Bringing culture and visitors to downtown Vincennes
The summer months are great time to stroll along the Wabash River and then down Main Street in Indiana’s oldest city, where residents and visitors can take in a variety of artistic work displayed in three different art galleries.
Interest and excitement for Vincennes’ downtown art galleries, has been generated by the First Friday Art Walks on Main that take place each month. Hours are 5 to 8 p.m., a time when galleries present the work of new artists and when featured artists sometimes visit the galleries themselves.
“It is a nice offering for our visitors and for local people, and for anyone who may not come downtown,” said Shyla Beam of the Vincennes / Knox County Visitors and Tourism Bureau. “They continue to grow and have been incorporated into other events.”
Sara Frenz, manager of Northwest Territory Art Guild Gallery at 329 Main St., said having the three galleries downtown is a tremendous benefit for the community. Not only do the galleries promote art, but they offer artists the opportunity to display and sell their work. It benefits the community by bringing more people to downtown Vincennes.
Galleries and businesses working together
Not only do the galleries cooperate with each other to be open on the First Friday of each month, but restaurants, like the The Cafe Moonlight, The Old Thyme Diner, and others, are open and ready to serve Art Walk visitors. Other retail businesses stay open, too, drawing traffic from the Art Walks.
“They have been well-attended,” Frenz said. “We hope that they help in promoting art. Each gallery has something different and each month there are different artists featured. People seem to enjoy it.”
The Art Walk idea is not new, Frenz said, as the idea of a monthly event has existed in other communities. Anita Billings and Carol Moore, who once owned and operated the Blue Moon Gallery and Art Supply Shop on Main Street, started the Art Walk idea in 2008.
“Sometimes the Open Gallery would participate with them, and the (Northwest Territory) Art Guild, which was then located across the street from here, would be open, too,” Frenz said. “It took off from there.”
Andrew Jendrzejewski and Amy DeLap are the owners of Art Space Vincennes, a contemporary art gallery located at 521 Main St. They wanted the focus of the monthly events to include more than just the galleries. They wanted to include all of downtown Vincennes.
They, along with Frenz, Ann Pratt and others, worked to enhance the monthly events, eventually having a Spring on Main and Autumn on Main events on the first Friday of June and October. Hundreds turned out last October when six blocks of Main Street were blocked off for a street fair that included live music, an outdoor bar, classic cars, painting lessons, food trucks, and more.
“This excitement and energy is what Steve Miller said attracted Pioneer Oil to downtown Vincennes,” Jendrzejewski said.
Communities sometimes start with good art programs and then other businesses come in and rejuvenate a community. He hopes that will be the case with downtown Vincennes.
“Our intention was to develop excitement and energy for our own business, too,” he said.
‘High end’ art
Art Space Vincennes has featured “relatively high end art” from artists throughout the U.S. Last fall an artist from Cambridge, England was featured. This allows for an influx of ideas from elsewhere to be seen in Vincennes.
“There are a lot of ideas in the world that we might be able to use in Vincennes,” Jendrzejewski said.
Rebecca Mullen, who with her husband Mike, owns The Open Gallery at 329 Main St., said the galleries view themselves as a cooperative, not competitors.
“We are grateful to those who purchase the original artwork we sell, however, we also recognize our unique ability to inform and educate when it comes to artistic expression and creation,” she said. “In that role and that spirit, the galleries are dedicated to furthering a broader mission.”
In April, The Open Gallery recognized Autism Awareness with the work of Fort Wayne artist Frank Louis Allen. In May and June, the paintings of Guillaume Jaubert will be exhibited.
“We have been so pleased with the way the First Friday Art Walks have continued to grow,” Mullen said. “The organic way these events have grown and developed is both positive and, we hope, sustainable.”
The NWT Art Guild has a featured artist each month, but the work of several local and regional artists also is displayed. A variety of paintings, sculpture, photography, and more are exhibited.
“It’s always a great night to be out and in downtown Vincennes,” said local artist John DeCoursey, the current president of the NWT Art Guild. “It’s fun to see the different crowds of people. We have regulars who come every month and there’s always new people, too.”
For more information about the various art galleries in downtown Vincennes, contact the Vincennes/Knox County Visitors and Tourism Bureau at www.vincennescvb.org. For Art Space Vincennes, call 812-887-6145 or log onto www.artspacevincennes.com. For The Open Gallery, call 812-881-6475 or see its Facebook page. For the Northwest Territory Art Guild, call 812-881-8344 or see its Facebook page.
First Friday Art Walks
First Friday Art Walks take place from 5 -8 p.m. on the first Friday of each month. Admission to each art gallery is free.
Art Space Vincennes, 521 Main St.
The Open Gallery, 329 Main St.
Northwest Territory Art Guild, 316b Main St.
By Bernie Schmitt