EMBRACE THE ARTS: Art festival and exhibit celebrates Hancock County Arts 25th anniversary

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A artist paints a picture at the Hancock County Art Summer Celebration.

Rob Baker/Daily Reporter

GREENFIELD — Eight-year-old Romilly Green loves to paint and draw. She also loves to dance.

On Saturday, she took in the sights at the Hancock County Arts 25th anniversary festival in downtown Greenfield before taking the stage with the Hearts Ablaze cloggers.

Her mom, Alaina Green of New Palestine, said the festival held in the Living Alley was a great representation of the local arts scene.

“Art is an important creative outlet for people. It’s nice to see a community event like this,” she said.

Car show enthusiasts were at Brandywine Church to raise money for a memorial fund in the late Nick Fiano’s honor. Saturday, June 15, 2024. Tom Russo | Daily Reporter

Vendors were selling a wide variety of art and handmade goods while a series of performers took to the stage to entertain the crowd Saturday.

The daylong event celebrated the 25th anniversary of the local arts organization, which was founded in 1999 to embrace the arts throughout Hancock County.

The party kicked off Friday night with a reception at the Twenty North Gallery at 21 W. North St. In Greenfield, where the annual Will Vawter Juried Exhibition and Art Sale runs through July 13.

Six of the original 12 Hancock County Arts board members attended the open house, including Jerry Bell, Mark Dudley, Sandy Hall, Patty McGuff and Sandy Miller.

Guests at Friday night’s open house got to meet a special guest — Bobby Vawter — a artist who is a distant relative of Will Vawter’s.

 One of the many booths at the Hancock County Art Summer Celebration. Rob Baker/Daily Reporter

“He’s been painting since he was 3 but nobody knew where his talent came from,” said Alice Hedden, Hancock County Arts president.

He eventually found out about the Will Vawter exhibit and found out he was a distant relative, she said.

While the local arts organization has ebbed and flowed over the years, it’s always been focused on promoting the arts in all its forms.

The month-long anniversary celebration started with a plein art paint-out July 8, for which artists scattered throughout Hancock County to paint various buildings and landscapes outdoors.

Those works are now on display as part of this year’s Will Vawter exhibit, which embraces the self-taught artist who lived in Greenfield for many years while working closely with James Whitcomb Riley. Each year, local and regional artists are invited to submit their works for the juried art contest.

Hancock County Arts is also celebrating the arts on its Facebook page with “25 Days of the Arts,” focusing on a different artist each day.

Among those was Greg Gearlds of Greenfield, a painter who has been a member of HCA for the past five years.

He spent part of the day painting a still life under sunny blue skies at Saturday’s festival, with his canvas resting on an easel set alongside a brick wall in the Living Alley.

 One of the many booths at the Hancock County Art Summer Celebration. Rob Baker/Daily Reporter

“I usually paint in a studio but I wanted to come out to help celebrate the arts, to let people see painters and other types of art happening,” he said.

Gearlds said arts festivals such as this are a great way to bring the community together while celebrating the arts. “Art plays such an important role in people’s lives. It’s therapeutic and brings joy,” he said.

Chuck Gurvitz of Indianapolis was among the many vendors peddling their particular forms of art.

Known as “the rock man,” Gurvitz has built a name for himself creating artwork with pebbles and rocks he transforms into ladybugs, turtles and other outdoor creatures.

He’s been running his business, Rock-a-pelli, for about five years now.

“I was always rock hunting and trying to find rocks, so I started adding them to things I refurbish from places like Goodwill,” said Gurvitz, pointing out a wooden pair of hands holding a collection of colorful gems.

As guests visited the vendors and took in the arts, the entertainment stage stayed busy with everyone from cloggers to fiddlers and dulcimer players, as well as a jazz ensemble and a “light metal” band.

For more information on Hancock County Arts, visit HancockCountyArts.org.

To visit the Twenty North Gallery, stop by 20 N. State St. between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays or 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays, in addition to the second Friday each month from 6:30-8:30 p.m. Exhibits change each month.

The Will Vawter Juried Exhibition and Art Sale runs through July 13.