have never seen.

On Thursday, Feb. 2, the gallery in the North Anthony Shopping Center will host a reception for their Exquisite Corpse mural exhibition with Uncle Doc’s Homestead Products providing their soda at the beverage bar. And you’re not gonna want to dilly-dally. It will be there only until Feb. 12 when Beatty plans to grab some paint and rollers to make it all disappear.

“All these artists understood the circumstances and the parameters, and I think they almost agreed to it more because of that,” she said of the 10 artists that took part in project. “They understand that it’s a final, finished, professional product on their end; there’s also no pressure. I removed that by making it more temporary. And these are mural artists. They’re used to their work being exposed to the elements, they’re used to knowing they can paint it one week and the right kind of storm or situation can come along and it’s gone anyways.”

In the beginning

Bread & Circus got its start on the south side of town, inside Wunderkammer Company in March 2021, before moving out to find a permanent space, which Beatty and her partners, Dee Dee Morrow and Erin Duddy, found at the North Anthony Center at 3400 N. Anthony Blvd. The space used to be Rhapsody Art Gallery & Studio, so Beatty was familiar with it. Also, she enjoyed being next to her friends, Chad and Lesa Van Meter, who operate The Garden at the plaza.

Beatty says the plaza owner, Holy Cross Lutheran Church, has been working to fill a void in the community that occurred under previous ownership of the shopping center.

“This area kind of feels like the final frontier in Fort Wayne,” she said, adding many ask why she left the south side. “The neighborhood in general, with the changing ownership of the plaza, the community that was built into the plaza meant a lot to them, and they lost that. Resurrecting these spaces and recreating that community, we’re not there yet, but we’re surely on our way.”

The gallery held its “Grand Re-Opening” on March 24, with plenty coming to check out the new surroundings. 

“Our longtime supporters, the people that are going to be our die-hards, were enthusiastic, and I believe it’s been nothing but positive since we’ve been here,” Beatty said.

Mentoring artists

Over the past year, Bread & Circus has held a wide-range of exhibits, from Dannon Schroeder’s hand-crafted masks to an interactive web and video game show. The out-of-the-box shows coincide with the art that’s for sale with all kinds welcome, be it paintings, ceramics, stuffed animals, or wood burnings on mushrooms.

“I do not tell my artists, I’ll advise if they ask, but I do not tell them what they can and can not put in my shop,” Beatty said. “And I don’t tell them what their prices should be, unless I find them crazy unreasonable, which in two years, has only happened once. Everything is a learning process.”

And as a lecturer at local colleges, mentorship is paramount to Beatty.

“It’s a safe space to ask questions, and a safe place to be uncomfortable and learn,” she said of the gallery. “I can’t tell you how many artists have said, ‘I can’t do this. I don’t know what I’m doing.’ I’ll just say, ‘That’s fine, that’s what we’re here for. Let’s sit down and talk.’

“There are a lot of artists in the Fort Wayne that don’t get the space and mentorship they need,” she added.

With guidance, Beatty says she can see the entire community benefit from art, whether it’s at her shop or one of the many others in town.

“I do believe there is enough room for everyone,” she said. “I think we all echo that to a degree, but we also represent different demographics of artists, which I find incredibly interesting and something I didn’t intend to witness. There is overlap with everybody. There are people that have stuff at my place, at Fae’s Cabinet, at Studi07.”

Exquisite inspiration

What will be unique to her shop is the mural project. She says the idea came about while local muralist Matthew Plett was in her shop during an emotional day for her. After finding a shoulder to cry on, it struck her: “It hit me like a lightning bolt, ‘We should have a mural show.’ ”

The show combines the work of 10 artists, who create a portion of the mural, with the others following where that person left off.

“We borrowed from the Surrealist movement,” Beatty said. “Artists used to do an exercise that was called exquisite corpse. They took a piece of paper, folded it into sections, then one would draw on one fold, hide what they had done, besides the lines on the edge, then give it to the next person to continue it until it was finished. You’d unfold it, and you’d have a real surreal result, and at that time it was usually a body. I’ve done exquisite corpses, and you can do whatever you want. A streetlamp can turn into a sailboat, then can turn into an eyeball or a plane. I’ve seen a long history of it, and I’d encourage people to Google it, because it’s fun.”

For this project, each artist had two to two and a half days to complete their work. Beatty then covered it with a tarp, leaving 6-8 inches for the next artist to incorporate into their section. 

Amber Cox got the mural started, with Daniel Dienelt, Jerrod Tobias, Mitchell Egly, Olivia Perez, Jeff Anderson, Jaden Rice, Bryan “Breadwig” Ballinger, Chris Catalogna, and Julie Wall taking it from there.

Cox began her work Jan. 5, and it served as a bit of a post-holidays reprieve for many since they were given a key to work whenever they felt like it.

“A lot of artists have said, ‘This is really great for me right now. I just need something to unwind at this part of the year,’ ” Beatty said.

Once completed, the exhibit will be something Beatty is excited to show the community.

“Murals are always a celebration,” she said. “There’s something behind … it’s taking over a space, it’s taking up space. It’s not something you can ignore.”

And with it being around only 10 days, some people might want to make it live longer on their smartphones.

“Who doesn’t like to get a good selfie in front of a mural?” she said. 

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