At ART MOVES, FWDC Puts Masterpieces in Motion
Sep07

At ART MOVES, FWDC Puts Masterpieces in Motion

When it comes to annual fundraisers, the Fort Wayne Dance Collective is known for creating over-the-top experiences that guests anticipate all year long. In years past, that meant choose-your-own-adventure theatrical performances in various Fort Wayne landmarks. But this year, under the leadership of Creative Director John Byrne, the organization is trying something new. As in years past, tomorrow’s ART MOVES event will raise funds for FWDC’s community outreach programs, high school dance programs and dance scholarships. But this year, FWDC eschewed the theatrical theme to celebrate creative expression in all its forms. At 6 pm tomorrow night, September 8th, Wunderkammer Company will serve as the backdrop for various choreographed pop-up performances, each inspired by a different iconic fine art works. The ART MOVES event will also include a silent auction, heavy appetizers and a cash bar provided by Club Soda. Tickets are $25 in advance, available through the FWDC website, or $30 at the door. With the event approaching, I talked to John Byrne to learn more about his artistic vision and inspiration for ART MOVES. B: What sparked the idea ART MOVES? J: Fort Wayne is a city just exploding with art and dance, and FWDC is proud to be in the forefront of this cultural movement. We serve such a diverse range of communities, ages, abilities and interests through dance education, healing and performances – more than 43,000 people annually to be specific! The idea for ART MOVES was simply inspired by the desire to bring awareness to what we do, in a fun, laid-back, party environment. For the artistic concept, I wanted to show who we are at the core by deconstructing dance down to its most pure form – movement. Dancers from 10 years old to 60 years old will take over the space in elegant and simple costumes, with beautiful lighting and sets by artist Diane Gaby. The dancers will represent recognizable iconic art works by emulating the essence of the  art works through dance. The performance will be presented in a simply, allowing the movement and personalities of our diverse performers to shine through. B: What kind of art and artists inspired the choreography?  J: There are eight choreographers contributing original dance works to ART MOVES.  This includes Vicki Gallagher, Mandie Kolkman, Sydney Pacula, Corinne Hobbs, Liz Monnier, Ashley Benninghoff and Allison Brandgard. Choreographers chose iconic art work that inspired them and designed their dance works based on these pieces. At the event, you’ll see artists such as O’Keeffe, Magritte, Kandinsky, Van Gogh and Koons represented. Dancers from all branches of Fort Wayne Dance Collective’s programs will be performing the new dance works. Singer/songwriter Kelsie Murray will also be making a special appearance. What can guests expect at the event?  J: Partygoers can expect...

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Run 4 Miles to the Fifth at the Beat Beethoven Run/Walk
Aug22

Run 4 Miles to the Fifth at the Beat Beethoven Run/Walk

Runners have all kinds of tricks for getting motivated. For starters, it helps to set the mood with the right running soundtrack. Another way to fight boredom is to challenge yourself to a new time or distance goal. And if you’ve gotta train anyway, it never hurts to find races that include great crowd support, fun costumes, a party atmosphere and tasty post-race snacks and drinks. On Saturday, walkers and runners can find all of the above at the Beat Beethoven 4-mile run/walk. The event is part of the Taste of the Arts Festival and all proceeds benefit Arts United. The scenic course begins on the Arts United Campus, continues through Headwaters Park, across the Martin Luther King Jr. Bridge and along the Rivergreenway, and ends to fanfare in Freimann Square. During the race, runners will be challenged to “beat Beethoven” by finishing the race in 36 minutes – roughly the time it takes to play Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony at a relaxed pace. At half-mile increments along the course, string musicians from the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Youth Orchestra Strings and Paul Harding Junior High School will perform the symphony for passing runners. A costumed Beethoven mascot will keep spirits high and set the pace by running the course at the requisite speed. The race is the brainchild of several local runners, including Carmen Tse, an Arts United board member and runner. Tse was inspired to bring the idea to the Taste of the Arts committee after seeing a similar event in Michigan. “Back in May of 2015, an article in Runner’s World titled “Races offer a Chance to ‘Beat Beethoven’ caught my attention,” she says. “It was a race put on by the Grand Rapids Ballet as a clever promotion of one of their productions. As a runner who appreciates classical music, I thought it was a brilliant idea to marry arts and fitness into one event. Though it’s not a new idea, it has never been done in Fort Wayne.” The race is a fitting fundraiser for Arts United, a nonprofit that provides support to local arts organizations like ARCH, Artlink Contemporary Gallery, Fort Wayne Ballet, Fort Wayne Dance Collective, Cinema Center, Civic Theatre, Historical Society, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, FAME, the YouTheatre and Voices of Unity. Even the event sponsorship has a creative, tongue-in-cheek Beethoven theme. “We are excited to be partnering with HearCare Connection, an organization that provides hearing healthcare to under-served and under-insured men, women and children in Northeast Indiana,” says Tse. “One of the most surprising facts about Ludwig van Beethoven is that he was deaf. Instead of allowing deafness to overwhelm him, he began...

