My Sister; my Influence, and a Motivator of a Cultural District

Over the months, I have talked about artists who have influenced me, and yet there is one that I have failed to mention; my sister!

My older sister Debbie is my only sibling; she influenced me considerably from day one. Deb was interested in painting from a young age and showed her talent in high school, having won art awards during high school. I recall her photo in the newspaper talking about her talent.

One of the many paintings my sister created during high school.

A significant influence on my sister during her teen years was Andy Warhol. Debbie painted a perfume bottle, showing that influence, but with a more painterly brush stroke. This painting was in place of pride over the fireplace at my parent’s house for years. Deb was also very interested in using bright, bold colors. I loved this piece, and it influenced me in its painting style.

My sister went on to get a painting degree at Herron School of Art in Indianapolis, Indiana. Upon graduating in the early ’80s, she joined a group of artists in 1984, many Herron grads, to form the non-profit, cooperative art gallery, Gallery 431.

Several members of the founding group of Gallery 431. My sister in kneeling in the center, wearing glasses. Photo taken in the 1980’s, by an Indianapolis Star photographer

Gallery 431, which was open from 1984-1993. In a nutshell, 431 consisted of a group of experimental artists, often recent graduates of Herron.

My sister was one of the Seventeen artists who originally founded 431 Gallery. Mark Ruschman, the chief fine arts curator at the Indiana State Museum, said of the group that they were “driven by the desire to have a place to exhibit, experiment, and have a place to create what they wanted to.” Ruschman continues, “I wouldn’t say there was a common aesthetic, but there was a sense that everybody there was pushing the envelope.”

Homethoughts, 1983. Acrylic on paper, 36” x 28”. Shown at the Indian State Museum. Courtesy of Herbie and Heather.

At any given time, there were 15 – 20 artists/members in 431. To be accepted into the co-op was a two-part process. First, the applicant would provide slides of their artwork to be reviewed by the current members. If their work passed the judging stage, the artist was invited to the gallery to meet with the members.

Untitled, Color-Aid Paper, 2015.

Each member of 431 would play different roles during their time with the gallery. I recall at one point, my sister was the gallery’s president.

Untitled, Mixed media, 2021

Galley 431 had such a long-lasting effect on Indianapolis. In the 80s, the area the gallery was housed was generously described as “down in its luck,” but with the opening of 431, it helped launch Massachusetts Ave., as a cultural district of Indianapolis. Visit Massachusetts Ave. today and you would be hard pressed to imagine it as a destitute area, with it’s gallery’s, theater, boutique stores and restaurants!

Untitled, Mixed media, 2021

The impact of Galley 431 was so profound on the Indianapolis area that the Indiana State Museum had an exhibition dedicated to it in 2014.

My sister was with 431 for several years. She eventually took a position with the Indianapolis Museum of Art (now named Newfield’s).

Her work, like all artists, has developed over the years, but she still has a strong love of color and form. She’s stubborn and won’t show (yes, I am giving her a prod), but her work is beautiful.

 

Links:

Gallery 431 and The Birth of Mass. Ave.

 

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