Why We Do What We Do

Thursday, November 03, 2016

The Wassenberg Art Center, a visual art center sometimes does things that may not seem strictly speaking, “visual art”. We are no different than the art museums around the world using similar techniques to further enrich the art experience. As technology has changed so too have the audiences visiting such venues. Smaller communities are even more challenged with less population around them to physically participate. Art museums and centers around the world are changing their methods, those that do not, experience lower visitor numbers. We too are striving to break the stereotypical non-interactive practice of going to a museum merely to study silent paintings on a wall. Art organizations that have been presented in traditional ways in the past have been undergoing a long period of growth to stay relevant. It takes creative thinking, hard work constant monitoring to keep pace and instill in future generations that art is indeed, NOT boring and creating art unattainable.

In addition to the Wassenberg Art Center’s upholding of decades-long traditional exhibits and bringing serious national-level art exhibits, our policy is to host events in which people, who may not be interested in coming to an art center, actually do. Some events encourage the participants to think creatively by making costumes and coming to learn how we make the decorations for varying events. We attempt to host one interactive exhibit per year where touching and participation is encouraged such as “Get in the Swing”, an exhibit held in July of 2016. In this show artist-designed swings were hung from our rafters and participants encouraged to swing. It turned out to be more popular than anticipated.

Music and visual arts go hand-in-hand and every attempt to sync the current exhibit with the music is made. We primarily host regional, upcoming, contemporary groups who often have significant original material. Yes, we have a local, awesome performing art center but these “local” musicians are skilled and their willingness to create a more rounded visual art experience contributes to community activities and supplies an outlet for their creativity as well. Encouraging regional participation both in art and music challenges professional and amateur artists alike to grow, experiment and continue with their creative pursuits and look out onto the world.

We also run a warm clothing drive which supports the residents of Pine Ridge Reservation located in South Dakota. Why? Faces of Little Bighorn, our permanent collection is made up of the work of David Humphreys Miller. David was born in Van Wert and grew up to become an artist, historian, author, movie consultant and Native Americans rights activist. Many of the descendants of the survivors of Little Bighorn and Wounded Knee now live in often third-world living conditions on the reservation. Winters at Pine Ridge are brutal and often residents don’t have electricity or heat. Many deaths are attributed every year due to cold conditions. Collection owner Robert Brent Stevens drives the items out to SD and delivers them where they are distributed immediately. If people who donate see the paintings. Great!

So, sometimes if some of the Wassenberg Art Center activities seem “out of the box” of historical visual art representation, they are. There is method to our madness. This madness has helped us a grow into a more vibrant hub not only for our community, but has spread new ideas and new concepts of what art is and how all of that can work together in creating a better home for us here in Van Wert.

Hope Wallace
Director, Wassenberg Art Center

Art Installation and Spring!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Those first warm days of spring are intoxicating. I want to play outside all day long, everyone is restless for the warm sun on skin feeling. This also brings the anticipation of our landscape work beginning soon! The oasis of the Wassenberg is about to expand to our out-of-doors very soon, and an oasis it will be. Green grass, grouped plantings, a fishpond, meandering paths and many trees will create a mini-central park in downtown Van Wert. Seth Baker, Van Wert County Foundation Secretary who is also a landscape designer, further designed the grounds. A sculpture, reflecting our agricultural roots will be installed on the southwest corner of the building as our second of many sculptures that will grace the property eventually. This sculpture, which utilizes found steel objects, was created by Richard Morgan of Wauseon and stands almost eight feet high.

We at the Wassenberg Art Center challenge you to continue to grow creative place making in Van Wert. Is it our sole responsibility? Not on your life. However, we are happy to lead the charge. Creating in Van Wert and looking at old spaces with fresh eyes and ideas is crucial to the survival of a place that is engaging to live in. Take a chance, be daring. If Detroit after losing half of its inhabitants and still faced with acres of abandoned buildings can begin the rebuild, so can a community of 10,000 persons.

Our Annual High School Invitational will open on April 26 with an opening reception from 1- 5 p.m. and be on view through May 15. We continue to brainstorm new creative outlets to our area with our exhibits, classes and events. Our ArtReach classes are preparing for their puppet-type production of the children’s classic, Frederick. (Frederick is a mouse whose skills don’t necessarily fall in-line with typical mouse skills, however he brings to his mouse family a meaningful gift). In addition to live music, and a hot-dog bar, the play will premier during our High School Invitational exhibit opening, Sunday April.

