Therefore, the Artlink Artist Panel’s choice of “Wheels” as the theme for this summer’s all-media members exhibition is sheer genius. Artists working in every medium not only can but do use wheels in their art, and every single gallery visitor who examines the 81 expected works, each from a different artist, has plenty of ways to connect with the art.
“Wheels” opens June 1 at Artlink in the Auer Center for Arts and Culture, 300 E. Main St. It runs through July 11.
“Like every show, it generates from the Artists Panel,” said Artlink Executive Director Deb Washler. “But this idea is actually mine. We had done several different shows including wheels, beginning with a motorcycle show when Betty (Fishman, the former director) was still here. We did an auto show.
“We had done a lot of shows similar in concept to this, but for this one we just put it all together under ‘Wheels,’” she said.
The other wheeled exhibitions generated a lot of interest. “People have a lot of fun with them,” she said. She expects the same for this one with visitors enjoying art that involves “bikes, airplanes, buses, anything with a wheel, anything that transports people,” she said. “I think it’s going to be a fun show.”
“Wheels” is not a juried exhibit. It’s an open-call exhibit open to regional artists.
“They just had to read the criteria for what the theme was and let us know they want to participate by a certain date,” she said. “They each can enter one piece. When we have these open calls, we try to pick a theme the artists can do a lot with. They can do multimedia, and this exhibit will have everything from ceramics to photography.”
It’s a fun theme and one that lets Artlink reach out to a wider category of business sponsors. Don Ayres Honda and Fort Wayne Outfitters and Bike Depot are supporting this exhibit.
“People are so excited now about the trails and biking now,” she said. “That was part of the selection of this theme.”
The open call show is also a popular one with art collectors, especially people just starting collections or people without a lot of room to display art.
“From the work I have seen so far,” she said, “some of the works are smaller, which makes it more purchasable for people to fit in their homes. I think people will definitely find some things they like.”
“Wheels” is an unusual exhibition in one more important way. Since it’s an open call, Artlink’s staff gets to participate. Washler finished an embroidered bicycle, “an urban cruiser,” she said, for the show. Staff cannot participate in juried exhibits.
Three regional photographers were among the first to submit their “Wheels” artworks to Artlink. Kristen Bayman is showing a photo she calls “Radio Flyer.” The sepia tones work with the wagon’s rusted and obviously well used but long forgotten appearance to create a moody, thoughtful, nostalgic tone.
Don Gagnon is showing a photograph he named “Forgotten.”
“This image was taken is a back field near Gladstone, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where my wife and I are from,” he said. “I often like to look in fields behind houses out in the countryside because I can often find old, rusting cars, farm equipment, and just about anything else you can imagine.
“What caught my eye with this car was the way the rust complemented the original paint color — and the classic lines of a 1958 Monterey.”
Cathie Rowand’s photograph for the exhibition is untitled, but it tells its
“When I was in India,” Rowand said, “I saw bikes carrying enormous loads that normally would be carried in the back of a pickup truck here in the U.S.A. I have a whole new perspective and am thinking that I under-utilize my own bicycle.
“This photo was taken in Jaipur, India. I chose this shot because there was no room for the bicyclist after the bicycle was fully loaded. I also like the muted colors mixed with bright blue and red.”
Each of the 81 artworks will have its own story both as an image and in the context of who the artist is and what medium was chosen to present the image. The context is where viewers can have such fun viewing the artworks because they also bring their own contexts and personal stories to viewing the artworks.
Artlink has been providing opportunities for emerging and mid-career artists to exhibit their works in the Fort Wayne community since 1978, when it was incorporated. It has been a funded member of Arts United since 1991. Its first locations were on Broadway. It moved from its galleries in the Hall Center to the Auer Center last October.
Rowand has been exhibiting her works at Artlink for the past 30 years, she said, first sharing her photos when Artlink was on Broadway.
Gagnon, who is retired, is a newer Artlink member.
“My wife Mary and I have been members of Artlink for about three years now,” he said, “and we joined to help support the artistic community as a whole, and to give us additional opportunities to display our photographs. We really appreciate Artlink for making those opportunities available to local artists.”
For more information about Artlink, visit artlinkfw.com.