Northwest Indiana’s thriving art scenes are creating a buzz, attracting visitors from Chicago to Indianapolis.
“I have friends who like what’s going on with the arts in small towns like Griffith and will stop there on their way to and from Michigan,” says Anna Greenberg, who lives in Chicago and has a weekend place near St. Joseph, Mich.
Valerie Wotkun is president of Imagine Griffith, a volunteer group that coordinates with other civic groups to work on projects that “add some fun things to our town” that is tapping into that vibe.
Imagine Griffin has been doing that with pubic arts projects that have ranged from painted benches as part of the town’s Centennial celebration in 2002 to flowers made from bicycle wheels in 2015.
This year, chairs are the theme with 16 of regular ones and a large one at Ridge Road and Broad Street on display. Wotkun’s husband helped out by building a 6-foot high chair displayed during Griffith’s 4th of July parade to highlight the project.
“A woman who was very involved in the art part of town was a member of Imagine Griffith and the Park Full of Art committee,” Wotkun says, referring to the juried show held each July in Central Park. “She gave me a box full of public art ideas when she had to move to Illinois. The painted chair project was one of hers, and I carried it out. She donated two beautifully painted chairs. I know the town loves whatever art we put on display, and we seem to get a good response when we present a project.
“There are also mural ideas being worked on with help from the Legacy Foundation,” says Wotkun. “We had one mural painted on a storage garage that is along the Erie Lackawanna bike trail that runs through Griffith.”
Public support is essential to creating a vibrant art scene and that starts with a group of talented and committed artists, says Lance Ryskamp, president of the Highland Community Foundation, an organization awarded almost $5,000 in grants to assist art-related projects in neighboring Highland, which has had a big push for murals.
Noting the great artists in the Region, Richard Friedman, general manager at the Theatre at the Center in Munster, describes its allure. “There’s an ease to it. If you come to the Region, there’s easy parking, it’s an intimate space and offers a diverse variety of arts."