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The unassuming (except for the pony-tail and ear stud),
reasoned and articulate Renaissance man Matthew Jones, now in his early 40’s, has spent nearly three-quarters of his life
carving out a place of his own design in the fine and commercial art world in Fort Wayne. Well, what do you call an ex-patriot who stayed home?
Nurtured in his youth with private painting lessons, followed by art and theater studies in high school and college
(here and in Bloomington), Jones’ focus has shifted more than once or twice but never wavered far a field from his
primal goal. When family obligations stalled academic endeavors, Jones turned to art consulting and framing objects d’
art to support a wife (Michele) and a pair of stepsons (Michael and Nicholas) first in Portland, Oregon and eventually back home in Indiana.
Parlaying this extensive hands-on experience together with a variety of day jobs (he’s worked the kitchen with a number
of famous chefs out west and here, including the late John and reclusive Niki Spillson at Cafe Johnell),
Jones has fashioned an intriguing enterprise combining retail and corporate art sales and consulting
with traditional custom framing, conservation and preservation.
Located in a former gas station at 2515 Broadway (think Zoli’s, Catablu, Durnell’s) the Broadway Galleries exists as a work in progress.
Serving as a traditional easel for the likes of local artists like John Gruse, Suzanne Galazka,
Ales and Renata Pancer, Scott Dercks and Fred Doloresco, Jones adds international flavor with
limited edition prints by Guy Buffet and an assortment of interesting prints by Dan and Kathy Aceto.
At his current day job – recreation specialist with the Park’s Department – Jones sometimes escorts groups on historical tours of the city.
After “work” he heads back to the gallery to oversee developments there and catch up with the custom frame and matting part of the gallery.
“I see myself as an educator as much as anything else,” said Jones. “The first thing most people say when they enter the gallery is ‘I don’t
know anything about art. I’m just looking.’ I respond with the notion that most people already know about 80 percent of what’s
necessary to appreciate art. Together we can develop the balance.
“There’s a fine line to walk when you’re dealing with personal tastes. Art is subjective. I simply try to cultivate a sense of self-confidence
in my clients,” Jones explained. “Hopefully they’ve chosen to visit the gallery for reasons other than finding something to match their couch,
but even so I’ll work with them. I become a kind of matchmaker.
“When it comes to framing and matting choices however I might be a bit more … dictatorial.
You have to do right by the artist whatever other compromises might have already occurred.
I may get adamant about that. But most of the time the client accepts my viewpoint or suggestions
based on the years I’ve spent in the business and the knowledge gained from learning on my own.”
Jones’ background appears more like a mixed-media collage than a minimalist installation.
His own sense of taste is built upon an eclectic foundation starting with his personal hero,
Leonardo da Vinci, from whom he developed an appreciation for the scientific and inquiring aspects of the creative process.
“I guess my other specific influences would be Van Gogh for color, Edward Hopper for composition,
Mucha for sheer beauty, Cezanne for design and perhaps Pollock for emotion,” added Jones, rounding out his favorites..
With the successes of the gallery has come the penalty of having to cut back on his own creative efforts for lack of time.
Jones still manages to enlarge his travel sketch book from time to time. A commissioned oil with the working title of
The Tao of Mao remains under construction while awaiting his renewed attention. His interest in photography
spurred a surge of directed energy into digital manipulation where a western
state sunrise becomes the basic motif of a pseudo Navajo blanket.
A classic style sculpture of the human torso waits for the time necessary to be re-cast (It’s not an inexpensive medium,” said Jones.)
The makings of a concrete poem fermented in Jones for more than a year after the events of 9/11 before he was ready to put them to paper.
The local myopic views of hiring only out of town “experts” for restoration or conservation projects has made it difficult to establish a role
for himself. Such traditional practices can sometimes work out successfully like the recent renovations at the Allen County Court House and the
Baker Street train station.
But it can also backfire, as in the case of the original botched contract for the Court House where contracts were let to
restore the murals and in essence caused more damage than good. This is not to say that Jones
was prepared or capable of handling such major restoration challenges but the mind set of going elsewhere has its obvious shortcomings.
“Normally my clientele are looking for an economical, quick fix for a problem,” says Jones. “Mostly it is a question of bringing back
to life a painting, print or drawing that has been abused. Typically the painting or drawing has been damaged by exposure to
excessive sunlight or stored in the attic or basement or mistrated in handling while moving. So a lot of what I do
involves educating people as to the proper care of their works.”
“Preservation can be a complicated topic with many facets, depending on whether you’re the creator, the collector or even the re-seller,” explained Jones.
“So much is involved and it is all relative to the situation.”
“Are you simply trying to save the family portrait, rescuing it from a serious mold acquired during a less-than-professional storage scenario?
Is it a museum quality piece that was initially mishandled and framed by an amateur? Is it all about
patching an oil on canvas hole where a certain degree of quality inpainting is required? Each job takes on a life of
its own and could lead in a number of separate directions depending not entirely on monetary concerns.”
Jones’ stable of artists is gradually expanding, and he’
s mulling over the idea of pairing two of his most recent additions, Kathy Aceto and
Kem Cotton, in a joint exhibition. That idea of juxtaposing dissimilar artists is key to
understanding the inner workings of Jones. Like McLuhan, Jones anticipates the magic that happens
in the afterglow of such collisions. He has always liked the clashing of styles and wants to be the conductor.