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FWFAC Turns Art Appreciation into an Adventure
Jul18

FWFAC Turns Art Appreciation into an Adventure

Sometimes you have an idea that lets you combine your most cherished passions and share them with friends. At the very least, that’s a recipe for a great pastime. But if you’re really lucky, the right idea catches on, growing into a fledgling community organization with hundreds of followers. That’s exactly what’s happened for the Fort Wayne Free Art Collective (or FWFAC). Jon and Lissa Brown initially established the organization as a simple Facebook group with a few dozen followers and a mission to make local art more accessible. To connect people with local art, they give it away, dropping donated pieces every few days in various spots throughout Fort Wayne. Once found, the art is free to any follower or passing stranger who discovers it. Each FWFAC drop is like a guerilla-style gallery opening. First, each art piece gets wrapped into an art bundle with a note explaining the mission of the FWFAC. Then Jon and Lissa choose a spot to do the “drop,” typically on the side of a building. After securing the package with blue painter’s tape, they take a photo and post it on Facebook, without revealing the drop location. Followers must use visual clues to find the art, as long as it hasn’t already been found by a lucky stranger. Each drop takes place in a new location, giving Jon and Lissa the chance to highlight unique local landmarks, historic buildings or tucked-away neighborhood spots. The unpredictability of the FWFAC process makes it exciting for everyone. “Every time we see the post from the person who makes the find, we think that it can’t possibly get more exciting or gratifying,” says Lissa. “But – it does.” As busy parents and artists themselves, Jon and Lissa describe the FWFAC as their “artistic love child.” The organization’s mission and purpose grew out of the couple’s belief that an accessible local arts scene has the power to unite our community. “We have always been passionate about the arts,” says Lissa. “When we decided to open our hearts and share that with our community, it seemed natural to share our artwork too. When others started to follow our lead, we saw that it was something that Fort Wayne was craving. So we just answered the call.” To accommodate the growing interest, the FWFAC page recently expanded from a Facebook Group into a Public Page. The influx of members means that the biggest challenge may be finding ways to let more people experience the fun of found art. “People are now starting to recognize our signature blue tape, and are looking for us on the streets,” Lissa says. “We have to be very stealthy and quick about our drops. Most...

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A Grand Landmark Returns to Glory
Mar30

