Sometimes, discovering what’s in your own backyard can be an exciting adventure you’ll want to share with others.
One of the newest ways to get residents and visitors acquainted with Fort Wayne was launched in August. It’s a free digital pass for the Public Art Trail that guides people to more than 150 locations to view and learn about larger-than-life murals, functional and fun sculptures, and other pieces of public art.
“The digital pass works like an app on your phone and it’s a fun way to discover and enjoy art,” says Kristen Guthrie, vice president of marketing at Visit Fort Wayne.
Sign up for the pass on visitfortwayne.com/PublicArtTrail and “check in” at the various locations to earn prizes. The more places you visit, the bigger the rewards, with the top prize being a mural print after 75 visits.
In a similar vein, the Outdoor Pass was introduced for visitors and residents of Allen County, encouraging them to use 20 self-guided smartphone tours for hiking, biking and paddling, at every skill level and in every direction of the county to explore rivers, trails, and parks.
A 22nd annual “Be a Tourist in your own Backyard” event took place Sept. 12 and featured free admission to 19 museums and other attractions in the city. The event draws about 20,000 people each year, Guthrie says.
“We want our residents to do everything that visitors do. Visitors love our community, but residents don’t always take the time to explore. Take this chance to make those discoveries and see all the life that artists have brought to our downtown,” she says.
Alexandra Hall, founder and manager of Art This Way, took responsibility for enlivening Fort Wayne with street art.
“At the time, I was working full-time as an artist,” she explains. “Having traveled the world, I appreciated street art and saw how it adds energy to a city. I wanted to bring that spirit to Fort Wayne. When given an opportunity to talk to the Downtown Improvement District, I helped them see how it could happen. Fort Wayne was ready, but they didn’t know how to do it, and I could be that person to facilitate the program.”
Art This Way works with building owners and artists to bring many of the city’s murals to life. A program of Fort Wayne Improvement District, the all-volunteer organization aims to change the way locations throughout the city are seen and used. Projects are funded by grants, corporate sponsorships, fundraisers and community donations.
For Example, Artist Bryan Ballinger has painted two murals, The Blue Birds and The Ruddy Turnstones. He partnered on the second project with Turnstone Center for Children and Adults with Disabilities, whose mission is to empower people with disabilities. Turnstone helps them to achieve their highest potential for independence through social services, counseling, adult day services, adult and pediatric therapy, childcare, fitness and aquatics, sports and recreation and more.
“To be able to be a part of the amazing Fort Wayne creative community in this visual way is awesome,” Ballinger has stated.
The most recently unveiled mural is “River Otter,” by artist Arlin Graff, at 919 Harrison St. The building owners wanted to support the arts and because the river otter was once an endangered species in Indiana, but now inhabits about 90 percent of the counties in the state, the mural is a reminder of how people can positively impact the environment, Hall says.
Each mural has a plaque with the artist’s name, the name of the mural, the sponsors and the message. A QR code can be scanned to open videos featuring artists talking about their work. The videos are also available on the artthiswayfw.com.
Other murals will be completed this fall and a search is underway for an artist who can paint a veteran’s mural in celebration of those who served and are serving the United States of America. It’s anticipated the mural will be completed next spring or summer and will be painted on the south and west sides of a commercial office building at 135 W. Main St., Hall says.
“We want our residents to be our best ambassadors,” Guthrie adds. “When you understand your city, you can share what you know with others and that’s a big part of our goal.” ❚