GREENFIELD — A lifelong dream to paint the Peru Amateur Circus has landed Beth Clary Schwier in the center ring.
Growing up in Peru, Ind. — known as Circus City for the number of circuses wintering there in the off-season — she participated in Peru’s youth circus each summer until an injury ended her career. So she packed her circus dreams away and moved on.
Fast-forward to the present: Schwier is married, mother to six children and an artist of growing acclaim.
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Schwier’s exhibit, “One Woman Show,” at the Twenty North Gallery is her first solo show.
She attracted the attention of the Hancock County Arts & Cultural Council, curators of the gallery, when she won Best of Show at the 2014 Will Vawter art competition. The show opens with a reception for the artist at 6 p.m. Friday (Jan. 13) at the Twenty North Gallery, 20 N. State St.
The Vawter competition was Schwier’s first show. Before that 2014 show, Schwier had never really shown her work before, and to win such an award was a life-changing moment for her. Like most artists, Schwier works alone in her studio and is never sure how her work is going to be received.
“It was so affirming to be recognized for my work, and it gave me the confidence to do more,” she said.
Arts Council president Nancy Leslie is an admirer of Schwier’s work and has one of Schwier’s paintings in her home. Leslie is pleased that a local artist is being recognized on a national scale and is excited about the gallery playing host to Schwier’s first solo show.
“Her work is more than just aesthetically pleasing,” Leslie said. “Beth’s paintings spark emotion.”
Schwier took up painting as a serious pursuit just five years ago, and last summer she fulfilled that youthful dream of painting the circus with the creation of six paintings of acrobats, elephants and jugglers as a hometown fundraiser for the non-profit circus.
While she was signing prints of her work, she was approached by Preston Scott, curator of the Circus Arts program for the Smithsonian Institute’s Folklife Festival. Scott was in Peru to invite circus performers to attend, Schwier said, and he invited her to come and paint at the annual event.
Schwier will be painting live on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Part of her mission will be to tell her story of circus performer turned artist and to share the history of circus arts beginning with Robert Weaver (1913-91), another Peru native who spent a lifetime recreating circus life with paint on canvas.
In addition to the honor and excitement of being invited to paint at the Smithsonian Folklore Festival, Schwier’s artwork is about to be put before a nationwide audience. Schwier has built a working relationship with Karen Laine and Mina Starsiak, the mother-daughter team that hosts “Good Bones,” a home restoration program on the HGTV network that is filmed in Indianapolis’ Fountain Square neighborhood.
A production assistant for the show discovered Schwier’s work while touring the art studios in the Stutz Building and brought co-host Karen Laine to see it.
“She’s amazing,” said Laine, who co-hosts the show with her daughter Starsiak.
“In the best possible way, her art makes you stop, look and feel. The colors, the energy, the brushstrokes, her wide variety of subject matter — everything she paints. It feels very familiar. It feels like I’m at home,” Laine gushed.
Schwier credits her success to two teachers who were really encouraging: Diane Lyon and C.W. Mundy. Both artists have studios in the Stutz Business & Art Center, where Schwier now has a studio of her own. Schwier shares a painting style with Mundy who, like Schwier, is an impressionist painter who likes to layer paint thickly on the canvas. Lyon is an inspiration to Schwier because she started her painting career late in life, much like Schwier.
“She (Lyon) started painting at age 50,” Schwier said. “She showed me that I didn’t have to come out of the womb painting.”
Schwier knows that a lot of her success is the result of being in the right place at the right time.
“I see God doing things like this all the time. I don’t know what His plan is, but I’m having fun following it,” she said.
A reception will be held for Beth Clary Schwier’s one-woman show from 6 to 9 p.m. on Jan. 13 at Twenty North Gallery, 20 N. State St. Visit hancockcountyarts.com for more information.
“In the best possible way, her art makes you stop, look and feel. The colors, the energy, the brushstrokes, her wide variety of subject matter. Everything she paints. It feels very familiar. It feels like I’m at home.” — Karen Laine, co-host of the HGTV show “Good Bones”