Group looks to be ‘viable force for the arts’


JASPER — Seven local artists met in 1968 to brainstorm how to share art with the community and their meeting resulted in the Dubois County Art Guild, an organization that is still going strong 50 years later.

In the decades since its inception, the guild has become a key component of Dubois County’s art scene, providing an ongoing art show in the Jasper City Mill, as well as an annual exhibit now held in Krempp Gallery at the Jasper Arts Center.

Outside the public eye, the guild serves as a support system for local artists as members encourage each other in their work and run workshops during the monthly meetings—scheduled for the first Thursday of each month at Krempp Gallery. The guild also offers members opportunities to display and sell their work.

“It has kept me involved in the arts,” said longtime member Nancy Gerber. “I love to paint, but when you’re on your own, it’s hard to keep it up.”

Though not one of the seven founders, Gerber, who paints in watercolor and oil paints, did join the guild in its first year. With the exception of the years she took off to raise her children, she has been a consistent member.

She remembers the early days of the guild when members gathered in the basement of the German American Bank building downtown to paint together. They also hosted an annual art show in the basement, and Gerber remembers community members descending the stairs to view the artwork.

When the Jasper Arts Center opened in the 1970s, the guild moved its meetings and annual exhibit there. This year’s exhibit is on display in Krempp Gallery now through August, and includes a wall with works from some of the guild’s first members and artifacts from the guild’s early years.

Some early members of the guild also have paintings at Memorial Hospital and Health Care Center. In 1970, just two years after the guild formed, a representative from the hospital asked the guild to paint a mural on one of the walls in the newly built pediatric unit. Members at the time did not think they were qualified to paint a mural, instead offering paintings. In 1971, members donated over 15 original paintings to the hospital. The guild also helped hospital staff select, refurbish and hang pieces from the hospital’s collection.

Although many guild members are painters, the guild is open to anyone 18 or older who does any kind of art. In addition to painters, current members are sculptors, photographers, jewelry makers and mixed-media artists. Some members, like President Von Hogan, work in several disciplines.

“(The guild) is about anything to encourage art and anything you can consider art,” Hogan said.

Although members may have one or two disciplines they specialize in, joining the guild means dabbling in all kinds of arts. It’s not uncommon for a monthly meeting to feature a ceramics workshop, for example, giving members of the group a chance to try out sculpting. Perhaps the best example of the guild’s eclectic meeting activities can be found in the 25th anniversary newsletter. The newsletter includes a rundown of the guild’s fifth year when members enjoyed presentations on using art in room decor, photography, ceramics, silk screening, egg decoration and the use of the color wheel. Whatever the topic, the monthly meetings have always been and continue to be about helping members hone their skills.

As the guild looks to the future, membership is a focus. The guild currently has about 20 members, but would like to have more. To be a member, artists need only attend a meeting and pay the $20 per year in dues.

The group is also looking forward to the opening of the Jasper Cultural Center, which will bring the Jasper Public Library and the Jasper Community Arts Commission together in a single building at the corner of Mill and Third streets. For the arts commission, Hogan said, the plans include several studio spaces that the guild can use for additional workshops or studio time for members.

“We’re looking ahead for growth,” Hogan said. “And anything we can do to be a viable force for the arts.”

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