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.
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