For more information on exhibits or to sign for classes and events visit The Wassenberg Art Center is located at 214 S. Washington St. (the old Armory building). We can also be reached by telephone at: 419.238.6837, email: and our website is:


Strive to Thrive

Thursday, April 16, 2015
This weekend we saw the results, firsthand of yet another example of how a community truly comes together to make things happen. Paducah Kentucky, located in southwest Kentucky on the Ohio and Tennessee Rivers suffered much the same economic fate as many small communities. A district called Lowertown was dilapidated, riddled with crime. Vacant properties predominated and suffered the subsequent plummeting real estate values. In 2000, community leaders and groups such as the local Main Street Association, CVB, city government, Chamber of Commerce, financial institutions and economic development worked together, and with their combined brain power decided to take action. The result was getting artists involved in property renovation in an artist relocation project, which in turn, facilitated one of the most successful urban renewal efforts of its size in the country. What was once an area most persons would not even go is now a vibrant neighborhood with happenings and things to do on almost every corner. Friday night we saw people strolling down the quiet streets on their way to a venue, dinner or simply to enjoy the spring weather. Saturday evening was bustling with larger numbers. There were bands here, d.j’s and bands there, an art opening at the centrally located art center and a play in the adjacent theatre. A newly opened brewery located in an old bus station a few blocks away was receiving some great reviews by the folks we met. We listened to and met the members of Gideon’s Rifle and Clusterpluck, toe-tappin’ funk bluegrass bands who would be happy to visit us in Van Wert in the future. Restaurants offered unique menus and upper stories in downtown buildings were filled with apartments or bed & breakfasts. Yes, there was an empty storefront or two. Construction was evident here and there and a few for rent signs were hanging in windows. No place is perfect, there is always turnover and we have all weathered a tremendous financial storm. How we ride those waves, stay afloat, and thrive is up to us.

The arts at the Wassenberg Art Center are doing their part to add vitality. We are happy to announce we have hired two part-time persons to assist us with our events and facility. The positions of Facility & Grounds Attendant and Gallery Coordinator have been filled and we look forward to introducing you to our newest employees very soon!


Wassenberg Art Center- Community Responsibility

Thursday, April 16, 2015

What character traits does it take to rebuild a vital community? Vision, hope, enthusiasm, imagination but most importantly a smidgeon of courage. It requires all of us to be willing to think and to ask “what if”. What if we changed this? What if we tried this? For example, what if we turned an existing structurally sound, ADA accessible building into something the community can use to grow its culture, identity and ultimately its ability to serve its own residents by giving back directly to them? What is one of the first things a prospective corporation asks when locating in a certain area? What types of cultural and arts resources and centers do you have? How strong is your arts community? Are there facilities and organizations that foster theater, music, visual arts and architecture? Are the arts easily accessible and open for all members of the city, not just the perceived elite? The arts are the heartbeat of a community. When they are not permitted to grow and foster everyone, the community languishes.

What about service clubs? Do they equally support and back all of the arts programs in the community both fiscally and physically? What about scout troops and youth organizations? Is commitment to community being effectively fostered there and sometimes the greater good needs to prevail? What about the area schools?

Are they cheering on their visual art students by grabbing every chance they can to promote and compete in local, state and the national competition available? Here’s a myth-buster. “It’s hard to get a job in the arts”. Bunk. It is difficult to get a job, period. In today’s speed-of-light technology changes and our visually saturated world, art and design jobs abound. There are almost unlimited areas in visual arts students can make a living once they graduate college. Graphic design, web design, illustration, phone application design, video games, surface design, giftware design, toy design, animation, stage set design, architecture, 3D rendering, marketing/communications, packaging design, art therapy, art education, painters, sculptors, interior design, landscape design, photography, book design, this list truly could go on forever pretty much matching the shapes, patterns and colors that make up our world.

The Wassenberg Art Center’s hours during exhibits are: Tuesday through Sunday 1–5 p.m. and you may contact the art center at 419.238.6837, by email: info@wassenbergartcenter. org or via our website at: The Wassenberg Art Center is located at 643 South Washington Street in Van Wert. Admission to exhibits is always free and open to the public. 

Voices cannot be Silenced

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A generation of people can be wiped out in myriads of unspeakable ways. It is the art that speaks for them long after their voices fall silent. Discoveries buried underground, brought to light after centuries of darkness tell us what was. Art is our fingerprint, our retina, our record of existence long after we are gone and what we live for. We all forget the details. Architecture, music, food, fashions, landscaping, and createditems fall victim to idyllic ravages of war, by ignorance or by mere inevitable change and those voices slowly are muffled into silence.

The Van Wert Armory had fallen into disuse and was within one week of being plowed silent onto a pile of red dust. That dust held the memories of guardsmen preparing for the possibility of home invasion, community dances, where young teenagers fell in and out of love, where young athletes brought their basketball team to sweaty victory within walls filled with echoing cheers. Budding art exhibit traditions were born here, gardeners brought their prized blooms and hundreds of couples celebrated the first day of their journey through life together. This building, so much more than an armory then, once again is much more than an art center today and quietly beats the tattoo of community spirit once again.