A Grand Landmark Returns to Glory

My love for old buildings started at a young age. One of my earliest real estate crushes was the Indiana Hotel building, attached to the Embassy Theatre downtown. Looking up into the rows of windows framed by limestone façade, I imaged the grand guests who once stayed inside. I envisioned glamorous ladies dressing for dinner – styling their hair, adorning themselves with sparkling baubles, and gracefully sashaying down the halls. I imagined what it would’ve been like to sleep there in the hotel’s heyday. How did they heat the rooms? Did they share bathrooms? Did any famous people spend the night? A few years later, I got to know the building even better. I had the privilege to perform on the Embassy stage dozens of times. Back then, the backstage hallways were painted with murals and covered with autographs and fading head shots from past performers. The cramped dressing rooms had faded carpet and peeling paint. But backstage passageways offered plenty to explore and imagine. As we waited for our turn at recitals and dress rehearsals, we’d play hide-and-seek down the halls and tell ghost stories in the Embassy’s ornate, expansive bathrooms. My attachment for the Embassy and Indiana Hotel building was partially inherited. In the ’70s, my dad and uncle donated their time and professional skills to return the Embassy to its former glory. My dad would point out the decorative molding and ceiling designs. “You see that,” he’d say. “That’s gold leaf paint. It has tiny bits of actual gold in it.” (My dad has always known EXACTLY what kind of information would thrill me.) As a kid, it was hard for me to imagine that such a captivating architectural treasure – the Indiana Hotel – sat empty, collecting cobwebs instead of hosting guests. I told myself that someday, I wanted to buy it and turn it back into a posh hotel, a quirky shopping mall or a complex of studio apartments. Back then I didn’t grasp the kind of expenses such an endeavor would entail. But happily, I don’t have to worry about what will become of the historic structure. Today, the Embassy will unveil recently completed renovations to the Indiana Hotel. The two-year renovation project included the addition of a rooftop patio, a two-story ballroom, rehearsal and classroom spaces and new administrative offices. The $10-million project included the removal of a wall separating the Embassy Theatre and Indiana Hotel spaces, and made way for a mezzanine lounge, theater bars, concessions, new dressing rooms, an updated box office and a heritage center. The project started with the construction of the downtown Courtyard Marriot, says Barb Richards, Marketing Director at the Embassy Theatre. “[They] wanted to build in downtown Fort Wayne...

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AXIS Performance Celebrates Dance for Every Body
Mar09

AXIS Performance Celebrates Dance for Every Body

As demonstrated by wedding receptions and Seinfeld reruns, dancing is a pretty democratic form of expression. When it’s time to hit the dance floor, it’s not about perfection. It’s about bringing your signature moves and shaking what you’ve got. But that freedom of expression doesn’t always carry over into the world of professional performance, where casting often comes down to physical characteristics rather than creative passion. Thankfully, modern dance organizations are breaking those barriers. In our community, the Fort Wayne Dance Collective (FWDC) offers dance and creative movement programs for people of all ages and abilities – from preschoolers to Parkinson’s patients. This weekend, FWDC is hosting a performance by Oakland-based AXIS Dance Company, a contemporary dance company that’s spent the last few decades pioneering a form of expression they call “physically integrated dance.” Instead of closing the door on creative expression, AXIS is about access. The company includes dancers with and without disabilities. Performances creatively integrate dancers’ varied abilities, turning wheelchairs into choreography elements and showcasing each individual’s unique physical form. By celebrating the different ways people can dance, AXIS embraces a technique that breaks from tradition. The company’s innovation has earned national and international awards and acclaim. “I’m excited to see how the dancers from AXIS use their unique physicality to do innovative movement and choreography,” says John Byrne, Creative Director at FWDC. “They’ve taken something that had long been a stigma in dance, disability, and proved that it can be an advantage in creativity. The physicality and extreme athleticism of the dancers is quite impressive!” AXIS will perform as Fort Wayne Dance Collective’s 2016 guest artist on Saturday, March 12th at 8:00pm at the Arts United Center. The performance will include three original dance pieces, including a new dance theater work by choreographer Joe Goode called “To Go Again”. As Goode explains, “To Go Again” honors the resilience of our country’s veterans in the face of difficult and catastrophic circumstances.   Prior to Saturday’s performance, Arts United will host a Creative Cocktails reception beginning at 5:30 pm at Club Soda. Following the show, AXIS dancers will interact with audience members in a relaxed Q&A session. FWDC’s weeklong guest artist activities also include a Creative Workshop with AXIS on Thursday, March 10th at Turnstone Center and a Master Class on Friday, March 11th at the Fort Wayne Dance Collective. “I hope that the community will feel empowered after the performance and workshop,” says Byrne. “I hope that they see that there is no excuse to not pursue their desires, despite what they may perceive as a roadblock! We want to send the message that Fort Wayne supports artists of all abilities.” Every year,...

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